Roots-rock combo the Punch Brothers appeal to NPR and Pitchfork crowd...
Here’s a phrase that’s probably never been uttered by man: “the banjo player with mystique.” That’s Noam Pikelny in a nutshell. Decked out in a white suit, Pikelny’s deep voice and deadpan banter served as a worthy tour guide for this evening of music. He is an entertaining foil for the energetic mandolinist Chris Thile, and, like the rest of the band, he is a master of his instrument.
The band started around nine and played for about two hours. They kept the large crowd enthralled until about 10:30, when the early-risers began to quietly move toward the exits. The peppier, bluegrass numbers seemed to go over the best, as “Rye Whiskey” got the crowd shuffling about as much as they would shuffle on this evening — which wasn’t much. The vibe seemed to be NPR listeners torn momentarily from the comfort of All Things Considered. As a result, I don’t think I’ve ever seen bouncers appear as bored as the duo at opposite ends of the stage on this evening. In the future, let’s get a little misbehavior going at Punch Brothers shows — for the bouncers’ sake.
The two most memorable songs of the evening, for me, were the complex, Pitchfork-friendly, “Familiarity,” the first song off their new album and a tour-de-force of proggy genre-hopping music. For “The Auld Triangle,” the members ditched their instruments and belted out the traditional Irish ballad in stunning, vocals-only fashion. The Punch Brothers even got the crowd to participate in the last couple of verses of the song, which was also stunning, hearing how many incorrect keys the crowd managed to stumble upon in such a short span of time.
- Artist: Punch Brothers
- Date: April 1
- Venue: The Observatory
- Seats: Floor