Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the Punch Brothers perform in front of an almost sold-out show at DC’s 9:30 club. This year, they sold out their first show so quickly that they added a second night in DC to their Winter Tour. It certainly has been a good year for Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers. They were featured on a number of songs for The Hunger Games soundtrack, they released a new EP, and Chris Thile was awarded the McArthur Genius Grant. These achievements have allowed the Punch Brothers to reach the mainstream appreciation that Thile’s first band, Nickel Creek, enjoyed during their heyday. This appreciation became evident to me when the 26-year old girl next to me screamed and nearly fainted like a 14 year old Belieber at a J to the Beebz concert would when Chris Thile took the stage.
Anais Mitchell opened the concert, who had performed with them during the earlier leg of the tour. Her lyrics revolved around story telling and her sound was a mixture of the late, great Amy Winehouse and the incredibly quirky Joanna Newsome (she also has a striking resemblance to Ms. Newsome which may have influenced my analysis).
Ok, on to the main course. The Punch Brothers, as they always do, put on a great show! This was my fourth time seeing the Bros in concert, so I knew what to expect…or so I thought. Because Thile and gang have only released four new songs since they last toured, they didn’t seem to feel obligated to play too much of their recorded material, which means they treated the audience to many unrecorded, terrific covers. They opened with my favorite song off their new EP, Josh Ritter’s “Another New World”, which was a pleasant, pleasant surprise. The highlight of the night for many concert goers, myself excluded, was a surprise cover of Radiohead’s “2+2=5”. I do not listen to Radiohead, so I was unaware of what song it was, but I heard many “OH MY GOD NO *Expletive deleted* WAY”s. However, the great distinction of Daniel Landsman’s Song Of The Night is tied between their cover of The Beach Boys’ “Surfs Up” (which Thile considers to be one of the best songs ever recorded) and a cover of “Bottom of the Glass” by DC’s very own Seldom Scene. Seldom Scene is a bluegrass band that the Brother’s Chris Eldridge’s father played banjo for and founded in the ’70s. Overall, this was an incredible concert– while not the best effort I have seen the boys put out. It was still full of mind-blowing solos from Chris and company, plus tons of energy.
For those unfamiliar with the Punch Brothers, here is a video of them covering Radiohead’s “Kid A” and flawlessly transitioning into a bluegrassy rendition of Gillian Welch’s “Wayside” from SXSW.