24 July 2008

Punch Brothers

Last night, after a lost-child-esque debacle that hinged on me having forgotten my cell phone, I got myself found and met up with James and Amanda for the Punch Brothers show at River to River. For rain that never happened, it was moved from a park to the Stuyvesant High School auditorium, but hey, I am not going to bemoan the air conditioning. Plus, I got to finally achieve my dream of going to Stuyvesant! (Fifteen-year-old Jaime read an article about the place and was like, Whoa, a school for smart kids!? And thus was born a stupid and unrealizable dream.)

Before finding James and Amanda, I ran into a coworker of mine and then some musician friends of James,' and solicited various attempts at help in determining if James was inside (it was no reentry, so I couldn't go check) or still on his way. I got word from the musician friends that James & Amanda might be showing up very last second, so when the show was due to start I headed in. Standing in a corner trying to scan the dark auditorium, wondering if I would ever find my friends or if I'd watch the concert alone from a corner, I was having major flashbacks to the time I got separated from my classmates in Venice, and when I found them, basically crying with relief to not be stranded in a strange city, they were all, "What?", all nonchalant. That was a rough summer.

But last night was wonderful! (And when I found my friends they walked me into the VIP section. I'm so cool!) I'm not exactly a bluegrass connoisseur, but the concert was fantastic. Chris Thile is a damn charming frontman and like the foremost bluegrass mandolinist in the world. (And looks like if Jude Law and Michael Stuhlbarg had a child.) The music was fun and intricate and tight, all really lovely. The centerpiece of the new (first?) Punch Brothers album is a four-movement bluegrass suite, of which we heard three parts last night. It's really interesting, built more like a classical piece, not a song, per se. There were also plenty of real songs, including some brilliant covers of Wilco and The Strokes. It's kinda hard to beat a bluegrass "Heart in a Cage." (When they said they were playing a Wilco cover, I had a moment - in my head - of Oh please let it be Heavy Metal Drummer! And then I was like, Wait, I don't think they can do that without a drummer.)

(Also, I will say now, so we have this on record that James can't take credit for the idea: a Punch Brothers and Susan Werner collaboration. James had some cockamamie idea for a Punch Brothers/Nick Jones pirate musical. Somehow he wasn't kidding. A Susan Werner/Nick Jones musical would make more sense, actually. But back to my genius idea - I thought of it at first because, like Susan, Chris Thile makes some ridiculous faces when he performs, but musically it makes great sense, and their voices would sound awesome together.)

I'd been bummed to miss my annual River to River 4th of July, and though this didn't have the hallmark of a River to River concert, namely being outside, it was great to get some great music in. (And aside from my not being allowed to go inside to see if James was there, River to River shows are impeccably run.) I'm seeing some of my favorite bands in the next several weeks - Tilly & the Wall; Arms; Great Big Sea - but I don't very often go hear bands I don't know well, and it's even rarer that they're so damn good and put on such a wonderful show. Last night made me very happy. Then we went back to James' apartment and ordered pizza, which was also really great.

1 comment:

anna said...


i heard a story about them on npr (and went and listened online to the tracks) months ago. totally in love with "the blind leaving the blind." so great to hear that you made it to a show - and they were so great!