Reviews

Punch Brothers: 17 April 2012 - Lexington, KY

Never mind what the group appears to be, as their style transcends the limits of instrumental preferences.

Punch Brothers

Punch Brothers

City: Lexington, KY
Venue: Kentucky Theatre
Date: 2012-04-17

Walking onto the stage at the Kentucky Theatre clad in suit jackets, vests, and dress slacks, Punch Brothers quickly asserted themselves with musicianship to match their keen sense of style.

Firing away with “Don’t Get Married Without Me” and “New York City” -- both selections from their latest release, Who’s Feeling Young Now? -- the group delivered the songs straight and to the point, opting out of expansiveness through improvisation.

Punch Brothers briefly departed material from their latest release by settling on “Next to the Trash”, but were again promoting the new record with “Flippen” (which, even though it was recorded for the new album, was a cover from Swedish group Väsen) and the title track.

Although unknown to the crowd, the remainder of the set would play out mostly like the beginning. The group would perform cuts from their newest release, sprinkle in a choice cover or material from an earlier release, and then find itself back on Who’s Feeling Young Now? for a brief moment. For anyone currently up-to-date on the group, there were to be no real surprises.

Sticking with the game plan, The Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage” (recorded by Thile and the band on How to Grow a Woman from the Ground) and “Alex” followed. The songs opened up more than earlier on in the set with Thile almost toying with the crowd, brilliantly sucking them in enough to wonder how he would find his way to the next transition.

Around the show’s midpoint Pikelny, who has become a modern day banjo torch bearer of sorts (along with funnyman Steve Martin), eulogized the recently departed Earl Scruggs for a few moments before the group launched into “Groundspeed”. For a band that’s that appears on the surface to be a bluegrass band, Scruggs’ tune was the closest it came to sounding purely like one.

But never mind what the group appears to be, as their style transcends the limits of instrumental preferences and favors the possibilities of a song and how effective that point can be delivered with virtuosity and a strict attention to detail and nuance. The group further loosened its tight grip on the songs and left room for exploring within “No Concern of Yours” and “Hundred Dollars”.

Thile quipped about the dangers of legitimate musicians finding themselves in karaoke bars and launched into the crowd-approved “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. With Pikelny’s banjo handling the keyboard parts, and Gabe Witcher’s fiddle handling the guitar solos, their prowess was clearly stated for those unfamiliar with the material thus far.

After scorching through Thile’s “Watch ’at Breakdown”, Pikelny gave the obligatory pleasantries regarding the evening’s opener, Jesca Hoop. She returned to the stage and joined for “Tulip” (one of her own songs that lacked recognition from the crowd) and “Soon or Never”. While “Tulip” was a sincere nod to Hoop’s songwriting talents, her vocals reinforcing “Soon or Never” were complimentary enough to make her trip to the stage well worth the time -- bringing to mind how fitting a female voice with the group truly is.

Once Hoop left the stage, the momentum built again by the explosively technical and equally poppy “Rye Whiskey”. Provoked by inquisitive members of the audience, Thile joked that the band’s clear Dixie cups weren’t filled with Bourbon, even despite the evening’s show being set in the heart of Kentucky.

Closing out the set proper with Radiohead’s “Kid A” seguing directly into Gillian Welch/David Rawlins-penned “Wayside/Back in Time,” the group crammed in a microcosm of the show in under ten minutes. It was clever arrangement, precise playing, and songs written by an outside source. While certainly upbeat, it’s a bit confusing why the band would close with a song by someone else when they had the crowd’s full attention; a moment to capitalize and feature their own material was sacrificed in favor of their affinity for another’s.

Returning for the encore, the group went from zero to top speed by launching into “Movement and Location”. Despite the fact that it seems rather tired rock cliché to highlight the encore of a performance, Thile and his band had worked the crowd into the peak of its collective attention.

With news of Levon Helm’s passing having already been announced, Punch Brothers’ provided yet another fitting tribute by closing out the night with “Ophelia”. It was almost to be expected, given the fact that the band has had the song in its repertoire for a few years, yet it was an appropriate sendoff. It was one that satisfied the newcomers and was welcomed by those already well initiated.

While the selection of covers certainly spanned the spectrum of the group’s collective abilities and interests, it’s worth noting just how much time it took out of the set. Although the covers and originals both achieved the desired “Hey, look what we can do as a string band” proclamation the band oftentimes finds itself tirelessly restating, the show disappointingly featured no material from their proper collective debut, Punch.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image