Tag Archives: Punch Brothers

Huck Finn Jubilee Bluegrass Festival 2016

Huck Finn Jubilee 2016
June 10-12
40th Anniversary
Ontario, CA
Photographer: Allen Erwin










Hot August Music Festival








Words by Tim Newby/ Images by Tim Newby & Russell Stoddard

Firmly established as one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier one-day music festivals, The Hot August Music Festival, returned for its 23rd installment with a diverse line-up that kept alive the deep tradition of musical greatness that first started 23 years ago in founder Brad Selko’s backyard.


The line-up this year tended towards a rootsy, bluegrassy sound with the Punch Brothers, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, Cabinet, and the Sligo Creek Stompers all making appearances throughout the day. But as with Hot August Music Fest’s past, the line-up reflected a wide-range of musical tastes, allowing one to bounce between the three stages and satisfy all their musical desires and needs.  Looking for some blustery-rock? Swing by the man stage for the guitar-thrash of Shakey Graves. Need some Electro-funk?  Head over to the side-stage for the high-octane explosion of Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong. Trying to find some swampy-New Orleans soul?  The Revivliasts are on right before the Stringdusters.  Looking for some smooth blues?  Find the stage in the woods and catch Jarekus Singleton’s scintillating set.






After all that the day ended with a nostalgic blast from The Counting Crows who showed that twenty-years on they still have it as they plowed through set that was chock-full of some of their greatest hits, “Rain King,” “Omaha,” “Long December,” and some choice covers, Bob Dylan’s “Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and The Velvet Underground’s “Elizabeth.”



With fourteen bands, spread over three stages at the picturesque setting of Oregon Park, Hot August Music Festival was quite simply a treat for the musical soul.


Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Tim Newby…


Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Russell Stoddard…



Hot August Music Festival releases line-up


Hot August Music Festival has released its line-up for this years edition. Topped by the Counting Crows and the Punch Brothers the line-up also includes Railroad Earth, Shakey Graves, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Revivalists, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Cabinet, Sligo Creek Stompers, June Star, Marah, Jarekus Singleton, Dennis Jones Band.  The festival features three stages set in the lush confines of Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, MD.

Early Bird Tickets are on sale now.  Click here for more info: http://www.hotaugustmusicfestival.com/tickets 

Check out Honest Tune’s coverage of last year’s event: Hot August Music Festival: Short lines, long sets, stellar tunes

1200 Part Harmony with Punch Brothers (Or Getting Meta with Punch Brothers)


Punch Brothers

March 26th, 2014

Capitol Theater

Madison, WI


punch brothers clinchThe Capitol Theater in downtown Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts typically plays host to classical music, opera and Broadway-style shows. It is a beautiful venue, with lush curtains, amazing acoustics and room for about 1200. On Wednesday, the Capitol Theater had the honor to host something a little bit different; it’s stage was graced by one of the strongest acoustic bands around: Punch Brothers.


Punch Brothers are Chris Thile on mandolin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Gabe Witcher on fiddle, Chris Eldridge on guitar, and Madison favorite son Paul Kowert on upright bass. While their instrumentation is that of a traditional bluegrass band, there is nothing traditional about them.


They opened their set with Josh Ritter’s “Another New World,” before launching into “This Girl,” a driving, emo-grass original with Punch Brothers signature blend of melodrama, excitement, tension, beauty and wonder. Chris Thile has been playing music since he was a small child. He has spent the majority of his life touring and he has had the amazing fortune to do so alongside some of the world’s greatest musicians. But to see him on stage, his excitement never wanes. He is always excited, always jumping around, dancing, bopping with enthusiasm. Chris Thile isn’t just a great musician, he’s a genius. (The MacAurthur Foundation says so!) But on stage, he is a young boy being offered an opportunity to live out his dream. And on this night, on this particular stage, emanating aura and ambiance, the band finished “This Girl,” took a moment and then leaned into their mics for a tight, three-part harmonied, “Amen.”


156After making a joke at his own expense and reflecting on the beauty of the venue, Thile asked the crowd if they had room in their heart for the five-string banjo. Needless to say, they did. And with that, Pikelny blasted right through it with the raw power and ability that he brings to every show. Punch Brothers are a super-group built around the genius of Thile. But it’s hard to imagine this band without Pikelny, a true master on his instrument. He can be subtle and graceful with ease (something that cannot be said of every great banjo player); he can perfectly augment the eerie melodies and ethereal musical faces of this super-group. But when he is unleashed, he can move mountains, he can level cities. He is a force on a five-string banjo.


After showing off some amazing instrumental mastery, the band introduced a new song called “Magnet.” “Magnet” is a quirky three-minute pop song about the gravitational pull that people can have on each other. It would not have seemed out of place on a Justin Timberlake album, with its strong and catchy hook, funny-but-not-silly lyrics, driving verses and danceable beat. And of course, it’s a love song, without ever mentioning the girl of the song’s affection.


The band then took off their collective quirky hat and launched into their emo-swing-classical track, “Don’t Get Married Without Me.” On a dime, Thile went from pop-star to crooner, the band flawlessly transitioning right alongside him; Witcher and Pikelny really locking in for the chaos and the exuberant flourishes that help make this song soar beyond its form.


punch brothersPikelny introduced the next track as being dedicated to Wisconsin’s greatest export… beside Paul Kowert: cold beer. They then played “New York City,” before Thile called on the band to raise their red plastic cups to the crowd, “Cheers, ya’ll, this is fun as hell.”


After a heartfelt “Missy,” complete with a fiddle solo from Witcher so intense it seemed to briefly shock Thile, Chris asked his band mates if they felt a shift in the air. Eldridge readily agreed that something was happening. Thile asked if it suddenly felt more French. Again, there was no disagreement from Eldridge. Thile explained that the band only knew one French song, and it was by Claude Debussy. The crowd cheered and Thile asked if there were any Debussy-Heads in the audience that night. When the crowd cheered louder, Thile launched them into a rousing chant of “Claude! Claude! Claude!” Many a classical composer yearns for the day to hear his name chanted by the masses in a sold-out theater. This was Claude’s day. They played “Passepied,” revealing the true mastery that Punch Brothers has outside of genre or limitation.


The band then called out opener Aoife O’Donovan to add her breathy charm to their set.  She joined Thile for the choruses of “Here and Heaven,” adding an ancient sound to the Isles-lilted ballad that the two co-wrote along with Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan.


O’Donovan left the stage too soon and the band launched into “Patchwork Girlfriend,” a wonderful track that is part Eastern European, part French gypsy, and part Irish pop song. On the quirkier and more off-beat interludes, Thile likes to pretend he is a robot, stammering and stuttering through his melodies. Witcher took the mic for his lament about “City Girls.” In the middle of the track, the band dropped out and Kowert drove the song solo, much to the delight of his hometown crowd.


Punch Brothers are a band that moves between styles of music with ease. They use bluegrass instruments to play anything but. So it was almost surprising when Pikelny introduced the next song, Kenny Baker’s “Wheel Hoss,” and the band ripped into this raging fast, traditional bluegrass number as if they had never played anything but a fiddle tune.


155Once the band went traditional, they decided to stick around for one more. Eldridge led the band in “Through the Bottom of a Glass,” Paul Craft’s classic country song about the world looking better after your cup is empty. In the middle of the song, the band suddenly opened it up, revealing their meta-nature, taking the traditional Nashville walking line after the chorus to the absurd, walking down, down, down before repeating the chorus. But the joke wasn’t done, it was just starting. This time, Kowert pulled out his bow and played the classic lick, classically, and then again an octave up, and then again, and again. Working his way from the bottom of the neck to the very top, he finished the final lick directly on top of his bridge. At this point, the crowd cheered and Thile threw Kowert’s arm in the air, declaring him the champion. His grandmother in the crowd must have been very proud.



Thile announced to the crowd that “you are amazing to play music for,” and the band finished out the set with “Whose Feeling Young Now?” the title track of their most recent full length album.


While the capacity crowd was cheering for more, a tech came out and set up a condenser mic in the middle of the stage. Thile literally skipped back out, the rest of the band following closely behind. Thile explained that if anyone had seen Inside Llewyn Davis, they had seen a band perform this next song. The band in the movie wasn’t Punch Brothers, but they looked a lot like them. Chris sang solo a cappella through the first verse of “The Auld Triangle,” an Irish prison lament, before being joined by the band for stellar five-part harmonies through the refrain. The back and forth continued throughout the song, culminating in the comedic final verse, where the protagonist accepts his lot of life, simply wishing he could be serving his sentence in the women’s prison. Thile invited the crowd to join in for a final chorus and the stellar five-part harmony became an all-encompassing 1200-part harmony, which shook the curtains and added new dimension to one anonymous prisoner’s lament.


Not prepared to end the night on such a somber note, Thile asked if anyone was thirsty, before launching into crowd favorite, “Rye Whiskey.” Instead of the curtains shaking, this time it was the floor, as the full crowd stomped their feet in time and sang along about the age old truth that life is simply better with rye whiskey.


Follow Josh Klemons on twitter @jlemonsk

2nd Annual Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival announces line-up

Charm CityFollowing a highly-successful first year, The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival returns for its 2nd year with a bigger location and even better line-up than year one.  After a sold-out inaugural event, the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival has changed locations to the picturesque setting of Druid Hill Park in downtown Baltimore and will take place April 26, 2014.



Keeping alive the long tradition of bluegrass in Baltimore, this year’s line-up is led by thirteen-time Grammy Award winner and dobro innovator Jerry Douglas.  Joining him will be mandolin prodigy Sierra Hull and bluegrass heavyweight Audie Blaylock & Redline.  A pair of Punch Brothers will be making their first appearance at the festival with their respective solo bands as banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny and Friends and guitar maestro Chris Eldgridge with Julian Lange will both play sets.  Returning from the first year are local legend and front man for The Bridge, Cris Jacobs, who will be assembling an All-Star line-up of pickers for the event. Also making a return appearance will be the raging-good-time of Trace Friends Mucho.  The line-up will be rounded out with local talent in phenoms Ken & Brad Koldner and Delaware’s Mad Sweet Pangs.  The festival’s opening slot will be awarded to a Battle of the Bands contest winner which features some of the Mid-Atlantic Regions best up and coming bluegrass talent.  The contest will be held over the month of January at Union Craft Brewery with the finals taking place at Baltimore’s famed 8×10 club.



Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here http://www.missiontix.com/charmcitybluegrass


For more details please visit http://charmcitybluegrass.com/



Check out Honest Tune’s coverage of last year’s stellar event Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival and the Killer B’s




Punch Brothers, 4/21/12

Punch Brothers
Variety Playhouse
Atlanta, GA
April 21, 2012



The Punch Brothers, a band that is as comfortable playing a stringed rendition of Radiohead’s “Kid A” as they are Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen,”  continue to make the steady upward incline behind their instrument mastery. They have long since amassed a devoted following, but recently  have drawn the attention of the mainstream eye, courtesy of becoming the topic of discussion for one very unlikely man: Elton John.

John, who hypes Chris Thile and Punch Brothers to Rolling Stone at seemingly every chance he gets, comparing his first listen to the bluegrass swayed collective to being like the first time he heard Little Feat and the Band, swears that he wants to make his next record with them — proclaiming that it would be “like a Fairport Convention record.” (Related to this night, the Punch Brothers played a tribute to the Band’s Levon Helm with “The Weight”)

There is no doubt that the quintet  (Thile, guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert banjoist Noam Pikelny and fiddler Gabe Witchner) are digging the publicity that has managed to find its way into two Rolling Stone cover stories in the past month, but while John continues to swoon, the Punch Brothers have to continue to do what they do until the fantasy record drops — play shows.

This is exactly what they did when they passed through Atlanta on a Saturday night, stopping in at Variety Playhouse. Playing to a full house, the crowd that gathered did so to hear the unique sound of which only the Punch Brothers are capable … the one for which the Rocket Man has been falling all over himself.



(Scroll down to read typed setlist or click to enlarge)

Married, NYC, Flippen, Whos Feeling Young Now?, Clara, Missy, Young Queen, Sexx Laws,Train, Hundred Dollars, Kid A, Wayside, Tulip, Soon or Never, Watch’at Breakdown, Rye Whiskey

Encore: Patchwork Girlfriend, Movement, The Weight *%^

Notes: *In memory of Levon Helm  %with Jesca Hoop  ^Acoustic at the lip of the stage


Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Michael Podrid



Noam Pikelny imparts his brand on a packed Arlington house

Noam Pikelny
Iota Club and Café
Arlington, VA
December 11, 2011


Iota, northern Virginia’s premiere venue for acoustic music, was in rare form this past Sunday. The ticket line, which usually moves as fast as the doorman can make change and stamp hands, was backed up with hundreds of people queued up outside, some for quite some time.

The man of the evening was Noam Pikelny. In his early 20s, Pikelny toured with Leftover Salmon and then with the John Cowan Band. He now calls the Punch Brothers, a supergroup of young and talented musicians fronted by Nickel Creek mandolinist extraordinaire Chris Thile, his main group.

The show was billed as an evening with Noam, Tim O’Brien and Aoife (pronounced EEF-ah) O’Donovan, Crooked Still’s vocalist. The latter two are both featured on Pikelny’s new solo album, Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail, but the before the  show had not even begun, it became clear that the lineup for the evening had been tweaked.

Iota is a small venue, so it would have been hard to miss Infamous Stringduster Jesse Cobb hanging at the bar or Mark Schatz working his way through the packed crowd with his upright bass; it turned out that O’Brien would not playing. Rather, the stellar lineup of Pikelny, O’Donovan, Cobb and Schatz would be joined by two of Noam’s Punch Brother band mates, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Gabe Witcher on the fiddle.

Noam opened with a joke — the tour, he informed the audience, sprang out of someone mistakenly ordering too many t-shirts for his new website. With that, the band was off. They flew through a quick, tight instrumental number that set the tone for the evening.

They then called Aoife, sitting just behind the guys, to the mic. Aoife has a magical, desultory voice. It is brusque and breathy while still driving like a freight train – more Gillian Welch than Allison Kraus. She handled vocals for half the songs of the evening, singing her heart out on each one and serving as a nice counterpart to Noam’s odd sense of humor. Early on in the show, she finished a song and then half laughed through her punch line as she told the crowd that she could not stop staring at a sign behind the bar that said “Soup – Today: Tomato Zucchini, Tonight: Noam Pikelny.” Noam, without missing a beat, quipped that when he was a kid in Chicago practicing the banjo, his father would ask him what he was doing, why he was working so hard. Noam of course responded that, “Dad, one day I’m gonna see my name in chalk.”

With that, he dedicated a song to all the aspiring musicians in the room. It was the swinging ragtime,“My Mother Thinks I’m a Lawyer,” a track from his new album. Throughout the night, the band played them all. They didn’t have Tim O’Brien to sing, so Gabe Witcher took a lead vocal. They didn’t have Steve Martin (yes, the Steve Martin is on Noam’s new album), so bassist Mark Schatz picked up his clawhammer banjo, and he and Noam did a banjo duet of “Cluck Old Hen.”Aoife, as well as the band, worked its way through Tom Waits’ “Fish and Bird.”

At different points during the night, the band featured every member, so there were plenty of opportunities for every member of the project to impress the crowd, but it was clear whose show this was.

Pikelny is too young to be so good. He plays like a classical musician seeking to define something indefinable, with the old traditional styles he has under his belt popping their head out in avant garde ways, setting himself apart even by Nashville standards.

Noam wore an old man blazer throughout the show, and had a self-deprecating sense of humor, constantly nailing punch lines at his own expense. Yet all of this simply belied the fact that the kid can play.  The band played country ballads, bluegrass numbers, and classically-inspired pieces that would have been at home on a Punch Brothers album. There were songs with the whole band, or Pikelny-led duets: just banjo and fiddle, or banjo and bass. He even accompanied Aoife  on vocals, showing his additional talent.

By set break, word had spread that Ben Eldridge, guitarist Chris’ father and banjo player for The Seldom Scene, was in attendance, so the band dedicated “Mean Mother Blues” to him. Along with some searing banjo and mandolin work, the crowd was treated to a rollicking slap bass solo from Schatz.

The room was still packed when the band finished their second set, a compliment for any Sunday night performer. Schatz and Cobb took the stage first and played an Irish-tinged duet, with Cobb on mandolin and Schatz where he seems happiest, clogging along in the corner. The two did an inspired jig and continued it while the band kicked in.

Pikelny then said that there “had been requests for him to sing,” something that seemed to confuse him, but which he was willing to do nonetheless. He picked up a guitar for the first time of the evening, and the band crowded around one mic and sang “Miss Me When I’m Gone,” with Noam covering the bass vocal on the choruses.

With that, the band was done for the night. Noam thanked the crowd for coming out. The crowd thanked Noam for coming out. And clearly everyone was thrilled that someone had accidentally ordered too many t-shirts for his website.