Although not typically what we at Listen Before You Buy cover, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the insanity seeing of the Punch Brothers at The Basement, because good music is good music, and these guys ROCKED.
The Punch Brothers are pretty popular amongst bluegrass fans and fans of the folkier side of indie rock back in the States, but as this was their first Australian tour, their fan base is much smaller, so as opposed to playing a large concert hall, as they tend to do back home, they played at Sydney’s legendary jazz club, The Basement - a venue maybe a quarter size of what they play overseas.
The Punch Brothers mainly appeal to the (small) bluegrass demographic, as well as fans of the folkier side of indie rock - fans of bands like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and The Avett Brothers. Lead singer/mandolinist Chris Thile (pronounced Thee-lee) was actually a member of late iconic bluegrass heroes, Nickel Creek, also including Sara and Sean Watkins.
Chris Thile could be one of the most all-around incredible frontmen: the man was as animated as ever for the duration of the hour-and-a-half show, shredding on that mandolin, and providing some of the most entertaining stage banter I’ve ever heard (banjo player Noam Pikelny responded to one of Thile’s retorts with “this segment, brought to you by alcohol”). Singing, the frontman was in typical frontman stature, perched in front of his microphone with his mandolin, but during his many mandolin solos, Thile really let loose, moseying and prancing across the stage with a similar gait as a velociraptor in typical Tallest Man On Earth fashion. Just watching him on that mandolin is mesmerizing, as his fast-as-lightning fingers move across the tiny mandolin fretboard - proving that he’s really the Jimi Hendrix of bluegrass music as he’s changed the fate of the mandolin forever.
Chris Thile really stole the show, but that isn’t to lessen the talent of the rest of the band, as the band’s acoustic guitarist, fiddle player, banjo player, and upright bassist showcased such talent, proving that they not only create some of the greatest songs in folk and bluegrass, but they also are some of the most talented musicians out there.
For a bluegrass band, the native New Yorkers are pretty damn rock & roll: songs like “Rye Whiskey” talk about their beloved alcohol with lyrics like “Rye Whiskey makes the band sound better / makes your baby cuter / makes itself taste better”, they’re signed to Nonesuch Records - home to modern rock & roll kings The Black Keys, and not to mention, their cover songs. These guys have the most impressive array of songs that they cover, and we got a taste of The Strokes‘ “Heart In A Cage” to which they added some of the most gorgeous harmonies, Beck’s scandalous “Sexx Laws”, and their most popular, mesmerizing cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A”. If covering The Strokes, Beck, and Radiohead isn’t rock & roll, I don’t know what is.
The covers were plentiful, but they also did a ton of original work, relying mostly on their most recent Who’s Feeling Young Now and 2010’s Antifogmatic, both released via Nonesuch Records. The guys performed hits like “Next To The Trash” (dedicated to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship), “Patchwork Girlfriend”, “New York City”, and “Movement And Location”, along with some other covers and instrumental pieces which had the five-piece trading off solos.
These guys were absolutely incredible, and I’d really recommend their live shows. Below are some pictures taken from the show as well as videos of their covers of “Kid A” and “Heart In A Cage”.