Adelaide International Guitar Festival

Adelaide Guitar Festival review: Punch Brothers

Chris Thile, Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, and Gabe Witcher, are The Punch Brothers.

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed: 11th August 2016

Six years ago, mandolin prodigy (they’re a dime a dozen…!), Chris Thile, needed to gather together some musos with whom to record an album. To cut a short story even shorter:  behold-Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, Gabe Witcher, and Thile- calling themselves The Punch Brothers, and making grown music reviewers weep.

Firmly rooted in a bluegrass aesthetic, Punch weave in and out of classical, country, folk and blues, both as individual musicians, and as a group.

From their opening number, Between 1st and A, they had us firmly in their grip. Their impeccable musicianship and obvious passion, ensured that the audience trusted them enough to follow wherever their quirky opus took them. It was a journey which exceeded expectations, moving us out of our comfort zones, but into zones of unexpected ecstasy. The concert was peppered with numbers from their latest, T-Bone Burnett-produced album The Phosphorescent Blues, including I Blew It Off, and their bluegrass version of Debussy’s Passepied. They also gave us older numbers such as This Girl.

It is rare to find an outfit which displays precision and perfection in their musicianship, but also manages to play dirty, wild and seemingly unchained. Working around a single mic, their instrumentalism was tighter than a really tight thing, and their harmonies transcendent, making the most of our Town Hall’s extraordinary acoustics. Their song-writing seemed to be the love-child of Paul Simon, Nick Cave and Woody Guthrie, after a night of too much sour-mash whiskey. Add to this, their obvious delight in playing, their humour and their intelligence, and you have a concert which will, I have no doubt, rank in most attendees “top ten” for the rest of their natural lives. As proof of this, I present the fact that they garnered a (rare at the town hall) standing ovation.

Try as I might, I cannot do anything but dribble with admiration, download all of their albums, and bore the pants off all my friends with a breathless “have you heard The Punch Brothers?”

Well…have you???

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Rating (out of 5): 5

One night only – Season ended


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