Mon 6 Aug 2012

Melbourne, 2012: One of the most exhilarating bands to come out of New York in recent years, Punch Brothers make their local debut at Melbourne Recital Centre on Monday 6 August. Made up of Chris Thile (lead vocals/mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar) and Paul Kowert (bass), Punch Brothers explains their music as ‘that of a bluegrass band, but our influences range from Radiohead and Wilco to Bach and Mozart and Bill Monroe.’ Hence The New Yorker’s review of their work as ‘wide ranging and restlessly imaginative.’ Founded six years ago when Thile left Nickel Creek, the Grammy Award-winning acoustic trio he joined aged eight, the group was initially known as The How to Grow a Band – it was not until 2007 that they became Punch Brothers, after a line from Mark Twain’s short story, A Literary Nightmare. On March 17, 2007 the group debuted Thile’s most ambitious work to date, a forty minute suite in four movements titled The Blind Leaving the Blind, at Carnegie Hall. And they’ve hardly stopped since, releasing three albums for Nonesuch Records, the latest of which – Who’s Feeling Young Now? – was described by Paste Magazine’s Ryan Reed as ‘a masterpiece.’

And a departure of sorts from their reputation as musician’s musicians, Thile stating ‘We didn’t consciously attempt to make a more accessible record – but we did consciously go in wanting to make a more direct, concise statement. Basically, making sure that every song started, in our collective mind, with an unassailable kind of motive, an unassailable cornerstone.’ Indeed, as the five members – ranging in age from their mid-20s to early 30s – have matured on the road and in the studio, their approach to writing and performing has become looser, simpler and more unaffectedly youthful.

The album’s title track, featuring rumbling bass, skittering violin and wailing multi-tracked vocals, sounds like hard-charging, string-band punk rock. Movement and Location feels like Steve Reich-inspired indie rock, with rhythmically pulsing guitar, bass and banjo lines and the same flying-by-the-seat-of-the-pants spirit. Who’s Feeling Young Now? also features instrumental covers of Radiohead’s Kid A and Flippen by Väsen, who Punch Brothers performed with at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Punch Brothers’ first visit to Melbourne will showcase music from this album and more.’s Seth Mnookin warns against missing the dynamic, hypnotic band in action: ‘I imagine that in time, folks who passed up a chance to see the band strut its stuff will feel a little like those New Yorkers who were offered tickets to see the [legendary Southern folk-rockers] Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East 41 years ago and decided they had something better to do with their time.’


Presented by Melbourne Recital Centre & PBS 106.7 FM

Monday 6 August 7.30pm
Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
$65 ($50 concession)
Book at or call the Box Office on 03 9699 3333.