Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Twist with the Fist: Punch Brothers

String band Punch Brothers headlined Somerville Theatre in Davis Square Thursday, January 13th. The talented quintet is composed of Chris Thile [lead vocals, mandolin], Noam Pikelny [banjo], Gabe Witcher [violin], Paul Kowert [bass], and Chris Eldridge [guitar]. All five are, in their own right, vanguards on America’s bluegrass, folk and country scene, but together, they are a powerful, musical maelstrom. With two records under their belt, Punch and Antifogmatic [a term collaged by the band to signify a hard drink consumed at the start of a rough work day], the band is poised to successfully seduce America on their continuing tour.

In a word, pluck. In not only their stage energy and raucously beautiful voices, but in their staggeringly frenetic fingering of their instruments. Thiles’s tenuous voice worked its way through gems like “This Is the Song,” a tune which transports you to a lonely, pensive walk down a foggy moor, and “Alex,” a melodic passage to memories of relationships and risks. For “Don’t Need No,” a track off their newest album, Witcher stepped in on vocals with his deeper, more guttural voice. It was a pleasure – and a tease, as it was the only tune he took the steering wheel on.

It was a tough crowd too, at Somerville’s near century-old theatre. Derrieres were inexplicably glued to seats. There were vagaries every now and then, some hollers and song suggestions, but other than that, the crowd was flatlined. The only moment the crowd registered a pulse was when the Brothers launched into their rowdy “Rye Whiskey.” The Punch Bros prevailed despite the somnambulant ambience.

At first sight, without having heard a note struck, I confess that I was worried the band might be the ultimate amalgamation of the gentleman’s club-frat meets preppy a cappella group. [What’s wrong with that, you might ask? … If you don’t know, you never will!] This was a tough mold to break, but after the first song, I was sold. Punch Brothers was the sound of stones skipping in a stream, the sound of rain on the roof, the sound of boot-swathed feet tapping magnanimously on a hard floor. They’re playing tomorrow, January 20, in Madisonville, TN at the Monroe Area Council. Get your hair did and your ears waxed and check it.


Punch Brothers Home Page

The Chili Peppers Bustin' Moves and So Many More: 2011 Looks Sunny with 100% Chance of Precipitation in Great Music

This is an EXCITING year already in music. Let's just start with this: For four years, I've convinced myself that the Chili Peppers were never going on tour ever again. This daily, internal monologue-axiom was an effort to stymie any sort of toxic hope that lurked in my bones that they might perform live again. Sure, I heard they were back in the studio ... but with the exit of Frusciante, we had reason to worry that they were shuttered for good, even despite the musical chairs their band has played over the last three decades.

But! now, with Flea tweeting a couple photos taken in the studio and galvanizing the public about the latest album, following their smash double album Stadium Arcadium released back in '06, it's time to allow that ball of excitement to release in my stomach. RHCP is already slated to perform in Osaka Japan, headlining with the Strokes, as well as Rock in Rio this year. Tantalizing.

There are myriad delicious albums to wait for with bated breath this year. Among my most anticipated are the following: My Morning Jacket [THANK you Yim Yames! Evil Urges was sinfully eclectic but it's been too long!], BON IVER [who flabbergasted me by collaborating with Kanye on his new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Listen here: Lost in the World)], Jane's Addiction, Radiohead, Wilco, Outkast, Fleet Foxes, Lady Gaga [yikes, Gaga, did I really just throw you in so nonchalantly? Whatever -- I'm stoked!], The Shins. If the White Stripes miraculously tuned up their brother-sister-wify-husband-incestuously confused act, we'd have an apocalyptic royal flush.

Play list:

My Morning Jacket: Touch Me I'm Going to Scream If You Don't, Pt. 2; Bermuda Highway; Wordless Chorus

Bon Iver: Skinny Love; Re: Stacks; Flume

Jane's Addiction: Jane Says (Duh.); Been Caught Stealin'

Radiohead: I Might Be Wrong

Wilco: Jesus Etc.

Outkast: Happy Valentine's Day

Fleet Foxes: White Winter Hymnal

Lady Gaga: Teeth

The Shins: Australia; Sea Legs (*still to this day one of the sexiest songs I've ever heard), Phantom Limb

White Stripes: Jolene; I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself;