“Ladies and gentlemen, do the good people of Chapel Hill have room in their hearts for the five-string banjo?”
Chris Thile, the mandolin player and lead vocalist of bluegrass band The Punch Brothers, won over the audience while leading a successful performance at Memorial Hall Tuesday night.
Show: Tuesday, Oct. 16
Artist: Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile
Genre: String-band, punk rock
Judging by the enthusiasm of the nearly sold-out crowd, Chapel Hill definitely has a place in its heart for the banjo — and the band.
The concert opened with singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau, who set the mood with a series of folk ballads about love, family and his home in North Dakota.
Brosseau interspersed his songs, such as “Here Comes the Water Now,” which he wrote about a flood in North Dakota, with stories of the very places he was singing about.
And then, The Punch Brothers themselves entered to applause and broke into a raucous instrumental, “Movement and Location.”
As a strings-only band, The Punch Brothers features no percussion instruments. Instead, band members push the momentum of their songs through driving rhythms played on guitar and stand-up bass by Chris Eldrige and Paul Kowert, respectively.
The next hour and a half was lively, featuring an impressive range of songs — from the softer, romantic “Missy” to the jazzy vocal harmonies heard on “New York City.”
The band’s creativity showed throughout songs like “Hundred Dollars,” where Noam Pikelny provided an unconventional percussive edge by scratching on the drum of his banjo.
The band was obviously comfortable on stage, joking and laughing with the audience members as enthusiastic fans joined the standing dance area in the front of the performance hall.
The pulse of the music drove the band’s energy, occasionally sending them into musical duels where two members would face off with passionate momentum.
In addition to the wide range of moods and music, the show was completed with minimal yet effective lighting that changed with the beat of the song.
Running at nearly three hours, the show was spectacular — but verged on exhausting for the audience.
Though The Punch Brothers are billed as a folk-bluegrass band, their songs’ range seemingly transcends genres.
During the show, members of the band took turns in the spotlight, each showing his prowess through intricate solos — a practice often seen in jazz bands.
Songs such as “Flippen” brought a modern, rock edge to their music. And their final encore piece, “The Moonshiner,” was a delicate folk song that sounded like it would have been more at home on a front porch on the side of a mountain.
The Punch Brothers are the kind of band that can take any style of music and make it infectious.
And Tuesday night, the band tugged on the heartstrings of its Chapel Hill audience.
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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