“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.
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.