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Concert Wed Mar 07 2012

Review: Punch Brothers @ Park West, 3/1/12

[This review comes to us from reader Sarah Brooks.]

An avid fan for years, I bought my ticket to see Punch Brothers months ago, though they're not just loved by me, but clearly Chicago, too. I make this statement based on the sold out crowd that packed Park West Thursday night, eager to see the Brothers perform. Having recently released their third studio album, Who's Feeling Young Now? in February, Punch Brothers have gained steady momentum since the release of their debut album, Punch, in 2008. It's easy to see why — Chris Thile, lead vocalist and talented instrumentalist, has been a notable figure within the music world for years, from his time in inventive country-bluegrass-folk hybrid outfit Nickel Creek, to numerous solo releases, and even an instrumental collaborative side project with Yo-Yo Ma titled The Goat Rodeo Sessions. With five different instruments comprising the group and a stellar lineup of talent, it's not surprising that the Punch Brothers attracted such a crowd.

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Punch Brothers at Park West (photos by Sarah Brooks)

The show began with light, airy ballads from country-folk singer Aoife O'Donovan, Reminiscent of Alison Krauss and utilizing only an acoustic guitar, O'Donovan commanded the attention of the entire venue with her exquisite vocal clarity and conviction, as Park West silently listened to her effortless country-style crooning.

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After a swift 30-minute set from O'Donovan, fans were eager for the Brothers to step onstage. Listening to Punch Brothers recordings, I am in constant awe of their musical genius and compositional abilities, and from the side of the stage, it was no different. The Punch Brothers appeared in full force on Thursday, each band member perfectly in sync as the five instruments of mandolin, guitar, bass, violin, and banjo were in constant conversation with one another. Thile commanded the stage, frequently dancing and swaying, as fans in the audience did the same. The energy present onstage was contagious and infectious, as the crowd hung onto every last chord.

The set winded seamlessly through Punch Brothers crowd favorites ranging from each of their studio albums. In the beginning of the set, the energetic "Who's Feeling Young Now?" included a layered, dramatic sound with Thile's vocals wailing above, and ending with impressive instrumental solos. "Rye Whiskey" amped up the audience with its quick-tempo bluegrass roots, and had everyone singing along. Instrumental compositions peppered the set, allowing the Brothers to showcase their incredible musicianship through frenetic string picking, gradually building to a rapid tempo, and then segueing perfectly into the next ballad.

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Ending with an encore featuring O'Donovan, the Brothers delighted the audience with a number from The Goat Rodeo Sessions and ended with slow, powerful tune "Soon or Never," which culminated in striking vocals laden with emotional diction. The Punch Brothers' 90-minute set left no audience member disappointed, and each one indeed feeling young and alive. It is astounding how this band can sound even more incredible live than their exquisite recordings, and the show proved that they are a force that will continue to be reckoned with in the world of country/folk music.

-Sarah Brooks

 
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Manny / March 9, 2012 8:37 AM

Reading this review was like licking chalk. For a more personal and entertaining review of this show, check out Cracky at Thwartness: Cracky's review of Punch Brothers

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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