Their most nascent thoughts of conception may have arisen six years ago over a ‘piss the weekend away’ gathering but none of that unhappiness existed on Friday night when the Punch Brothers took to the stage at the Festival Theatre. Indeed, the American quintet seemed genuinely shocked (and thrilled) that on their first Australian trip, they could sell out the centre’s main auditorium.
To describe their works as bluegrass may provide a useful label to focus people’s interest but the reality is the Punch Brothers’ music is much more broadly based. At times it can get hillbilly, then remind you of Nashville or New Orleans and then, a moment later, Naples (Italy). Their more lyrical works are often quite mainstream folk but what is constant is their virtuosity.
Employing the full spectrum of the ‘guitar family’, bass (by Paul Kowert), banjo (Noam Pikelny), fiddle (Gabe Witcher), Chris Eldridge (guitar) and mandolin (Chris Thile), the group engages their audience with pulsing energy and bounce. Thile (looking from 15 rows back like a young Sting) is the front man and main singer who sustains the patter, the charm and the smile but additions from the wings by Pikelny and Witcher help balance out the show.
Interactions between band members are a highlight, members turning deferentially to watch the man in the periodic spot light of a solo but then also at times engaging in pairs in either rhythmical partnering or feverish dueling of their instruments. The ability to combine so coherently and with such sparkle and brilliance these five stringed forces is often breath taking.
The Adelaide International Guitar Festival in 2012 has been a great success with ticket sales well up on the previous record and the whole in the black financially. Key to that success has been Slava Grigoryan’s ability to entice world class acts on debut and exclusive trips here. As his audience was on Friday night, he must be very pleased with the result of his work to get the Punch Brothers here.
Kryztoff Rating 4K