Lincoln Hall; Sat 11, Sun 12
Killer musicians with a playful eccentric streak, Punch Brothers are bluegrass nerds gone wild. Steeped in all sorts of musical traditions, American and otherwise, and so hungry to hear that lonesome mountain sound of yore through a contemporary prism, the players are really pioneers.
Don’t get us wrong. It’s not like they’re venturing into the improvisatory wilds. The string quintet uses its dazzlingly fluid chops and slightly bent imaginations to push the roots envelope toward modern idioms, driven by the head rush that comes from all those swift dancing notes.
The group’s sophomore release, Antifogmatic, sustains the fine harmonies and pop affinities you’d expect from frontman Chris Thile, who pulled together the loose-jointed combo after breaking up Nickel Creek. Confessional romantic sagas such as “The Woman and the Bell” boast both emotive vocals and intricately detailed, fast-shifting arrangements, while the domestic lament “Next to the Trash” offers chicken-fried comic relief. Armed with guitars, banjo, bass, mandolin and fiddle, the band also dips into more-or-less straight bluegrass, slugging down “Rye Whiskey” with fraternal bonhomie, for instance.
Onstage, they’ll field any request imaginable. No, not just Radiohead. Even shouts for vintage hip-hop hits. Especially that. But don’t expect any Auto-Tune. These dudes are organic, all the way.