The Punch Brothers
Old Town School of Folk Music;Mon 31 (two shows)
Alt-bluegrass supergroup Nickel Creek may have run dry for the foreseeable future, but string-bending phenom Chris Thile is already onto the next phase of his career. The mandolin (and everything else) player is sporting a new band, inspired by a Mark Twain story and a long affiliation with musical sidekicks Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Chris Eldridge (guitar), Greg Garrison (bass) and Noam Pikelny (banjo).
Collectively known as the Punch Brothers, the players, previously featured on Thile’s solo effort How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, had an auspicious debut in March. Composer John Adams picked them to perform at his In Your Ear Redux festival in New York, where Thile unveiled a four-part suite called “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” billing his outfit as the Tensions Mountain Boys (what a punster!). The humor is evident, but in fact Thile was laughing to keep from crying. The new project evolved partly as musical therapy after his marriage fell apart. Since then, Thile has left New York behind to set up shop in Chicago, and the group recorded new material for its debut album, due in February from Nonesuch.
This New Year’s Eve show promises lots of fast and loose virtuosity. Thile and his pals have always been keen to break through formalities and mix things up, barreling along a continuum that imagines Bach and the White Stripes as drinking buddies. “It’s almost music,” he insists, though we’re certain it’s much more than that.