Punch Brothers, the astonishing, otherworldly string band quintet whose song “Dark Days” was featured on The Hunger Games soundtrack and whose sound is called “a mystical alchemy of old-time music and contemporary sensibilities” by The New Yorker, will play Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m.
One of the most sophisticated young bands on the folk/bluegrass scene, Punch Brothers starred in the 2012 documentary How to Grow a Band, and released their third album, Who’s Feeling Young Now? on Nonesuch Records earlier this year. Vanity Fair touts the album as “their most expressive work yet as an ensemble – sophisticated, pop-y, kinetic and profound, all at once.”
The New York-based quintet includes the dynamic Chris Thile on mandolin, guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert, banjoist Noam Pikelny and violinist Gabe Witcher.
As for their galactic talent, Ed Helms, reviewing their 2010 album Antifogmatic for PASTE Magazine, writes, “The Punch Brothers are aliens, and they’re here to take over our world. Let’s look at the evidence: For starters, their music is an impossibly perfect mixture of down-home charm and staggering sophistication. This can only be the result of complex algorithms running on an interplanetary mainframe.”
Mandolin virtuoso Thile (pronounced THE-lee with a soft th), who came of age fronting the Grammy-winning Nickel Creek, founded in part with Allison Krauss, leads Punch Brothers. Besides the 2 million records he sold with Nickel Creek, Thile paired with guitarist Michael Daves on the recent Sleep with One Eye Open, an unconventional bow to bluegrass tradition, and collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan for The Goat Rodeo Sessions. Thile has also melded with musical innovators Bela Fleck, jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, Dolly Parton, the Dixie Chicks, Hillary Hahn and Gabe Kahane.
Yo-Yo Ma says about how he learned of Thile’s talent, “If Edgar [Meyer] says to me, “You gotta listen to somebody,’ I take him really seriously.”
Punch Brothers is a band of freewheeling string virtuosos, who have full musical personas together and separately. They have appeared at Carnegie Hall, opened for Steve Martin’s national tour, and were featured on the Chieftain’s 50th Anniversary disc, Voice of Ages. Martin, for instance, calls banjoist Noam Pikelny “a player of unlimited range and astonishing precision.” In their 20s and 30s, the group is maturing in its writing, with a loose, simple, unaffectedly youthful performance style and, of late, a “hard-charging string-band punk rock” sound, according to its press materials.
As guitarist Eldridge notes, “Every little side project we’ve done has helped us come back to Punch Brothers with new ideas and new energy and a new sense of confidence, a righteous need to create stuff.”
Tom Brosseau, string player and writer of “How to Grow a Woman From the Ground,” will join Punch Brothers on stage in Storrs.
Punch Brothers’ performance at Jorgensen is sponsored by WNPR.
Jorgensen was recently named Best College/University Performing Arts Center in the Hartford Advocate Best of Hartford Readers’ Poll for 2012 and “Best Cabaret” in 2011 and 2012 by Connecticut Magazine.
Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2132 Hillside Road on the UConn campus in Storrs. Tickets are $35, $30 and $25, with some discounts available. For tickets and information, call the Box Office at 860.486.4226, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., or order online at jorgensen.uconn.edu. Convenient free parking is available across the street in the North Garage.