The Punch Brothers offer brief respite from the heat through a performance that in many ways mimics it.

7/25/18 – House of Blues

The weather eventually cooled down after torrential rain (on one of the hottest days of the year, no less) on Wednesday, July 25, just in time for the Punch Brothers concert at the House of Blues—which probably made it a lot more tolerable for the more-than-a-block-long line of attendees (for Fenway, that says something).

And the band—consisting of mandolinist and vocalist Chris Thile, banjoist Noam Pikelny, violinist Gabe Witcher, bassist Paul Kowert, and guitarist Chris Eldridge—after a brief opening act by guitarist and vocalist Madison Cunningham, played with a fervor that almost perfectly matched the day’s abrasive weather. Jittery, gasping, passionate—the Punch Brothers plucked and strummed as if somebody were periodically jabbing them with a pin (in a charming way).

It was the eighth stop on their 2018 tour for their new July 20 album, All Ashore—their fifth and first self-produced album and the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2015 release, The Phosphorescent Blues. The Punch Brothers have been on a thirty-six-city tour with Madison Cunningham since July 12 and will continue through September 17.

The main act began with “Movement and Location,” the band huddling around as if figuring out just then how to perform the song live. But soon after they separated and began to move about the stage, chanting the song’s lyrics and strumming furiously on their respective instruments. Thile and his quintet switched back and forth between songs off All Ashore—like “Three Dots and a Dash,” “The Angel of Doubt,” and “Jumbo”—and the usual classics—“Julep,” “Passepied,” and “My Oh My.” Between songs, Thile would raise a glass to the audience, step away from the microphone, and shout something unintelligible.

The Punch Brothers closed the show with two encores—the first consisting of “The Hops of Guldenberg” and “Rye Whiskey,” and the second consisting of one of their most popular songs, the over-ten-minute-long “Familiarity.”

Throughout the performance, the band found a perfect way to maintain a fantastic stage presence with their at times more docile music; they skillfully combined unorganized individual sounds to create a cohesive whole, sounding strikingly similar to a four-piece rock band. The Punch Brothers, while giving a fantastic, exciting performance, kept the audience entertained and transfixed by the complexity and infectious, upbeat nature of their sound—altogether creating an atmosphere where the audience was almost as involved and high-energy as the band.

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