Tag Archives: Punch Brothers

Top 20 of 2012

Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?

1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?
2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock 
3. Tropical Punk – Ends of the World 
4. John K. Samson – Provincial 
5. Flume – Flume
6. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE 
7. Tame Impala – Lonerism 
8. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
9. Balmorhea – Stranger
10. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
11. Titus Andronicus – Local Business
12. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
13. The Men – Open Your Heart
14. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
15. Bob Dylan – Tempest
16. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
17. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
18. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
19. St. Lucia – St. Lucia EP
20. Yeasayer – Fragrant World

Honorable Mentions: People Get Ready, Grizzly Bear, Lucero, Black Moth Super Rainbow, The Tallest Man on Earth


Top 20 of 2012: 1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?

1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?

Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?This year’s top record might be a surprise, unless you’ve actually heard Who’s Feeling Young Now?. Punch Brothers‘ third (technically fourth if you count Chris Thile‘s How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which also featured the band) album mostly left what the critics called “progressive bluegrass” in favor of something pretty close to indie folk.

After mixing genres like bluegrass and classical on their first albums, Who’s Feeling Young Now? focuses more on songwriting. Thile and the rest of the band still pluck and bow at virtuoso levels, but this time it’s more about how the instruments work together — often in the background — instead of the heavily layered bluegrass.

There’s also a great deal of instrumental manipulation. The violin on “Hundred Dollars” is about as far from the fiddle as you can get, and I’m still baffled how they managed to so perfectly cover Radiohead‘s “Kid A” with mandolin, acoustic guitar, violin, double bass and banjo.

And what better way to celebrate our album of the year than by seeing them live on New Year’s Eve? Tonight, Punch Brothers finish off their three-night run at Bowery Ballroom in New York, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Video: Punch Brothers – “The Weight” (The Band cover)

Punch Brothers“The Weight” has to be one of the most frequently covered songs of the past half century. Shockingly, four versions of the song charted in both the U.S. and Canada: the original by The Band plus covers by Jackie DeShannon, Aretha Franklin, and Diana Ross & The Supremes with The Temptations.

A number of other artists have played the song live. Wilco performed one of our favorite versions of the song with help from Mavis Staples and Nick Lowe, but they’re far from the only ones who have tackled it. The Wikipedia article for the song takes 20 lines to discuss all of the different artists who have covered it, ranging from older musicians, like Grateful Dead and Waylon Jennings, to younger bands such as Panic! at the Disco and Hanson.

Moreover, the endless stream of cover versions doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. In fact, a ton of covers of the song have been springing up recently in tribute to Levon Helm, who died this year. The Black Keys performed the song with John Fogerty at Coachella, the day after Helm passed away, and Bruce Springsteen played it after a fan requested it a few weeks later.

Punch Brothers recently added their own version to the mix during a Back Porch Session for Garden & Gun. It seems like it was only a matter of time before they covered this song, seeing as it’s covered so frequently, and Punch Brothers are masters of the cover song. They covered The Cars for AV Club’s Undercover, they included a fabulous cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A” on their latest album, and you never know what covers are going to pop up in their set lists. At their show in Prospect Park they played four covers, including “Ophelia,” another song by The Band.

Check out the cover below, and let us know which cover of “The Weight” is your favorite.

Video: Punch Brothers – “Just What I Needed” (The Cars cover)

Punch Brothers - A.V. Club Undercover: The Cars - Just What I NeededPunch Brothers have been known to do some unusual but amazing covers. When I saw them in Brooklyn last summer, they did Beck’s “Sexx Laws,” and their new album, Who’s Feeling Young Now?, has an incredible cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A.”

Recently, they huddled in the A.V. Club’s studio to cover The Cars’ classic “Just What I Needed.” It’s amazing how well the bluegrass instruments recreate the original song’s electric guitars and New Wave synths.

Check out the video on A.V. Club:
Punch Brothers – “Just What I Needed” (The Cars cover) 

Top Shows of 2011

10. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes – Rochester Jazz Festival – Rochester, N.Y. – June 11
Southside Johnny may never have reached Bruce Springsteen’s level of success, but he still puts on a decent show. The Jukes aren’t exactly a “must-see” band, but their free show in Rochester was full of upbeat songs like “Talk to Me,” “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” and “Having a Party.”

So So Glos/Night Manager poster - The Suffolk July 1, 20119. So So Glos and Night Manager – Suffolk – New York, N.Y. – July 1
Night Manager’s record release show was a pretty small event, which was perfect. So So Glos headlined the show, featuring a slew of other bands. The sound system was questionable but certainly not the worst I’ve ever heard. So So Glos blistered through their set — fast and loud. They’ve played bigger shows, but I have to think that the ones in New York City dive bars are their best.

8. Nana Grizol and Defiance, Ohio – Community School of Music and Art – Ithaca, N.Y. – June 23
I used to love going to DIY shows, but I kind of outgrew the music. Nana Grizol is one of the few bands that brings back the feeling of youth and plays music I still love. Frontman Theo Hilton played a double set. He’s also in Defiance, Ohio, but Nana Grizol was still my favorite — full of wistful horns and sing-a-long lyrics.

7. The Mountain Goats – Artpark – Lewiston, N.Y. – July 27
Honestly, the Mountain Goats should be much higher on this list. The band played an excellent set, full of John Darnielle’s stories and some of the Mountain Goats’ best songs, at Artpark. But headliner Bright Eyes was a big downer. Not only did Conor Oberst seem like he’d rather be anywhere else, their set was just lackluster. If the Mountain Goats had headlined, this might have topped the list.

6. Punch Brothers and Justin Townes Earle – Prospect Park – Brooklyn, N.Y. – June 30
This show was another case of “might have been higher under other circumstances.” I like Justin Townes Earle, but I was there to see Punch Brothers. They definitely didn’t disappoint. Chris Thile is one of the greatest mandolin players out there, and the rest of the band makes it look easy to keep up with him. They played some of their best originals and a fantastic cover of Beck’s “Sexx Laws.” JTE played a decent set but had a few setbacks — slowed down songs, no drummer and tempo problems. He played well, but the Punch Brothers set was too tight for him to follow. Had the order been reversed, it might’ve gone unnoticed. Still a great show, though.

5. Furthur – CMAC – Canandaigua, N.Y. – July 26
This Furthur show was my first live Grateful Dead experience. I had heard what to expect, mostly regarding the Dead Heads, but was still completely caught off guard. People watching alone might have been worth the price of a ticket. Even without the strange parade of people, Furthur’s performance was worth the money we paid. Their two sets were full of classics like “Truckin’,” “Uncle John’s Band” and “Dark Star,” plus the usual assortment of covers and rarer songs. It was the first of, most likely, many Furthur/Dead shows.

4. Free Energy with Sports – St. Bonaventure University – April 30
Free Energy was the last concert I booked at St. Bonaventure, and it couldn’t have gone better. The weather was beautiful (it was outdoors), and both bands definitely had good vibes. Free Energy is the only band I’ve ever seen that even comes close to how fun, laid back and genuinely happy Limbeck is. I got the band Sports from Rochester to open, and they were awesome. It was my third time seeing Free Energy, and this was probably my favorite. They played almost all of their songs, including a crowd sing-a-long of “Something in Common,” and a surprise cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” It was definitely a high point of my senior year.

Fleet Foxes - Mountain Park - Holyoke, Mass. poster3. Fleet Foxes – Mountain Park – Holyoke, Mass. – September 25
Is there a better band to see on the side of a mountain than Fleet Foxes? Doubtful. The setting of Mountain Park in Holyoke, Mass. was seemingly made for them. Their lush harmonies echoed beautifully off Mt. Tom, filling the unusually warm September air. Fortunately, with a small catalog, they played most of their songs, including my favorites like “Helplessness Blues,” “Montezuma,” “Ragged Wood,” “Mykonos” and “White Winter Hymnal.”

1. (tie) Elvis Costello – Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre – Rochester, N.Y. – June 17
These top two shows are really a toss-up. Elvis Costello’s performance at the Rochester Jazz Festival was one of the best I’ve seen. His songs are great, but he still knows how to make it fun. I loved the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, and even though the set list was partly left to chance, the show was crammed with classics. Elvis and the Imposters ended up playing around 40 songs, including “Radio, Radio,” “Alison,” “Pump It Up,” and the closer “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”

Avett Brothers - Smith Opera House poster1. (tie) Avett Brothers with David Mayfield Parade – Smith Opera House – Geneva, N.Y. – February 20
My other favorite show of the year was the Avett Brothers, who will probably make this list every year they play near me. What made this sold-out show even better was that it was in my small city of Geneva, N.Y. We only get a few shows a year, and even fewer good ones. David Mayfield Parade opened and really got the crowd going. As always, the Avett Brothers played their hearts out — screaming and pounding their instruments. They have a charisma that few bands can capture. They don’t need anything fancy to boost their shows. They just give it 100% of what they’ve got, every time.

Punch Brothers and Justin Townes Earle at Prospect Park

Celebrate Brooklyn!, a free summer concert series in the borough’s Prospect Park, had a great double bill for their June 30 show: Justin Townes Earle and Punch Brothers. I’d been dying to see Punch Brothers, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them for free while I was in New York.

Punch Brothers - Prospect Park, Brooklyn, June 30, 2011 - Photo by David Andrako - BrooklynVeganThe five “Brothers” – Chris Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar) and Paul Kowert (bass) – are probably the tightest group of musicians I’ve ever seen. All five are nothing short of virtuosos and make even the most complex bluegrass look entirely effortless (all while wearing suits and ties).

Their brand of bluegrass is completely accessible without being watered down, incorporating bits folk and occasionally dipping toward classical music (like the forty-minute, four-movement “The Blind Leaving the Blind”). Their set featured covers of Gillian Welch (“Wayside/Back in Time”), Josh Ritter (“Another New World”) and The Band (“Ophelia”). They even did their own rendition of Beck’s “Sexx Laws,” which frontman Thile introduced by joking that the band likes to incorporate current events into their shows. The rest of their set comprised songs like “You Are,” “Alex” and part of “The Blind Leaving the Blind.” They closed their set with “Rye Whiskey,” as the sun was just about set.

Justin Townes Earle - Prospect Park, Brooklyn, June 30, 2011 - Photo by David Andrako, BrooklynVeganJustin Townes Earle was in the unfortunate position of having to follow Punch Brothers. I enjoyed Earle, but it was a little like Anne Murray having to follow Bruce Springsteen (his last ever show as support act). OK, it wasn’t that drastic. Earle wasn’t even close to getting booed off the stage but he didn’t play like a headliner.

With no drummer, the songs were significantly slower than the album versions. He and his band (upright bassist Bryn Davies and an additional guitarist) also seemed to have trouble keeping time. Earle would count off the songs and start playing, only to slow down a few bars later.

Earle didn’t really take command of the stage until the other musicians briefly left the stage. He did a blistering solo cover of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “I Been Burnin’ Bad Gasoline.” Later, he and his band also covered The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing in the Street.” They finished with “Harlem River Blues,” which, like most of the other songs, was good but lacked the oomph it has on the album. Earle came back to play a quick, one-song encore before curfew.  It was enjoyable, but Punch Brothers definitely stole the show. It would have been nice to see them close out the show and play a little longer.

Check out more of David Andrako’s photos from the show at BrooklynVegan.