Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years 2012 - Punch Brothers at Bowery Ballroom

In September, Punch Brothers announced they would be playing a three-night stand at The Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan.  I decided, what the heck, it would be a great excuse to go to New York, right?  I really didn't know what to expect, but after seeing them play two entertaining and memorable shows a week and a half apart in Seattle and Phoenix, my hopes were elevated, to say the least.  This is their adopted hometown, and many bands put on their best show in front of their hometown crowd.

Another interesting idea they had for this series was having a different opening act each night.  Jeffrey Lewis, a New York anti-folk musician who incorporates jovial low-budget slideshows into his set, opened the first night.  Aoife O'Donovan, lead singer of Boston string band Crooked Still, and occasional collaborator with Chris Thile and Noam Pickelny, opened the second night.  Finally, Michael Daves, flatpick guitarist who collaborated with Chris Thile, opened night three.

The whole party started Saturday night with their rendition of Josh Ritter's "Another New World," followed by "New York City" (which, amazingly, was played only once all weekend).  They played some of their standard songs ("This Girl," "Flippen," and "Rye Whiskey" would be played all three nights), as well as a few I haven't heard too many times.  "Down Along The Dixie Line," a Gillian Welch song on their new EP Ahoy!,  was played early in the set.  They also played their contribution to the Hunger Games compilation, "Dark Days," for the first time in New York (and also the first time for me).  They would play this again the third night.  Late in the set, guitarist Chris Eldridge sang a Seldom Scene song called "Through The Bottom Of The Glass", and they also treated us to the third movement of "The Blind Leaving The Blind."

The highlight of the set came, however, when they debuted a new cover version of The Beach Boys' "Surf's Up."  This may be the best Beach Boys cover I've heard, so it didn't annoy me that they played it all three nights.  Chris Thile gave credit where it was due after the performance, with the succinct announcement, "Brian F*@king Wilson!"

The encore started the same way it did in Phoenix: with Chris Thile playing Bach's Sonata #1 in G Minor on solo mandolin.  Go find this on youtube.  It will blow you away.  After an instrumental I couldn't identify, the band was joined on stage by Jeffrey Lewis for a bluegrass version of his song "Creeping Brain," complete with low budget slideshow.

Sunday night started with "Don't Get Married Without Me" and their version of Welch's "Wayside (Back In Time)."  It might be interesting to note that the opening act, Aiofe O'Donovan, and her boyfriend were standing right next to me against the side wall.  She disappeared during 2nd performance of the third movement of "The Blind Leaving The Blind" in as many nights, and that was because she would join the band on stage for "Here And Heaven" from the Goat Rodeo Sessions album and Punch Brothers' own "Soon Or Never" (I feel like they never play these songs without her).  They also played Radiohead's "2+2=5" and The Band's "Ophelia" and a rare performance of "The Woman And The Bell."

The main set ended with "Surf's Up," this time with a segue into their instrumental romp "Watch 'at Breakdown," which seems to have longer and longer solos each time they play it (and sometimes another song in the middle - in Phoenix it was "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas").

Chris Thile mentioned several times that they love playing in New York - at one point Sunday he said that his favorite people to play in front of are New Yorkers and, after a pause, "people who travel to New York for the holidays."  I'm glad he made a shout out for those of us who aren't New Yorkers.

The encore, which would end up being my favorite stretch of the whole weekend, started with Chris Thile and Aiofe O'Donovan's spur-of-the-moment Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch cover band playing "The Way It Will Be" (I knew there was a reason MOG kept playing that song whenever I'm using the radio feature).  They also played a John Hartford song called "Living In The Mississippi Valley" (with Chris Eldridge singing), followed by Beck's "Sexx Laws," with a segue into the traditional tune "Train On An Island."

The third night began with an old blues song called "Boll Weevil," which led into "Rye Whiskey."  "Rye Whiskey" is that one song that they play at every show - and it really is a good choice for a staple song.  It's fun every time.

They also played a song they described as a medley that was cut from their album Punch; I don't know what it was called, but I feel like I may have heard them play it once before.  They also worked in their version of The Strokes' "Reptilia," and Rob Moose joined them on stage for the third movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto.

Of course, the centerpiece of this set came at about 11:50PM - they began playing "Surf's Up," and again included the segue into "Watch 'at Breakdown."  Throughout the show, Noam Pickelny had been announcing the number of seconds left until midnight, and during Thile's mandolin solo, Noam, did this with increasing frequency... "67"... "38"... "18!"... "14!"... The crowd, of course, joined in for the final countdown from 10 to 1 (I think they were actually off by about 10 seconds), after which the band began playing and singing "Auld Lang Syne," after which they finished "Watch 'at Breakdown."

When the band came out on stage for the encore, a bunch of people shouted "Missy", after which Thile said, "Why not?"  He said they were going to play a holiday song, but would play the request instead.  I like "Missy," but this was pretty disappointing, as I estimated the holiday song he was referring to was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."  Would've love to hear that one.  They then played a raucous "Icarus Smicarus" from the Ahoy! EP, after which they were joined by Michael Daves for a whole bunch of bluegrass songs I had a hard time identifying.  Eldridge sang one more, "Don't Give Your Heart To A Rambler" by Jimmy Martin, and they played a couple more bluegrass songs.

It really was a great stretch of shows - and I think it was worth going to each one.  This weekend still doesn't quite compare to their Nightgrass show in Telluride, though.  These shows were less intimate, and possibly directed at a different type of audience.  One thing that did impress me here is that the crowd really did know the songs - and not just the new ones, but the ones from the previous record as well.  At any rate, it was a great way to spend the weekend; it might be my most memorable New Years ever.

Saturday, December 29Sunday, December 30Monday, December 31
Another New World (Josh Ritter)
New York City
Heart In A Cage (The Strokes)
Song For A Young Queen (Chris Thile)
Down Along The Dixie Line (Gillian Welch)
This Girl
Dark Days
New Chance Blues (Norman Blake)
Don't Need No
Surf's Up (Beach Boys)
Flippen (Väsen)
Through The Bottom Of The Glass (Seldom Scene) 1
The Blind Leaving The Blind Mvt 3
Rye Whiskey

Sonata #1 in G Minor (Bach) 2
Creeping Brain (Jeffrey Lewis) 3
Patchwork Girlfriend
Moonshiner (traditional) 4
Don't Get Married Without Me
Wayside (Back In Time) (Gillian Welch)
You Are
Flippen (Väsen)
Ophelia (The Band)
The Blind Leaving The Blind Mvt 3
Here And Heaven (Ma, Duncan, Meyer, Thile) 5
Soon Or Never 5
2+2=5 (Radiohead)
This Girl
The Woman And The Bell
Rye Whiskey
Surf's Up (Beach Boys) ->
Watch 'at Breakdown

The Way It Will Be (Welch/Rawlings) 4 8
Living In The Mississippi Valley (John Hartford) 1 5
Sexx Laws (Beck) ->
Train On An Island (traditional)
Boll Weevil ->
Rye Whiskey
Who's Feeling Young Now?
(punch outtake)
Patchwork Girlfriend
Dark Days ->
The Beekeeper
Reptilia (The Strokes)
Next To The Trash
Movement And Location
Surf's Up (Beach Boys) ->
Watch 'at Breakdown ->
Auld Lang Syne (traditional) ->
Watch 'at Breakdown
Hundred Dollars
No Concern Of Yours
Brandenburg Concerto Mvt 3 (Bach) 6
This Girl
Flippen (Väsen)
Brakeman's Blues (Bill Monroe)

Icarus Smicarus
Rabbit In The Log (Bill Monroe) 7
Billy In The Lowground (?) (traditional) 7
Cry, Cry Darling (Bill Monroe) 7
? 7
Don't Give Your Heart To A Rambler (Jimmy Martin) 1 7
? 7
? 7
? 7

Setlist notes:
1 Chris Eldridge on vocals
2 Chris Thile solo
3 with Jeffrey Lewis
4 unplugged
5 with Aiofe O'Donovan
6 with Rob Moose
7 with Michael Daves
8 Chris Thile and Aiofe O'Donovan, both on guitar

No comments:

Post a Comment