Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Apr 19th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Punch-Drunk Love

music punchbrosThe Punch Brothers flip traditional bluegrass on its head

 

More than one hundred years ago, the songs and instruments of immigrants melded into a new American sound, known as bluegrass, that resounded throughout the Appalachian mountain range. But in the last 40 years, bluegrass has mutated to encompass every other musical genre by adding a frenetic twang. So, when the Punch Brothers launch into a bluegrass version of a Radiohead song, audiences release a collective gasp—not at the audacity, but rather at the band’s profound musicianship, technical mastery and quick pace.

The Punch Brothers are a New York City-based outfit comprised of Nickel Creek founder and recent MacArthur Genius Grant winner Chris Thile (mandolin), Chris Eldridge (guitar), Gabe Witcher (violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo) and Paul Kowert (bass). Together, they weave traditional Irish, Scottish and English sounds with a 21st century sensibility into gold.

On the phone from Oxford, England, where the band is currently touring, guitarist Chris Eldridge says that since surviving Superstorm Sandy, life on the road has been good—albeit hectic. Despite touring for the entire year with only a few breaks, Eldridge takes traveling with a genius in stride. “Chris Thile is an unbelievable musician,” he says. “I am incredibly lucky to be in a band with him and the other three guys—four of my favorite musicians on the planet.”

The son of Ben Eldridge, founder and banjo player of seminal bluegrass band Seldom Scene, Chris Eldridge grew up in a talented Virginian homestead. “Bluegrass was always around the house growing up,” he recalls. “My mother was also a musician and a banjo player as well, which is how my parents met.”

Tony Rice, renowned bluegrass guitarist and a family friend, was also a permanent fixture in Eldridge’s youth. “It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how fortunate I was to grow up in that environment,” he admits. “Growing up with the Seldom Scene as a weird extended family, it took getting older to give me perspective on how incredible the experience was.”

Influenced at an early age by Tony Rice’s collaborations with Jerry Garcia and Seldom Scene’s bluegrass renditions of Eric Clapton and James Taylor songs, Eldridge was brought up with the belief that the line separating bluegrass from contemporary music could (and should) be blurred.

“When I first became aware of the cross-pollinating was when Phish had Bela Fleck and Alison Krauss on a record,” he recalls. “Then I saw Del McCoury at one of the giant music festivals.”

The Punch Brothers’ appreciation for other genres and desire to borrow elements of them make their live shows so unique. On Friday, Nov. 30, the band will unleash that bluegrass amalgam on The Rio Theatre, where fans can expect to hear everything from covers, to Nickel Creek-sounding compositions, to original excursions.

When crafting original songs, Eldridge says that the writing process varies. “It usually starts with a little theme of an idea that one of the five will bring to the band, and the rest will take it and run,” he explains. “The original idea that sparked the song might end up being a small part of the final song once it’s gone through the brain trust.”

That symbiotic relationship shines through on the band’s new EP, Ahoy, a collection of five songs from the “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” recording sessions in Nashville, Tenn. It’s a short but sweet trip—from a heartfelt ballad, to a tribute to Dixie. It might not be Radiohead, but when the band gets cooking, it packs a punch. 


The Punch Brothers will play at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 423-8209.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?