Monday, April 30, 2012 the gut

My summer concert series kicked off Friday night with The Punch Brothers at the 9:30 Club. Lord, I was tired but the show’s vibe made up for the long day. The deal with these five musicians, as one, is that instead of feeling as if they are pushing something out at the crowd instead they are pulling us along – something that’s never happened at shows I’ve attended. For the first haIf dozen songs you felt like the band was climbing a mountain and we were along for the ride, and the back side roll was going to be something. The Brothers were loaded from the get-go with Chris Thile letting the crowd know how long he’d waited to bring “this band to this club.” The music, including an early 9-10 minutes instrumental, was stunning – how five guys can create such a din is beyond me. This band is tight – and at least 10x better live than on CD; and the CD is exceptional. Their ability to move easily between classic bluegrass and some version of a pop/jam band is a thing of beauty; pure and simple talent. Having a chance to see this pinnacle of the decade long re-mapping of young string bands made for quite an evening. Well done to the band. I’m ecstatic to have seen them in a club before the onslaught of bigger shows over the coming years. Based on what I’ve seen with this new generation of bands the growth of fans and venues will be exponential; nothing but festivals on the docket for the coming summer and autumn.

In a rare confluence of events (if you know my background feelings about 9:30 shows), the crowd was the best I’ve experienced there, and the sound was impeccable. Between the band and the house system they perfectly balanced all the instruments and vocals which seems to happen only once every ten shows. Also, the club has taken to allowing the first 30 or so patrons into the basement bar and then letting us in at door time before the rest of the folks lined up outside. I got there about an hour before doors, had a beer, and cleared with the guy at the ‘front/stairs’ that I was heading up to the upper bar and a stool whist he was going for the center of the stage – always declare intentions. We were both happy with the outcome.

The only downside? I got hit was a 2 x 18 on the way home: a full 18-minute wait for the Green Line at Cardozo, followed by another full 18 at L’enfant Plaza. Sometimes you get a kick in the teeth, sometimes it doesn’t even hurt.

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