Punch Brothers toast up Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

Photo by Amanda Cline- Photography Editor
By Amanda Cline – [email protected] – Photography Editor | March 4, 2015 |
The Asheville music scene is known for a broad spectrum of genres, from strange to beautiful, large to small. Every so often a game-changing band will breeze into town for a night or two. On a snowy Tuesday night, the Punch Brothers were such a game changer, bringing their mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bass and guitar to Asheville to showcase their musical talents.
Wendy Bickart, Asheville local, arrived at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium not knowing what to expect from the show. “Well, my husband really got the email about them. I don’t really know what to expect,” Wendy said. “We love bluegrass.”
Bluegrass in Asheville isn’t as popular as other genres like electronic and rock. John Bickart, Wendy’s husband, said he had an idea what to expect from the band. “ I read about them and then I went on their web site. I played a couple of samples of what they do and I thought it was pretty good,” John said.
The opening act The Stray Birds, a trio from Pennsylvania, began their set with their song “All the News is Bad.” The catchy song set the mood for a fun atmosphere. Jack Stansberry, a security guard at the show, became an instant fan of the band. “I honestly can’t express how much I enjoyed them,” Stansberry said.
The band followed up with “Loretta,” a more traditional-sounding bluegrass song. “The Stray Birds were angelic. They made me proud to be in the hills where my blood runs,” Stansberry said.
To carry on into a fun, old-timey atmosphere, the Punch Brothers opened their act with “My Oh My.”with the band’s stage presence only increased as they continued into playing “Boll Weevil,” a fast-tempo jig led by the banjo.
To showcase their instrumental capabilities, the band performed a couple of jam sessions as well as instrumental songs like “Passepied” and “Familiarity.”
“They were like an all-boy band that plays music I actually like,” Stansberry said.
The show’s emotional range flowed along with the songs. The vocal-only rendition of “Old Triangle” slowed things down, allowing for audience participation in a sing-along. “Rye Whiskey,” a faster-paced song, had audience members stomping their feet and clapping their hands.
When the show came to an end, the Punch Brothers reappeared on stage for an encore, playing the last track off their latest album, “Phosphorescent Blues.” The slow and beautiful song “Little Lights” descended upon the crowd like an angel of music.
“The lyrics were meaningful and instrumentation felt like home,” Stansberry said.
The Asheville music scene continues to grow as different bands showcase their talents in the broad spectrum of musical genres. The bluegrass-based sound of the Punch Brothers opened the ears of new listeners and created new fans.
“I thought it was an enchanting and a beautiful representation of what I’d like to see more of in this town,” Stansberry said.