Take THAT Irene!
This past Sunday, the day after it was threatened by one force of nature, the DC area was rewarded by two musical forces of nature as they took the stage at Wolftrap.
First up, Punch Brothers. Starting their set as the lawn slowly began to fill up, the band took note that they normally don't have the opportunity to play venues the size of Wolftrap. Why this is, is anyone's guess though. Playing a style of music that can best be described as "extreme bluegrass" this band, led by mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, is made up of some of the best players on ANY scene that's around today.
Their 2010 album, Antifogmatic, ranked as one of my top albums of that year, and the bands set pulled heavily from that record as expected. But that didn't stop them from throwing in a few new tunes. One of those new songs, "Movement and Location", built slowly from a drone but soon developed into some sort of weird bluegrass/Radiohead hybrid that sounded nothing like the band has done before yet exactly like something you would expect them to come up with.
All in all it was a fantastic, albeit short, set that highlighted just why they were picked to tour with a legend like Hornsby this trip out.
As the lights came up on Hornsby's set, calls of "Bruuuuuuuce" echoed around the wooden interior of the shed at Wolftrap. By now using the term legend with Hornsby isn't just expected, it's demanded. The man has played with or written for a staggering amount of musicians in his career and his stylistic range can best be described as "all".
While on the surface it may seem that he plays in one particular style, the fact of the matter is that not only can he play in just about every style known to man - Jazz, Rock, Big Band, Reggae, Pop...you name it - but he frequently DOES, and all in the same song. And amazingly his band is able to follow suit. It's a tendency that doesn't quite come across on his records, but in concert it is a beauty to behold.
Not content to be just Bruce Hornsby though, Chris Thile was brought out after only a few songs and spent the remaining set as Hornsby's antagonist/foil/what have you. Put one master on stage and you've got a show. Two and you've got an all out rave up. The interplay between the two musicians was competitive at times and reverent at others. For every run Thile would throw at him, Hornsby would respond with just a little extra for Thile and the rest of the band to play off of.
By the end of the night, Hornsby didn't much bother to play the majority of his "hits" for the crowd (though he did do a somber run through of "End of Innocence", a song he co-penned with Don Henly), and why should he? When you're this good, and have this much fun doing what you do, it's all a hit.
Hornsby remarked a few times over the evening that the best part of having the name Bruce was that even if the audience was booing you, it sounded like they were calling out your name. It's funny to think that there was a time early on in his career where this might have been the case. Rest assured Mr. Hornsby, these days everyone most definitely knows your name.
Click on the Bruuuuuuuuce below to check out the rest of our shots from the show