Taking the stage with a grin so ebullient it managed to infect the room with its cheer and enthusiasm, bandleader/ mandolin phenom Chris Thile announced “I have been waiting SO long to do this!” It was certainly a long time coming, but Friday night, the Punch Brothers finally, FINALLY, delivered a headlining performance proper in the nations Capital. Since forming in 2006, the group has skated along the outskirts of what most would consider mainstream music, and thus mainstream venues. They’ve built their following slowly, playing to the more traditional bluegrass crowds and festivals along the way, yet they’ve never compromised the underlying evil genius mastery of their instruments that provides the bedrock of their music.
With a sound that has often been described as “prog-grass”, listening to a Punch Brothers record can be a cognitive workout that simultaneously leaves the listener both satisfied and exhausted – and that’s sort of the point. This is a band that’s all about balancing acts, and this years Who’s Feeling Young Now was a delirious example of the bands willingness to balance the intellectual with the populist, and in the process subvert the listener’s expectation of what a “pop” song can, and should, be. That delicate balance was on full display Friday night at the 9:30 Club as the band delivered a set that touched on just about every point of the bands career as well as a few other bands careers just to show that they could.