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Surprising blue grass band hits Jorgensen

By Deepti Boddapati
On October 5, 2012

  • The Punch Brothers, a modern-day blue grass band, entertain a full house at Jorgensen theater with their smooth sound and comedic interuptions. JOHN KULAKOFSKY

The Punch Brothers visited Jorgensen this Thursday and entertained a packed house with a soulful, interactive concert. Chris Thile started off the night with an invocation of the UConn Huskies cheer. Tom Brosseau was the opening act. He combined elegant guitar with soulful vocals and shared many funny anecdotes. One of his songs did what folk music does best: bring awareness of social problems. It dealt with the oil drilling in the Bakken Formation, located in North Dakota and Montana, which is allegedly causing many problems for the residents.
All of Brousseau's songs paired a powerful voice with mellifluous guitar melodies. His poetic lyrics found a good match in his flexible rhythm and intonation. Between songs he connected with the audience with personal, relatable anecdotes. "Originally I'm from North Dakota. I come from Grand Forks, it's a confluence of two rivers...I consider myself a river man. I did all the things one shouldn't do. You probably shouldn't fish there or swim there, believe you me. It looks calm but it's one hellish current," he said during one break.
Brousseau's next song was about a flood that he experienced as a child called "Here Comes the Water Now." Though the lyrics were about a flood, they had a mournful quality about them, indicating that they were about something much greater: the tides of time.
The Punch Brothers followed this great opening with more great music. Although they had a traditional bluegrass set-up, they were surprisingly modern in their songs. Some of their songs had the familiar folk feel but much of it also had a delicious mournful tension. Their vocals were easy on the ears and felt very smooth. Their playing was very engaging, often involving their entire bodies. This led many of the audience to join in, clapping along to the beat and even dancing in the aisles. Paul Kowert, the bass player, played well enough put many dubstep drops to shame. Mandolin virtuoso Thile wielded the mandolin much like a rock star would while playing unbelievable melodies. Many of their songs included improvisational playoffs between the mandolin and the fiddle, which always caused the crowd to erupt in applause.
The group was comedic as well. "Sometimes to stay awake during a show one needs some very strong iced tea. Not that you aren't a very exhilarating audience, but how should I have know that? Now that it is here we might as well drink it," Thile said about a shot of alcohol they had between songs.
One of their numbers, ""Patchwork Girlfriend," was a bright piece, played in staccato. It sounded much like something one might hear in a Venetian gondola. Thile poked a lot of good-natured fun at UConn, calling it a "particularly rural part of Storrs" before singing a song about how "City girls are all the same, they play you like a pinball game."
During this concert the Punch Brothers showed that they are nothing like your typical folk band. They were edgy, experimental and just plain awesome. This is definitely one band that UConn was very lucky to get a visit form.

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