LIVE: Punch Brothers Pack a Punch in Pilsen

Punch Brothers live © Tim Carter 2011 /
Punch Brothers live © Tim Carter /
Recommended If You Like: Nickel Creek, Ha Ha Tonka, River Whyless, Avett Brothers

Having a sold-out show in Chicago isn’t that difficult to do — especially at historic venues in cultural epicenters of the city such as Thalia Hall; but playing two nights in a row, with one night being sold-out, and the other on the coattails of being sold-out… that’s a bit more of a feat. Brooklyn-based bluegrass band, Punch Brothers, didn’t seem to have an issue giving the crowd their money’s worth on their second time taking the stage on Saturday night.

The Wireless EP, Punch Brothers' latest release (11/2015 via Nonesuch)
The Wireless EP, Punch Brothers’ latest release (11/2015 via Nonesuch)

There’s an adage that suggests “when one door closes, another opens,” and it seems to capture the essence of Punch Brothers’ origin story, as recounted by frontman and mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile. Born from a blend of heartache and an overindulgence in whiskey, the band has spun their straw into gold, producing four albums and two EPs since 2006. Much like players finding a new favorite in an online casino zonder cruks after their usual platforms become restricted, Punch Brothers discovered a sound that’s had audiences tapping their feet to a possibly newfound genre of “electro-bluegrass.”

For their current tour, the quintet opts for a single microphone setup, a nod to the golden age of radio and shows like “Prairie Home Companion,” known for their one-mic tradition. Whether aiming for a novel challenge or simply craving a change, their approach magnifies their collective energy. It transforms the stage into a solar hub, where each musician’s prowess beams like sunlight, ensuring that every performance is felt as powerfully as the warmth of the sun in every corner of the venue.

Punch Brothers live © Erika Kooda 2016
Punch Brothers center around a single microphone / © Erika Kooda 2016

As the group approached that center mic, Thile blew kisses to the audience, as if to apologize for the seven minute delay, but all was forgiven as the opening strums for “In The Lights” were played, and Thile’s haunting voice began to fill the old opera house.

Besides their pure energy, something else that really stuck out with Punch Brothers’ show was how well the entire group connected with the audience. So much bantering, paired with telling stories from their day in Chicago (which included the musician who opened the show, Gabriel Kahane, getting shat on by a bird at the Cubs game), and the pure passion for the music that the audience displayed. During the chorus in “This Girl,” Thile actually stopped singing for a few measures, and let the audience take over. After the tune, he admitted, “That’s the first time I’ve ever felt confident enough to actually stop singing. Well, only in Chicago!” Followed with another round of blowing kisses out to the crowd.

Watch: “Sleek White Baby” – Punch Brothers


Some bluegrass shows can be questionable — will it be overly-twangy, or bearable? With Punch Brothers, it’s neither. You’ll find a variety of bluegrass styles, Thile’s incredible vocal range, and features for each musician. There was never a dull moment; even on eight minute instrumentals. You could say it’s beyond bearable, and actually pretty enjoyable.

So if you appreciate bluegrass, add Punch Brothers to your must-see list. You don’t have to be familiar with their music specifically to have a great time, and it’s always incredible to spend a night with an overwhelming amount of talent in the room.

Interact with Punch Brothers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover more new music on Atwood’s Picks

Punch Brothers 2016 Tour Dates

full info on

6/12 – Huck Finn Jubilee – Ontario, CA
6/17 – Telluride Bluegrass Festival – Telluride, CO
6/24 – Kennedy Center Concert Hall – Washington, DC
6/25 – Kennedy Center Atrium – Washington, DC
7/5 – Oregon Bach Festival – Eugene, OR
7/31 – RockyGrass Festival – Lyons, CO
8/3–5 – Blue Note Tokyo – Tokyo, JAPAN
8/8 – Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre – Perth, AUS
8/9 – Queensland Performing Arts Center – Brisbane, AUS
8/11 – Adelaide International Guitar Festival – Adelaide, AUS
8/12 – City Recital Hall – Sydney, AUS
8/13 – Melbourne Recital Centre – Melbourne, AUS

Phosphorescent Blues - Punch Brothers
Phosphorescent Blues, Punch Brothers’ latest album (released January 2015)

Written By
More from Erika Kooda
Time Machine: Leonard Cohen and More Sing, “Hallelujah”
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" seems to crop up frequently in times of heartbreak,...
Read More