Concert Review | Punch Brothers at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville

Photo Credit: Brian Stowell

By: Mary Broome

It was fitting that Punch Brothers started their show in The Mother Church with the hymn that opens The Phosphorescent Blues:

I love you I mean it, 
I want to feel it 
God help me feel it 
I love you 
God knows I mean it 
God help me feel it 
God knows we mean it 
God help us feel it… 

“Familiarity” could be interpreted as a reflection on the art of music-making, or a prayer to keep a rekindled romance from ruin. There’s a sense of reverence for the moment on this track, and as a new Punch Brothers devotee, I felt that spirit listening to and watching their set on the literal edge of my seat.

What followed was a pair of favorites: Southerners love their “Rye Whiskey,” and we drank our fill, tapping our “Flippen” toes while the troupe plucked their collective strings flawlessly. “My Oh My” brought the tempo down to Earth while lifting our hearts to heavenly heights. If the first act was my awakening, the next was my Punch Brothers baptism.

The band proved their bluegrass prowess with “Through The Bottom of The Glass” and “Boll Weevil,” covered classic ground with Débussy’s “Passepied,” and chanted “Movement and Location” and “Fare Thee Well” acapella with incredible expression. We wished banjo player Noam Pikelny a “Happy Birthday” and laughed as Chris Thile collected giggles, claps and cat calls from us all; we were savoring a true musical communion. The longer the group played, the firmer my faith became. It was a miracle my whole body didn’t follow my jaw onto the floor to be honest.

By the start of act three, I don’t know, my eyes were wild and alive. I expected the whole place to catch fire for worshipping these idols. Their performance of “Julep” was my confirmation that Punch Brothers could join the ranks with Lord Huron and Delta Spirit as one of the very few bands that knows the deepest desires in my heart and writes songs about them. They drew me closer to my knees with “Magnet,” and after a genuine round of applause, came back to the standing crowd for an encore that ended with “Little Lights:”

Look at us we’re glowing 
Tripping the dark fantastic 
Singing the phosphorescent pinks and blues 
To beloved tunes in beloved rooms 

Nashville was certainly aglow in phosphorescent hues on that late February evening at the beloved Ryman Auditorium, admiring the halo of talent and tenacity encircling Punch Brothers. God help those who haven’t witnessed it yet.

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