Thile returns to Amp, Punch Brothers in tow

Some Grammy Award-winning folk and bluegrass music was born from a week-long recording session in November 2020. Before this, as the COVID-19 pandemic changed the music industry, Punch Brothers had stayed at home, met via Zoom and made music together. Then, they came together and recorded Hell on Church Street. 

They will perform at 8:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22 in the Amphitheater to kick off Week Nine’s evening entertainment. The band’s name comes from Mark Twain’s short story “Punch, Brothers, Punch!” 

“For us, it’s actually a cautionary tale and a reminder of music’s power, in the knowledge of how much it can affect people,” said Chris Thile, vocalist and mandolist for Punch Brothers. “Sometimes musicians are encouraged to think about writing something catchy. … For us, it’s a reminder to just make sure we’re doing this for the right reasons.”

Hell on Church Street, released earlier this year, is part of their current tour.

The band members also include Gabe Witcher on the fiddle and violin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Paul Kowert on bass. Their style has widely been described as “bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity.”

Thile formed the band in 2006, originally called How to Grow a Band, and recorded their first album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground

They then changed their name to The Tensions Mountain Boys before, in 2007, landing on who they are now: Punch Brothers. 

They want to make sure they aren’t making music for the sake of becoming a hit, or making a name in pop culture. Thile said bringing joy to their listeners is the most important aspect for them.

“Having been in this band for 18 years, we share a hive mind and the differences are still striking,” Thile said. “A band develops a shorthand that they can (use to) really streamline the creative process and eliminate barriers between the members of the band.”

Any frustration or complications they may come across are quickly diminished by how close they are, and the relationship they’ve created with one another. Thile said their best collaborations come from small arguments.

“You can brush those kinds of things off very, very easily and can focus on the myriad benefits of long collaboration,” Thile said. “Whatever ways in which we get on each other’s nerves are obliterated by the ways in which it’s alive.”

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The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.