The Punch Brothers and Madison Cunningham induce chills at Union Transfer - WXPN
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The Punch Brothers | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddinger.com

Last night, The Punch Brothers took the stage at Union Transfer for a seamless two hours of nearly constant orchestral bluegrass music from their new album All Ashore.

The only word that I can think to use to describe this show: “beautiful.” Everything about it was so incredibly inspiring and chills-inducing. They took the stage silently, and played even quieter a stunning version of “Movement and Location.” But when they played The Phosphorescent Blues’s hit “My Oh My” early in the set, I thought that it couldn’t get any better than this. The whole audience sang along with that timeless chorus. I’ve never seen a show like this before. I’ve never seen a band so spot on in their harmonies, so tireless in their performance, or so genuinely happy with the response from the crowd. Punch Brothers is a gift to watch live.

LA singer/songwriter Madison Cunningham opened the show with her expressive, storyteller lyrics and smooth guitar riffs. She sang about sitting by the John Wayne airport and the stereotypes we place on beauty with a voice that was reminiscent of Stevie Nicks if you listened for it. Her set was sweet and filled with the energy that only comes from a California artist. And, unlike most of us, she mentioned that she was happiest to have explored Philadelphia in the rain.

Madison Cunningham | photo by Dylan Eddinger | dylaneddinger.com

Along with nearly every song off of All Ashore, including the breathtaking eight-minute title track, Punch Brothers also played covers of songs by Josh Ritter, Claude Debussy, and Gillian Welch before ending with two encores of a heartbreaking instrumental piece, “Rye Whiskey” and “Familiarity” unamped.

Punch Brothers love Philadelphia, and it’s been quiet a while since we’ve hosted them. Singer Chris Thile awed us all with his impeccable mandolin skills. it’s no wonder he’s been named a virtuoso. He also gave us insights here and there on what some songs were about, especially the “back to back cocktail songs” “Julep” and “Jungle Bird,” though they’re about entirely different things. It made for a fun and necessary break in their long long set.

I’m happy I saw this show, and I’m happier that I saw it in Philly. If you have the chance to catch Punch Brothers this summer, you should. You’re going to leave changed. You’re going to discover a whole new appreciation for instrumental bluegrass, and you won’t regret it.

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