Chris Thile and The Tensions Mountain Boys at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall (part of IN YOUR EAR REDUX, a weekend festival curated by John Adams.) were amazing. Chris Eldridge was on Guitar and Vocals, Greg Garrison on Bass, Noam Pikelny on Banjo, Chris Thile on Mandolin and Vocals and Gabe Witcher on Fiddle and Vocals. This was the World Premiere of Chris Thile’s “The Blind Leaving the Blind (in Four Movements)” plus they performed songs off of “How to Grow a Woman from the Ground.” Other reviews are linked from the bluegrass blog. Setlist, some banter and bad photos below:
01. O Santo De Polvora (Milladoiro)
02. Wayside (Back in Time) (Gillian Welch and David Rawlings)
03. Stay Away
04. Blind Leaving the Blind (Four Movements)
05. Recreation of the first time they played it
06. How to Grow a Woman from the Ground (Thomas Anderson Brosseau)
07. The Beekeeper
08. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground (White Stripes)
09. Watch ‘At Breakdown
10. If The Sea Was Whiskey
11. The Eleventh Reel
12. Ophelia (The Band) (Gabe Witcher, Main Vocals)
Banter before Stay Away:
This is not the regarded Carnegie Hall. This is Zankel Hall.
We’re not nervous in the least and uh and very actually amused that you all decided to show up in nothing but underwear.
Kind of ridiculous though what were you thinking?
We got dressed up. Looking pretty sharp for all of you.
So we started with a song called O Santo De Polvora and despite the title and despite that it was written by a Spanish band called Milladoiro um we kind of feel that it’s fitting to play it on St. Patrick’s Day.
First of all it sounds Celtic. But also because again the title O Santo De Polvora we’re almost sure that it’s a tribute to the great Cubs thirdbaseman Ron Santo and he was a Chicago Cub. Chicago, might be the most Irish of all American cities.
And he played Of course at Wrigley Field, Chicago which had the Ivy League of Green.
And it’s a baseball field so actually there’s a lot of green.
So we feel like that one was completely appropriate.
The song after that less appropriate and we will continue to play less and less appropriate songs and music
That one was called Wayside and the parenthetical title which I mention only because I like saying parenthetical And that is Back in Time. That was written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
And Dave, Dave always dresses sharp. So does Gil. He would have shown up in a suit and tie if he were playing.
At this point someone’s program drops from the second balcony up. Chris offers by gesture to throw the used tissue on the stage near him that he has just been using. The offer is declined.
Intro to Blind Leaving the Blind:
Alright, so we’re going to play this piece that I wrote for five of us to play.
A stringed quintet as the preferred term for our instruments and three of us will sing and we’re very very excited.
And it’s in Four Movements. It may sound like six depending on how you count.
There will be three complete stops. During which we’ll tune no doubt. All of us.
See there are two stops where some of us will tune you may think that that’s a new movement.
You would, sitting there in your underwear. We love you people.
That’s what the whole problem is. We love it here.
This song is called
a nice tune.
a nice tune.
A lttle long, It’s a little long. Really.
We hope you like it.
It’s called the Blind Leaving the Blind.
And it’s in V??
[Lights go blue]
That’s why it’s Carnegie Hall.
There’s a vibe, there’s a vibe if you play in here.
Blue for Bluegrass.
After Playing Blind Leaving the Blind:
CT: Thank you very much.
(From Audience: Thank you. That was nice.)
CT: Ok, we’re gonna do a couple more normal songs now.
CT: Oh dear, I’m not ready to come down yet. Is everything 15 BPMs too fast?
NP: The first time that we tried playing certain sections of this piece It was about a year and a half ago. We got together for about a week. And the first thing we started learning which was the final movement the hardest part. Which I think that’s Chris’s style, of course, to do the hard part first We tried playing that, certain sections of that last movment. After three days of rehearsal in the Living Room in NY about a year and a half ago And I don’t know how we had the idea that we could get through it but we told ourselves we’ve got to just still play it This is the only way we’re gonna get better at it And if anyone makes a mistake It’s no big deal But if you make a mistake that you can’t recover from Just scream out “What?” in the middle of the song And we started the piece And about 40 seconds into it Critter (Chris Eldridge) yelled out Who-What.
CT: We’ll recreate it for you. Ok now And then I was actually so incredibly nervous it really was like 15 beats per minute too fast and we’ll recreate that part as well
[Reenactment of first performance including the yell]
(From audience: We love you critter.)
CT: It was awesome.
He then suggests the recording of that first time should be secret track on the new record with Critter making some extra royalties on it or something.
This was the last bit of banter where Noam Pikelny explains where the title for “The Beekeeper” comes from. Not because of the current crisis with bees rather people ask what it’s like to play with Chris Thile all the time and the best way to describe it is that he’s a Musical beekeeper, he gets an idea and then just runs with it and goes crazy messing things around, speeding things up and then telling them where to play it, how fast to play it, play it faster, and then they have the piece. They started rehearsing it and then Gabe came up with an idea, Chris ran with it and came back 15 minutes later and had all these very difficult, very fast parts to play. Musical bees and he told Chris he wouldn’t play it unless he called it The Beekeeper, and a deal was struck.
my flickr: Chris Thile and The Tensions Mountain Boys
CDs from amazon:
Punch Brothers - Punch
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground
Nickel Creek - Best Of