How to Meet the Punch Brothers

  1. Befriend their roadie, their merchandise guy, and club security.
  2. Send the band shots of tequila and a note.
  3. Basically … just show up.

I saw my favorite band of all time last night. I was nervous. So nervous. Why? I was worried I wouldn’t meet them—that they would be so close, here in Phoenix for the very first time, and I would miss them somehow. I felt the endless anxiety over dinner with my gal pals pre-show. Then, we entered the venue, and I talked up the merchandise guy, who said, “Yeah, if you buy them shots, I’ll send them to the green room.” What better than tequila? I mean, we’re in Phoenix, right? I sent them their shots, along with a note with my name. I’m sure my girlfriends thought I was just a nut, but I didn’t care. I had to meet THE PUNCH BROTHERS.

The phenomenal Chris Thile.

The phenomenal Chris Thile.

I’ve known their music since the band’s foundation, thanks to an amazing performance experience back in Charleston, SC, at the Cistern Yard downtown. Once I moved out here, I pre-ordered every CD, every single. I wrote a letter to their rep, begging they come to Arizona, because they never come to Arizona (something I was not aware of when I moved here, ah-hem). In response to my letter, I got an autographed poster, but still, no word of an upcoming show.

Then, months ago, while enjoying cocktails at Carly’s, I saw the flyer: the Punch Brothers were coming to Crescent Ballroom. I remember staring at the flyer, thinking, “No, it can’t be true. I’m obviously hallucinating thanks to this delicious jalapeno-infused tequila.” Some kind of Mexican agave voodoo? Nay. They really were coming to Phoenix. That night, I bought my tickets: good thing, too, since they apparently sold out.

I’ve been waiting for weeks, counting down the days to December 5th. Then, yesterday, the day arrived. I did nothing productive all day. I got a massage and laid around my house, so panicked was I at the prospect of not meeting the Punch Brothers while in my hometown.

At Crescent Ballroom, after sending my note and the round of shots, I was pretty confident I would make an impression. Then, I waited. The Milk Carton Kids opened for them—a fabulous duo from LA who were equally talented at music as well as comic repartee. Loved them. Then, my boys came on stage, and I’m pretty sure I almost passed out. It was unreal. I mean, the Punch Brothers were three feet in front of me (because I was obviously at the front of the crowd).

Always moving ...

Always moving …

The show is a blur. They played a lot of new stuff, some old stuff, mostly upbeat, although I do love their sad ones. Thankfully, they played my most recent obsession, “Another New World,” and their song list gave me a chance to do a lot of clapping, knee-slapping, and general “woohoo”-ing. They have such presence, these boys. They thrive off each other’s energy. They dance around the stage (which made it very hard to get good photos). The audience can feel that energy, and by the end of the show, we were begging for more, more, more. On several occasions, vocalist and mandolin player Chris Thile made the comment, “I can’t believe we’ve never been here before!” I agree. Punch Brothers, Phoenix has been waiting, and we expect you to come back.

After the show, I literally ran into Gabe Witcher, the phenomenally talented fiddle-player who I love. I almost fell over myself trying to make coherent conversation. Then, I turned around, and there was banjo man Noam Pikelny, who I also approached for an autograph and to give extreme kudos. I didn’t see the rest of the band, and I was all set to go home. I left the venue, dejected at not having met, okay, my favorite band member, Chris Thile. That’s when the roadie I met earlier said, “He’s standing outside the bus right now.” In high heels, I ran, damn it, and it was true: there he was.

Me and Chris.

Me and Chris.

I walked up and said, “I’m Sara. How was the tequila?” to which he replied with much hugging. We reminisced over their Charleston performance years before. He signed my Moleskin and gave me another hug before we had our picture taken together—a fan’s freakin’ dream. Then, I waved and was gone, making him promise the Punch Brothers would one day come back to the Valley of the Sun.

So meeting the Punch Brothers? Pretty easy. Probably because they’re five charming, humble, hilarious dudes, who love good bluegrass and love their fans. I’m so thankful to have discovered them years ago. I’m thankful they came to Phoenix. I’m thankful God made such talented musicians, because the Punch Brothers manage to inspire and entertain with every show. Thanks, boys, for a great night! I’ll see you next time!

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