Punch Brothers, Michael Daves | Riviera Theatre | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Punch Brothers, Michael Daves 

When: Sat., Feb. 28, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: $32
This dynamic string band gets conceptual on their stunning new album The Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch), using their music to reflect upon the ubiquitous presence of technology (particularly mobile phones). That’s hardly the most novel conceit, and the message sometimes arrives as corny and cliched, but the songs work better when they focus on how the digital world alienates us from one another (the track “My Oh My” opens with a line about the rising sun, and features a narrator “wrapped in an invisible wire”). The album was produced by T Bone Burnett, whose involvement enhances the Punch Brothers’ accessibility without diluting their range. Burnett’s favorite drummer, Jay Bellerose, plays on a handful of tracks—the incorporation of drums is a first for the band—but his presence and thrust don’t hinder the vibrant sound. There are gorgeous interpretations of pieces by Debussy (“Passepied”) and Scriabin (“Prélude”), while the ambitious originals—including the multipartite ten-minute opener, “Familiarity”—mask the stitches between bluegrass, pop, folk, jazz, and modern classical music, once again pulling off the prodigious combinations that made the quintet so daring when they first emerged in 2006. The Punch Brothers still seem to possess unbounded possibilities, but they no longer feel the need to point it out. —Peter Margasak
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