·· Chris Thile, Mandolin
·· Sara Watkins, Fiddle
·· Sean Watkins, Guitar
Mike Elizondo, Bass
·· Chris Eldridge, Guitar
·· Paul Kowert, Bass
·· Noam Pikelny, Banjo
·· Chris Thile, Mandolin
·· Gabe Witcher, Fiddle
Event DurationThe printed program will last approximately three hours, including one 20-minute intermission.
Nickel Creek is the Grammy Award–winning roots-music trio of violinist Sara Watkins, mandolinist Chris Thile, and guitarist Sean Watkins. After the close of its Farewell (For Now) tour in 2007, which culminated at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Nickel Creek was not actually contemplating a breakup, as many in its large fan-base feared. The still startlingly young band-mates simply needed some time to grow up—musically and personally—away from the glare of the spotlight they’d shared since they were kids. Sara and Chris were merely eight years old when they and 12-year-old Sean played their first gig as Nickel Creek at a San Diego pizza parlor, having been brought together by a mutual music teacher. Chris’s dad played bass. After 10 years of work on the contemporary bluegrass circuit, the prodigious trio landed a deal with the independent Sugar Hill Records, championed by violinist Alison Krauss, who would produce Nickel Creek’s first two Sugar Hill releases, its self-titled 2000 debut, and the 2002 follow-up This Side, which garnered a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Nickel Creek’s third studio album, 2005’s Why Should the Fire Die?, was a more ambitious effort, prefiguring the expansive solo work to come individually from these musicians. It was produced in part by Eric Valentine, whose credits in punk, alt rock, and pop made him the least likely—but somehow just right—candidate for the job. In 2014, Nickel Creek released its most recent album, A Dotted Line, again with Valentine, and embarked on a sold-out 25th anniversary tour.
More recently, Chris has taken over hosting duties of Live from Here (formerly A Prairie Home Companion) in addition to releasing records with Punch Brothers, including the Grammy-winning All Ashore, among other releases with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Brad Mehldau. Sara released her third solo effort, Young in All the Wrong Ways, in 2016 and formed a new band, I’m With Her, with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan; the trio released its debut album, See You Around, in early 2018. Sean has been working on a multitude of projects in the TV and film worlds, in addition to releasing What to Fear in early 2016.
Punch Brothers are the quintet of mandolinist Chris Thile, guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Paul Kowert, banjoist Noam Pikelny, and violinist Gabe Witcher. Says The Washington Post, “With enthusiasm and experimentation, Punch Brothers take bluegrass to its next evolutionary stage, drawing equal inspiration from the brain and the heart.” The quintet’s latest album, All Ashore, was released in July 2018 on Nonesuch Records and won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. The Independent called All Ashore “an album of rich instrumentation and understated beauty that reveals deeper nuances on each and every listen.”
As Thile says, the album is “a meditation on committed relationships in the present day, particularly in the present climate.” He continues, “We were hoping to create something that would be convincing as a complete thought—in this case as a nine-movement, or nine-piece, thought—though it’s rangy in what it’s talking about, and in the characters who are doing the talking …”
Punch Brothers returned to the same room at United Recording Studios (formerly Ocean Way) in Hollywood, where they had recorded both The Phosphorescent Blues and their 2010 Jon Brion–produced Antifogmatic. Thile says they felt they had “established a rapport” with the space; the same “level of trust and love that breeds confidence” also led them to produce the album themselves for the first time.
“After four previous experiences, we felt like we knew what we wanted. Going in, we knew what we needed it to sound like, and I think we had a specific enough vision to make the reality match up with that—as opposed to having someone navigate us toward something,” Thile explains.
Punch Brothers formed in 2006. Its first Nonesuch record, Punch, was released in 2008 and combined elements of the band’s many musical interests. In 2009, Punch Brothers began a residency at The Living Room in New York City, trying out new songs and ultimately spawning Antifogmatic (2010). In 2012, the band released Who’s Feeling Young Now?, which Q magazine praised for its “astonishing, envelope-pushing vision,” while Rolling Stone said that “the acoustic framework dazzles—wild virtuosity used for more than just virtuosity.”
Recently, Thile began hosting Live from Here in 2016 and released Thanks for Listening in late 2017—a collection of songs written for the popular radio show. Eldridge partnered with Julian Lage for Mount Royal and Pikelny released his fourth solo album, Universal Favorite. Both Mount Royal and Universal Favorite earned Grammy nominations, and were produced by Witcher, who was also behind Sara Watkins’s Young in All the Wrong Ways. Kowert has been recording and touring with the Dave Rawlings Machine and recently released Unless, the debut album from Hawktail, his band with Jordan Tice, Brittany Haas, and Dominick Leslie.