Rain and thunder can threaten a show in New York City, but the energy and spirit of bluegrass music fans will not be washed away. Last night (July 9), Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park continued its series of free live music with the folky bluegrass offerings from some of the genre's best: The Punch Brothers and Sarah Jarosz. And while the storm rolled in and poured over, the music played on for masses of adoring fans.
Before the clouds came rolling in, Sarah Jarosz had control of the stage. Despite being just 24 years of age, Jarosz has years of industry experience behind her, though her stage presence still has a youthful boast to it. This dichotomy came through in her set, wherein Jarosz was continually humbled and grateful to be sharing the stage with Punch Brothers, declaring at one point that she wouldn't even be in the folk game today if it weren't for the night's headlining act.
After 45 minutes of offering up her own Americana offerings, the end of Jarosz's set is where she really packed a punch or her own, plowing through a stunning cover of Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song," Jarosz invited her tour partners Sara Watkins and Aoife O'Donovan to the stage to perform their collaborate track "Be My Husband."
Eschewing their instruments for the exclusive use of their hands and feet as accompaniment, the end of Jarosz's set was marked by a level of intimacy and pure artistry that perfectly showcased the talents of these three women. Their voices joined in perfect harmony and emotion and at once it felt like her portion of the evening was gone too soon.
A photo posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jul 10, 2015 at 1:03pm PDT
It was just a short 15 minutes between sets, but in a case of horrible coincidence, it was no sooner that Punch Brothers took to the Prospect Park Bandshell that the skies opened up and a storm broke out in Brooklyn.
At first, tiny droplets hit the enthusiastic audience and it almost felt like a welcome refresher for a warm July evening. Certainly, it wasn't enough to send people packing for home. Soon, however, the floodgates opened and the rain began to hit harder and harder. Flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder surrounded the venue, as Punch Brothers joked about not allowing "flash photography" from the stage.
Despite what at times felt like imminent danger in Prospect Park, the magical music of Punch Brothers rolled on throughout the night. Though audience members decreased by a slight fraction, those who stuck around wielding umbrellas or just totally open to the elements were treated by a pitch perfect set.
It's no secret that Punch Brothers are a technically flawless band - the critical acclaim and Grammy nominations speak for themselves - but the proficiency is crystal clear in a live setting. From its opening number "My Oh My" to the closing harmonies and chords of "Little Lights," the music led by frontman Chris Thile, was perfectly plucked and rich.
And though the storm waged on, Punch Brothers never ceased playing, though audience members occasionally "oohed" and "ahhed" at the lightning surrounding them. Set highlights ranged from the tender "Movement and Location" to the lighthearted punchy "Julep" to the rocking, energetic "Magnet."
@punchbrothers fend off rain at #celebratebrooklyn #prospectpark #nyc #livefolk A photo posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jul 10, 2015 at 1:04pm PDT
After roughly an hour of playing, Punch Brothers rewarded those who stuck around at the Prospect Park Bandshell by playing an extended, nearly half hour encore. Here, Punch Brothers broke out of its own box by reviving its Radiohead cover of "2+2=5," giving the Kid A track a bluegrass makeover. It's the kind of thing that in theory should be a complete disaster. But, with The Punch Brothers' execution, the classic hit go a new, reinvigorating life.
It's the kind of life that pours into the audience, giving off an energy that even the rain cannot wash away on a summer night in the big city.