Concert Review: Chris Thile and the Largo-at-the-Coronet, Summer 2011

Yes, this concert was a long time ago.  (And why do I write concert reviews, anyhow? My readers probably don’t have a time machine so can’t attend. ) (Well, Sue, I write concert reviews in hopes of sharing awareness about the musicians.) (If anybody out there does have a time machine, be sure to let me know!  There are many concerts I wish to revisit and this one tops the list.)

One sentence post. Five sentences digression. A new record?

Which adds three sentences to the digression tally.

ANYWAY.

This concert changed my life. In just a scant few hours, I discovered two of my all-time favorites: one a musician, the other a venue. Chris Thile, the Largo at the Coronet.

I went to the show without knowing Thile’s music. I was ignorant of then-adolescent-Thile’s famous, defunct, alt-bluegrass band, Nickel Creek. I went to the show because I was on the Punch Brothers email list-serv. Thile is a Punch Brother, and that list-serv announced Thile’s show near me, and I figured what the hey At that time, I didn’t really know the Punch Brothers’ music, either. As serendipity would have it, I had recently been in New York for work, had a few hours between meetings, happened to get a ticket to a David Letterman show taping. The musical guest happened to be the Punch Brothers. They played one song and it was awesome, so I found their list-serv. But I hadn’t gotten around to listening to them. (P.S. Turns out they are awesome all the time.)

Thile is a miracle, one of a kind. If you don’t believe me, maybe it will help to learn that T-Bone Burnett calls him a once-in-a-century musician; Yo Yo Ma raves about him. Even more persuasive, perhaps: my teenagers, who I basically forced to attend this concert with me, spent the entire 45-minute drive home thanking me for forcing them. Also, Thile recently won a MacArthur (“Genius”) award, although he doesn’t talk about it much.

Thile primarily plays mandolin. That first concert, he mostly played bluegrass, and Appalachian music, to which I had no aversion but also no previous affinity. He threw in some Radiohead and Shins. Oh, and Bach. Oh, and the Pink Elephants song from DumboIn fact, strands of Pink Elephants kept winding their way into the middle of other tunes, which became laughoutloud funny.

I love good stage patter and Thile had great patter that night. He’s witty, sarcastic, friendly, and smart. Turns out he used to be a regular at the Largo, before he moved to Brooklyn. So there was a warm, homey air in the theater.

Largo at the Coronet Marquee (from coolspotters.com)

Largo at the Coronet Marquee (from coolspotters.com)

Turns out there is always a warm, homey air at the Largo at the Coronet, a 300 seat theater with great sound, painful seats and an incredible vibe. The instant I first walked into the courtyard I felt right, being there. I’ve become a regular.  In fact, the Largo has ruined me for other venues. Sadly, I missed out on the original Largo, a tiny bar down the road a piece. When the Largo relocated, it took over the Coronet, which was once a legit theater. Buster Keaton played there. Bertolt Brecht directed Charles Laughton there. Like I said, an incredible vibe.

Largo shows feature a collection of regulars, as well as newcomers. There are comedians and musicians who perform there every month and hang out there the rest of the time. That first night, three other regulars joined Thile on stage. So not only did we discover Thile and the Largo, we also got blown away by Fiona Apple (a modern chanteuse and unique songwriter) and Jon Brion (a musical encyclopedia and champion, maybe not in that order) and Sean Watkins (a wonderful songwriter, guitar player and dry humorist who was in Nickel Creek with Thile).

Now that you have read about the Largo, please forget about it. 300 seats sell fast, I don’t need more purchasing competition.

If Thile ever plays anywhere remotely near where you are – Go. Just go. Don’t miss that show for any reason.

There are many splendid Thile videos on YouTube. Below are a few.

Thile on different musical genres and fans:

Typical improv, this time with bluegrass hero Michael Daves:

Straight-up Bach:

Covering Elliott Smith at the New York installment of No Name #1, a tribute concert:

Short interview with brief snippets of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers:

The WordPress Daily Prompt inquires about firsts.

“Never Pass Up the Unrepeatable Experience”

This is something a friend of a friend once said. Every time I recall it, I think these are words to live by. Then I forget about it again.

I remembered it tonight, half way through one of the best concerts I have ever attended (and that is saying something). Live music is always an unrepeatable experience. Tonight was the Punch Brothers. Even if music reviews were my thing, I wouldn’t know how to describe them. Alt-punk-bluegrass. Brilliant musicians who play with virtuosity, wit, and occasional sarcasm.  Such a great band. This was my fourth time seeing them. I hope for 100 more. We bought the tickets months ago and had fantastic seats…

…but come concert time, we had to take one of our cats to the emergency clinic and we were still at the clinic when the opening act took the stage. Pessimistic, son tried to sell our tix on Craig’s List. Fortunately, there were no buyers. We got to the concert late but still got to enjoy more than 1.5 hours of it and I cannot believe that I considered giving up and staying home. Don’t give up and stay home.  This is a lesson that I have to keep re-learning. (Wonder why that is?)

Never pass up the unrepeatable experience. I’m thinking that life counts as one.