They’ve only been around for six years but have created a distinctive bluegrass sound all their own.
Nickel Creek frontman Chris Thile (mandolin) teamed up with childhood friend Gabe Witcher (fiddle) after both had gone through some rocky times professionally and personally. They formed a band called How To Grow a Band, which grew into The Tensions Mountain Boys, which morphed into a quintet called Punch Brothers, a band that has gained notoriety for mixing bluegrass instrumentation with classical, indie rock and other genres.
As for the name, “Punch, brothers, punch with care” was something railroad conductors would repeat as they roamed the cars and punched passengers’ tickets. The line also figures prominently in a Mark Twain piece called “A Literary Nightmare,” as the chorus of a jingle the author can’t dislodge from his head.
How To Grow a Band served nicely for the title of the group’s 2011 documentary, which hit the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in between the band’s releases of albums “Antifogmatic” and “Who’s Feeling Young Now?”
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Now the Punch Brothers have a new album, “The Phosphorescent Blues,” released early this year. It’s produced by T. Bone Burnett, who used the band in the soundtrack for “The Hunger Games” and extensively in the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” They are also the centerpiece of a concert he produced of the music from that film, “Another Day, Another Time,” now playing on Showtime.
A listen to “The Phosphorescent Blues” will give a taste of the wide range of this band (which includes banjoist Noam Pikelny, guitarist Chris Eldridge and bassist Paul Kowert).
The Punch Brothers play Harrah’s Tahoe on March 28, before going to San Francisco, where a second show was added. (7:30 p.m.; $44; Ticketmaster.com)
Beach Boys sighting
When the snow flies at Lake Tahoe – unfortunately a rare event this past winter – one figure is always recognizable because of the Hawaiian shirts he wears under his winter clothing. That would be Mike Love, one of the founders of the Beach Boys, who also maintains a home at Incline Village and contributes to many local charitable organizations.
More than 50 years ago, the Beach Boys became a phenomenon with “I Get Around,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “California Girls” and a raft of other hits, providing a pop-rock balance to the Brits and glorifying the Golden State’s surfing, sun-bleached, bikini-ed lifestyle. Their 1966 “Pet Sounds” LP remains one of the best of all time.
The current edition of the Beach Boys, headed by Love, plays the MontBleu on March 28. (9 p.m.; $40, $60; Ticketmaster.com)