"How To Grow A Band": Western Premiere At The Nugget 6/18, 11 A.m.

[click “Play”, Susan speaks with Mark Meatto and Michael Bohlmann]


How to Grow a Band It takes a lot more than water. To grow a band requires blood, sweat, and tears. Also, you need to find someone to do your laundry. The Western premiere of the show-all, tell-all feature-length documentary, “How To Grow A Band,” takes place during Telluride Bluegrass. The FREE screening is scheduled for Saturday, June 18. 2011, 11 a.m. at The Nugget. (Seating is limited, so reserve your ticket in advance at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/181677)

“This film documents the beginnings of Chris Thile’s grand vision for a truly modern stringband and the struggles to realize this vision,” explained Brian Eyster of Planet Bluegrass. “Personally I am very excited to see the results of the filmmakers’ efforts. They will be on-hand for the screening and the band may join them.”

 “…A gripping look at the nature of creativity and performance art,” raved The Tennessean.

“How To Grow A Band” suggests the nature of creativity is a two-headed monster, equal parts genius and angst, talent and tenacity. Thile is the poster child.

Chris Thile was a child prodigy on the mandolin and a teen superstar with the bluegrass band Nickel Creek. But after selling two million records, winning a Grammy, and seeing his marriage fail, 26-year-old Thile has decided to start over. I interviewed him when Nickel Creek performed for the first time at Telluride Bluegrass in 2000. Here’s a snippet from the story that appeared in the Telluride’s The Daily Planet:

“Nickel Creek proves that outside of Nashville, the youth brigade is not all about skin-flashing and razzmatazz. The group is a teen-driven quartet which prefers to dazzle with instrumental virtuosity rather than dance steps. Although well-schooled in bluegrass basics, Nickel Creek’s music is not straight-up traditional. It shows strong Celtic, contemporary pop, swing jazz, hard bop and classic influences. ‘Our sound is young, eclectic acoustic music and modern folk,’ ” said Thile.

In other words, something new and different for a change. If Thile chooses to push the envelope, however, as the documentary makes abundantly clear, it is not about gimmicks. No primitive priapic strutting here. “How To Grow A Band” is a portrait of an artist as a young man whose heart and soul demands he be moved by the music he makes, excited and challenged by the sounds. Thile is all about art for art’s sake.

For his next act after Nickel Creek, Thile is enlisting four young musicians to help him realize his vision: a 40-minute elegy to his youth and marriage. “How To Grow A Band” is a musical coming of age story that begins as Thile’s new group, Punch Brothers, embarks on its first tour, six weeks before the release of their debut album. The film’s four chapters mirror the four movements of Thile’s new piece, “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” and follow the growth of a man, a band, and a piece of music. With a single camera, filmmaker Mark Meatto traces Punch Brothers’ evolution as musicians, artists, and friends: from their shaky start at a Scottish folk festival to their triumph at New York’s Lincoln Center. 

A complement to the film, the very successful Punch Brothers performs on the Main Stage of the Telluride Bluegrass on Sunday. Since the film wrapped, Punch Brothers made an acclaimed second album. There were performances at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Folk Festival, and spots on MTV, The Tonight Show, and Late Night with David Letterman. Following shows with Dave Matthews Band and sharing a stage with Elton John, T-Bone Burnett and Steve Martin, the Punch Brothers are now preparing their third album.

Whatever the future holds for Thile and Punch Brothers, “How To Grow A Band” shows the moment it all began.

To learn more from the director/producer and producer of “How To Grow A Band,” click the “play” button and listen to what Mark Meatto and Michael Bohlmann have to say.

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