Noam Pikelny goes solo

Noam PikelnyBanjo wizard Noam Pikelny is taking leave of his Punch Brothers bandmates – for the next few weeks at least – to venture out on his first solo performance tour. And by solo, we mean solo; just him on stage – no band.

Dates are booked starting tonight in Chattanooga, running through the south and northeast, followed by shows in the central US, and finishing on the west coat by the end of the month.

When we asked Noam why he wanted to go out alone, he responded, “It was prompted mostly by the fact that I’ve alienated all of my musical friends and collaborators!”

But seriously…

Noam Pikelny“Actually, this is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time.

I love seeing solo shows because it’s such a direct statement of one’s musical being. I’ve always envied the masters of this format – John Hartford, Tim O’Brien, and more recently guys like Thile, Julian Lage, and Adam Hurt. I always thought it was so bold for someone to get on stage alone and essential say to the world, “This is what I do, this is who I am.”

I think of a solo show as personal musical manifesto. That’s my approach to this show except I’m getting on stage and will be saying to the world, ‘This is what I do, This is who am……Please don’t leave just yet.’

I finally decided that it was time to take a crack at that concept, despite the incredible lack of popular demand.

I’ll be debuting new original music that I’m planning to record later this year. I’ll also be singing and playing some flat-top guitar. Despite the fact that the tour is named ‘One Man, One Banjo, One Joke,’ there’ll be several instruments on stage. In addition to my old Granada and a D-28, I’ll have some unusual old 4-string acoustic and electric plectrum guitars that I’ll be using as well. They’re like banjos but without the 5th string.

In addition to the new original music, I’ve worked up some favorites from the ol’ bluegrass and country songbook that I’ve never recorded or played on stage before.

I’ll be playing solo versions of some of the material from my albums. I’ve always considered my solo albums to be ‘band records’ – those tunes really came to life in the interplay between the musicians. It’s been a fun challenge to figure out what songs work as stand-alones. My main take-away from the Kenny Baker project was that the melody is paramount. When those tunes are played true to the originals with attention to detail, the melodies bear repetition and don’t always need to be expanded upon through improvisation. With that in mind, I’m approaching some of the material from my existing records like one would approach Irish music or old-time music, with tunes arranged in sets or medleys, focusing on melody more than improvisation.

The solo show also gives me the opportunity to do some more talking on stage. I can be more long-winded then I could ever possibly be if there were other musicians up on stage with me. Who knows whether that’s a good thing or not.”

Tour dates as follows:

  • 2/4 – Barking Legs Theater, Chattanooga, TN
  • 2/5 – Downhome, Johnson City, TN
  • 2/6 – Ashland Coffee & Tea, Ashland, VA
  • 2/8 – Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis, MD
  • 2/9 – Fairfield Theatre, Fairfield, CT
  • 2/11 – One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME
  • 2/12 – The Parlor Room, Northampton, MA
  • 2/13 – MCA Boulton Center For The Performing Arts, Bay Shore, NY
  • 2/14 – Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA
  • 2/16 – Club Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2/17 – G.A.R. Hall, Peninsula, OH
  • 2/18 – SPACE, Evanston, IL
  • 2/21 – WinterWonderGrass Festival, Avon, CO
  • 2/23 – Smith Recital Hall, Monmouth, OR
  • 2/25 – Wintergrass Music Festival, Bellevue, WA
  • 2/26 – Center for the Arts, Grass Valley, CA

More show details and ticket information can be found on Noam’s site. This is one you don’t want to miss if the opportunity exists.

Punch Brothers’ 2016 tour starts in late April.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.