Concert Review: Noam Pikelny, banjo virtuoso

Written by on April 18, 2016

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For the past 10 years, Noam Pikelny has managed to eat a whole bag of Doritos on stage at every concert he’s played. The banjo virtuoso admitted that it’s easy to get away with things when he’s sharing the spotlight with his fellow Punch Brothers. But in February 2016, there were no snacks on stage; Pikelny braved the spotlight alone, filling GAR Hall in Peninsula, Ohio with the sound of his solo banjo.

Pikelny dubbed his tour “One Man, One Banjo, One Joke,” telling anecdotes and making puns in between songs. Not only did Pikelny proved he was more than just the John Mayer of bluegrass, but a rival to the multi-talented Steve Martin.

This show featured more than one man, though. Kristen Andereasson warmed up the audience, charming them with her kind demeanor, flowing peasant skirt, and witty songwriting. She sang from her 2015 album Gondolier, but the standout was her song “Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color for Your Eyes” from a previous album. Pikelny and Andereasson shared the stage during the encore and sang a harmonious duet.

True bluegrass fans left the venue satisfied. Pikelny’s song selections spanned some of his originals, selections from his collaboration with the Punch Brothers, and classic bluegrass standards. Pikelny masterfully melded songs together to create ten-minute continuous sets. Mississippi Waltz, Ashland Breakdown, and Jerusalem Ridge flowed together seamlessly.

Swapping his banjo for a few different guitars, Pikelny joked, “I know what you’re thinking – finally.” Among his collection on stage were a four-stringed electric guitar and a National tricone plectrone guitar, circa 1928. A trombone was also seen on stage, but it remained unplayed throughout the night, perhaps to just keep the audience on their toes.

When asked why the college-aged crowd should check out more bluegrass shows, Pikelny laughed, “There’s usually beer.” Pikelny said no one should be forced to listen to anything, but he’s an advocate for tracing different genres’ roots back to bluegrass.

Noam Pikelny has extended his tour this summer with three more solo shows. Find more information on his website,

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