Mighty Poplar is one of the first bluegrass “super-groups” to emerge in the post-pandemic era. The band made their Raleigh debut at the 2023 IBMA Bluegrass Live powered by PNC festival.
Mighty Poplar is banjo player Noam Pikelny and guitarist Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers, bassist Greg Garrison of Leftover Salmon, mandolinist Andrew Marlin of Watchhouse. Alex Hargreaves from Billy Strings’ band plays fiddle on the record but Shad Cobb played fiddle for the show in Raleigh.
“If you are wondering why we are doing this whole thing … it’s because of bluegrass. I blame bluegrass,” laughed Noam Pikelny on stage at Red Hat Amphitheater during IBMA. “Bluegrass leads to irrational thoughts; irrational actions and we’ve got it bad. We couldn’t not do this if we tried. Bluegrass is like rabies. Once you’re bit you’re gonna do crazy things.”
The band toured extensively in 2023. In addition to IBMA Bluegrass Live in Raleigh, the band played Freshgrass, Rocky Grass, Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, Grey Eagle in Asheville and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco.
Andrew Marlin told No Depression Magazine that this started as a pandemic project. “Everyone was so excited about it that I’d send one text out, or Noam would send a text or Critter [Eldridge] or whoever, and all five people would respond with a lot of ideas,” Marlin says. “And it just became this kind of snowball effect.”
“It didn’t feel like a quarantine record to me,” said banjoist Noam Pikelny to No Depression Magazine. “It felt like a reunion record. … The five of us, collectively, we had never played music in the same room together. It’s not like we reassembled one of these Telluride late-night jams. … It was this brand-new thing, but it felt really familiar, I think just because we shared this collective intent of what this project should be.”