This 2012 performance - officially Chris Thile and Sean Watkins guesting at a Sara Watkins show - was among the events that led to the reformation of Nickel Creek. Their new album A Dotted Line is out this week.
Sara Watkins is grinning, her fiddle tucked under an arm. “Sean and Chris and I grew up playing in a band called Nickel Creek together,” she says, indicating the guitarist Sean Watkins and the mandolinist Chris Thile, on either side of her. A small but hearty crowd — packed into the kids’ tent at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival and startled to find itself in the right place at the right time — lets out a whooping cheer.
What comes next in this genial ambush of a reunion, which can be viewed on YouTube, is telling. Mr. Thile and the Watkins siblings tuck into “The Fox,” a bluegrass standard that the band last played at its farewell show in 2007. And in no time, the fluent ease among the three musicians seems to take on a life of its own. “Thanks, everybody!” Ms. Watkins calls out afterward. “We’re Nickel Creek!” Maybe it’s partly force of habit, but over the course of a brisk five minutes, she’s made the shift from past to present tense.