Joe Pug & The Devil Makes Three Live @ The Paramount
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Words by Marcus Shriver; Photo by April Jingco
With an old, oaky sound that recall’s Bob Dylan’s signature style mixed with a touch of the new world alt-country aesthetic, Joe Pug opened for The Devil Makes Three earlier this month at the Paramount Theater, seemingly assuming the crowd wasn’t there to see him. The humble Chicago musician introduced himself more than once and thanked the headliners multiple times for taking him on tour.
It was to be expected, then, that Pug played an introductoryset filled mostly of established material from his two studio albums, The Great Despiser (2012) and Messenger (2010), as well as EPs In the Meantime (2010) and the fantastic Nation of Heat (2009) rather than focusing on his forthcoming album Windfall, which is due out this month. In fact I was very surprised we didn’t hear Pug’s newest single “Stay and Dance,” but I was very pleasantly surprised to see his cohesion with his band mates, which is very important given the intimacy with which he performs.
The crowd, which filled about a third of the cavernous Paramount Theater, received Pug very well, though it was an odd transition to the headlining band. Playing with only a guitar player and a standup bass player, opening for the Devil Makes Three is very difficult job; fans were half ready to square dance and half ready to throw themselves into a mosh pit. Pug’s whole set was very clean and very poised between the soft standup bass, the extremely bright electric guitar, and Joe’s passionate acoustic guitar and harmonica playing. The song that was unsurprisingly the most powerful was “Nation of Heat.” With its giant sound and upbeat pace the crowd connected very well and Joe seemed to have some extra emotion as he sang it.
Though Pug is best listened to sitting in rocking chair with a whiskey in hand, rather than standing, he had a ton of energy and his very strong live harmonica was enough to get the crowd’s blood rushing in time for The Devil Makes Three to kick it up a notch with a full-on bluegrass show with a punk attitude. With wonderful live banjo and fast guitar they set a quick precedent and the crowd followed enthusiastically with high energy dancing throughout the Santa Cruz, California band’s set.
Pug is coming back to the Crocodile in about a month and I am very curious to see him headline a show at a venue, and with a crowd, that are better suited for him.
(Marcus Shriver is a student at Seattle University, where he serves as the Promotions/Live Event Coordinator for KXSU Radio. This is his first contribution to NadaMucho.com.)