Last week The Crown at the Carolina Theatre hosted Texas native Joe Pug. Joe Pug is a singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas with a folk rock sound. The Crown is an intimate space above Carolina Theatre. This show was Pug’s first stop in a short south-eastern tour.
Pug started his career by handing out CD’s at his work as a carpenter in Chicago. Pug’s claim to fame is as unlikely as it is inspiring. Pug dropped out of college at UNC Chapel Hill to start his music career. Pug’s career has started almost completely by word of mouth. By handing out CD’s he came to have a lot of fans that passed it along to friends. This lead to a record deal and two EPs and eventually into three albums. He has performed in over four hundred shows, including festivals such a Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and The Newport Folk Festival.
The evening was begun by a local acoustic duo Molly McGinn and Dave Willis called Wurlitzer Prize. This group was a singer-songwriter group that had a folk-country sound. They stated out the night with an emotional and personal note in their music. They preluded most of their by telling a story or looking back on a personal feeling. Both members played the guitar which gave it a groovy and upbeat sound.
The whole space was filled by the time it was time for Joe Pug to come on. He walked through the aisle and leaped onto the stage. My initial sense at the beginning of his performance was impressed. Pug had a metal piece fastened around his neck that allowed him to play harmonica and guitar at the same. It was no slow paced song either, both the harmonica and guitar were going a while-a-minute. Pug would take his mouth away from the harmonica only to grace the space with his smooth and alluring voice.
Pug’s songs were also a personal nature. Throughout the night he told multiple stories of his personal life. One of his songs “Nation of Heat” alludes to his background as a Texan. His songs were original and fun and easy to relate to. Most of them tell stories of struggles in life. He started one story by saying that not a lot of songs are love songs because he prefers to make songs that are about “how everyone around me is dying”. He, however did try his hand at a love with a song to his wife. When he showed it to her she said it was the most depressing she has ever heard. Right after telling us this story he of course played the love song which was entitled, “Pair of Shadows.” Although it had a somber tone it was more deep and close to his heart.
Most of Pug’s songs seem to come from a deep and dark place. His music details tender moments that bring about an emotional connection with the audience. One of his songs he had all the lights turned off and performed the song in complete darkness. This was nothing like I had experienced before, it was absolutely amazing just to listen to Pug and hear the lyrics and the music. The only negative point I had was at times it was hard to understand the words he was saying although even this went along with his style and so didn’t deter me much.
Joe Pug offers an authentic concert experience. With the intimate space we were in there was permission for a connection between the artist and the audience. Pug frequently moved, accommodating for all sides of the room. This evening was full of acoustic talent and smooth voices. Joe Pug’s music is deep and low key but draws your attention. I would recommend him to anyone who enjoys acoustic that helps you slow down but not completely stray away from yourself.
Joe Pug has a website that provides free music. He also has music on Spotify. Be sure to check him out.