When: 7.30pm on Thursday 16 August 2012
Where: The Castle Hotel, 66 Oldham Street, Manchester M4 1LE
We’re excited to welcoming back American singer-songwriter Joe Pug.
For the moment, Joe Pug has it figured out, career if not life: Just write the songs that have to be written, play them for anybody who will listen, tour as if you had no home. Oh, and give your music away. Which isn’t to say he won’t be selling his debut full-length offering, Messenger. But free is how he came to make it, more or less. It worked like this, for Joe Pug anyhow: The day before his senior year as a playwright student at the University of North Carolina, he sat down for a cup of coffee and had the clearest thought of his life: I am profoundly unhappy here. Then came the second clearest. Pug packed up his belongings and pointed his car towards Chicago. Working as a carpenter by day, the 23 year-old Pug spent nights playing the guitar he hadn’t picked up since his teenage years. Using ideas originally slated for a play he was writing called Austin Fish, Pug began creating the sublime lyrical arrangements that would become the Nation of Heat EP. The songs were recorded fast and fervently at a Chicago studio where a friend snuck him in to late night slots other musicians had cancelled. He was short on money, but his bare-boned sincerity didn’t require much more than a microphone and it dripped off of each note he sang.
The early rumblings of critical praise for the EP were confirmed when his first headlining gig sold out Chicago’s storied Schubas Tavern in 2008. As word spread, Pug struck upon an idea that would later prove to be one of the most significant in his young career. He offered his existing fans unlimited copies of a free sampler CD to pass along to their friends. He sent the CDs out at his own expense, even covering the postage. Inside each package was a personal note thanking the fan for helping to spread the word. The response was overwhelming, and to date he has sent out over 15,000 CDs to 50 states and 14 different countries. Without access to radio, Pug managed to turn his fans into his very own broadcast system. The offer still stands, and to this day it’s featured prominently on joepugmusic.com.
Nation of Heat took on a life of its own, passing from friend to friend and iPod to iPod. The crowds swelled and the media took notice. Tours with Steve Earle, M Ward and Josh Ritter followed, as did invitations to Lollapalooza and the Newport Folk Festival. He criss-crossed the country incessantly, traveling mostly alone in his 1995 Plymouth Voyager with no stereo or air conditioning. As the tours went on, he became closely linked to the burgeoning indie-folk scene that was coalescing loosely around Pug and his young contemporaries in bands such as The Low Anthem, Langhorne Slim and Horse Feathers.
After over 200 shows, Pug took a brief respite to record his full-length debut. If Nation of Heat heralded the arrival of a talent to watch, Messenger assigns Pug a deserved spot among the finest songwriters of his generation. From the opening notes of the title track that leads off the record, it’s clear that the artist has no intention of retreating to the comfortable or the familiar. With his debut album now released, the options only get more numerous for the 25 year-old-singer. The remainder of 2009 was spent touring Europe before he returned home to hit the road in support of Messenger.
‘In Pug’s hard plucking, exaggerated choruses, and lyrical vignettes you can draw a pretty straight line from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash to Bruce Springsteen to Steve Earle to Josh Ritter‘ – 3Hive
Support comes from Stefan Melbourne. With a whispering intensity for lyricism bound to simple yet robust musicality, Stefan is already becoming a well-known name in the Manchester music scene. Drawing on the emotionally expressive sounds of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley, he is no stranger to urban poetry and lyrics of raw emotion, and has caught the limelight through his composite style that aligns itself with both indie-folk and country blues. Tapping into a mature repertoire of seminal American folk musicians such as Lead Belly, Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Johnson, his interesting blend of contemporary lyrics alongside a classic folk, almost bluegrass approach, sees Melbourne’s efforts fall comfortably on the ears of Bon Iver fans and Ray Lamontagne followers alike.
Greg Larkin opens the show. Greg is a Manchester musician and composer who has for the last few years been playing many of the music venues in the North west, and is establishing himself as one of the most skillfull, innovative and imaginative guitarists around. His focus is, inevitably, in describing ??for himself a niche that is unique but acceptable and appreciated by the mainstream – he has to make a living after all – but which remains sufficiently esoteric carrying with it all the musical depth and complexity he enjoys. Besides his beloved Taylor, Greg also plays electric lead, bass, Cuatro and has event been seen tinkering purposefully with a banjo and dulcimer.