Saturday, July 25, 2015

Newport Folk Festival 2015: Joe Pug

Joe Pug was the second artist to grace the Newport Folk Festival Harbor Stage at noon on Friday, July 24th. But his set was no typical early-in-the-day performance.

Pug was joined on stage by upright bassist, Matt Schuessler, and Greg Tuohey on electric guitar. Both Tuohey and Schuessler are members of Pug's Hundred Mile Band and play on his latest release, Windfall. The trio appropriately began with "Nation of Heat" and "I Do My Father's Drugs" off of Pug's 2009 debut EP also titled, Nation of Heat. 

And then he brought a third musician to the stage: Rose Guerin of Vandaveer. Guerin is a resident of Martha's Vineyard, which was what inspired Pug to ask her to play with him. It was also her birthday. Tragically, her house burned down a few weeks back. Pug called her to say that obviously she would not have to play at Newport with him if she didn't feel up to it. He r response?  "Joe, looking forward to playing Newport on my birthday is the only thing keeping me going." The first song they performed together was "Burn and Shine" and Guerin stayed on that stage until Pug's final tune. 

Pug's sarcastic sense of humor permeated throughout the set, jokingly referring to Windfall as their "blockbuster new album". "This next song is about as incongruous to a place as you can get," he began. "We tried to play all our upbeat material 'cause it's such a beautiful day. But it turns out 90% of our [stuff] is really dark." The crowd laughed with him as he broke into "The Great Despiser". 

Rose Guerin was not the only guest musician to appear during the performance. MorganEve Swain, one half of Brown Bird, jumped up on fiddle just for "Call It What You Will". In what was arguably the peak point of the set she and Tuohey engaged in a solo battle with Pug egging them on with "it's so nice I gotta hear it twice!" And "you call that a solo battle? Now that's a solo battle!" When they were done Pug turns to the audience and said, "That just made me think of that part in Zoolander when Will Ferrell is like 'They're break dance fighting!' In case you wanted to know what was going through my head..." 

"Speak Plainly, Diana" brought Pug and co. to the home stretch. "We play a lot of festivals, and we usually play around this time which means we're usually playing to a food truck vendor. It really is a testament to the greatness of the Newport Folk Festival that so many of you are out listening to music this early." 
Hopefully he realizes that it's a testament to the greatness of his musicianship as well. 

-Kendall Stewart

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