Joe Pug at Main at South Side

When: Thursday, May 17
Where: Main at South Side
Times: Doors: 8:00 pm | Show: 9:00

If the opening notes on Joe Pug’s new LP “Windfall” are a bit disorienting, his fans won’t likely be surprised.  The Austin, TX singer songwriter has made a habit of defying expectations so the piano-driven “Bright Beginnings” and the atmospheric rumination of “Great Hosannas” are just further indication that he’s quite comfortable stepping outside of the guy-with-a-guitar trappings of the genre.

His rise has been as improbable as it has been impressive.  After dropping out of college and taking on work as a carpenter in Chicago, he got his musical start by providing CDs for his fans to pass along to their friends. This led to a string of sold out shows and a record deal with Nashville indie Lightning Rod Records (Jason Isbell, Billy Joe Shaver).  As he toured behind “Messenger” (2010) and The Great Despiser (2012) it was with a band that looked as much like a jazz trio as an Americana band.  “I never quite found a live band that captured what I was aiming for until I connected with Greg [Tuohey–electric guitar] and Matt [Schuessler–upright bass].  It was an arrangement that maybe didn’t make a ton of sense on paper but 10 minutes into the first rehearsal I knew this was going to be my band.”  The following years would have them on the road for over four hundred shows, including stops at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and The Newport Folk Festival.

The relentless grind of four years of nonstop touring had taken its toll though, and by late 2013 he was ready to call it quits.  The tour that fall was a runaway success but his personal and creative lives were a different story.  “It was this surreal dichotomy. Everyone kept congratulating me on how well the tour was going, and the mood was probably the best it had ever been on the road. We finally got two hotel rooms in each city instead of one. We’ve got this incredible group of die-hard fans that somehow make each show bigger than our previous trip through town. Meanwhile my relationship was in shambles and creatively I was at a dead end.  There was absolutely no joy left in playing music.  So we walked off stage after a particular show when I played terribly, and pulled my manager aside in the green room and told him to cancel the rest of the tour dates and that I was essentially through.”