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Over the Weekend: Joe Pug at The Loft

Strand of Oaks, Joe Pug
The Loft
April 2, 2011

Better than: any "new Dylan" comparison you could dream up.

A year ago, in the low-lit underfloor that is J&J's Pizza in Denton, Joe Pug played a set for a tiny, but dedicated crowd at NX35 Conferette. The Flaming Lips were about to open up a bright can of pop, but it didn't matter to those in the basement of J&J's, who came to see Joe Pug play on -- and get an intimate, nearly-timid and great performance in the process.

So, there was J&J's performance -- a solid 30 minutes from a young songwriter with fresh "Dylan" stamps all over his guitar.

Then there was the Joe Pug at the Loft on Saturday night. This night was different -- a fury of folk energy and clean ballads, of spiking harmonicas on the stage and jamming his boot heel and singing lyrics like, "I come from a nation of heat."

The audience felt the difference -- even if they didn't know it -- following the sober, juicy-darkness that is Strand of Oaks (Pope Killdragon is a must-download). Tucked in close to the stage and singing along, a criminally-tiny fanbase couldn't help but send shouts Pug's way as he ripped through powerful ballads "I Do My Father's Drugs" and "Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)" -- big, bright ballads, for sure.

Pug's easily one of the best folk shows on the road right now, and it made sense to begin in Texas -- he announced to the crowd at this show that he'd recently moved to Austin.

"Never leave Texas!" a man shouted from behind, followed by silence.

"It's creepy comments like that that make me want to leave Texas," said Pug in jest.

The audience cheered.

He finished his set with "Speak Plainly, Diana," a track that should replace anything you've ripped off KWJJ-99.5 FM The Wolf.

The recent Austinite said he'd be back often.

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Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: Messenger was easily one the best albums of 2010 that nobody ever listed in their "Best of 2010" list.

By The Way: This was the first folk show in a while that wasn't drowned by a crowd of loud-talkers by the bar. Pug went unplugged for half a song, and you could hear the subtleties of his voice. It was refreshing as hell.

Read (hear) more in Kelly Dearmore's interview with Pug.

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