Yesterday at NX35: Joe Pug at J&J's Pizza

Band: Joe Pug

Venue: J & J's Pizza
Time: 9:00 p.m., evidently

Around the time that the Flaming Lips were dealing with its second power-outage of its set (more on that later), Joe Pug was beginning his solo-acoustic set at J & J's Pizza.

Oh, and, by the way, I hadn't quite made it to the venue yet, since I was traveling from the main stage extravaganza to the Square at 9 p.m.

Moments after the Lips played out its final notes in a different part of town, the Courthouse Square was relatively empty with most of its venues basically silent at 9:30 p.m. Chicago-based blogger's darling Joe Pug had begun his performance at 9 p.m. sharp, even though, according to both the NX35 website and program, Pug was third in line, not the first.

Chalk this unfortunate instance up as another example in what seems to be a growing pile of similar complaints from artists and fans alike, over the course of this jubilant, if not harried, weekend.

Upon descending the creaky staircase of J & J's, I found a spot among the 20 or so people gathered as Pug began "Call It What You Will" from his attention grabbing E.P., Nation of Heat. Pug's nasally tone was strong and resolute as members of Horse Feathers looked on approvingly from the side of the room. By the end of the song, several more people had filtered in, offering quizzical looks that seemed to ask, "Wait? What? Him? Now?"

The sparse crowd did a solid job of paying close attention and showing its appreciation after not only the songs, but after Pug's sarcastic and humorous asides between songs, as well.

After a stirring "Not So Sure," from his recently released Messenger L.P., "Hymn 101" brought a close to the set that came all too quickly for many members of the audience that thought they were actually arriving early for a set from an artist who is truly on the rise.

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Kelly Dearmore