Most times you venture out to shows and while they’re entertaining, they don’t always leave a lasting impression. Friday night at Bowery Ballroom, amongst a room full of happy, respectful strangers, Chris Porterfield of Field Report and Joe Pug left a lasting mark on me. Walking through the crowd and taking the stage without any fanfare or pretense, Chris Porterfield began his set as he always does, with a voice that will quiet the busiest of minds. He captivated everyone who opened their ears to him, and in a while, we all opened our hearts to his songs of struggle, fight, anguish and insurmountable yearning. He was typically Midwestern, a cross between apologetic and entirely wholesome. He allowed the crowd to make up the set list as we went along, with shouts for “Michelle,” “Ambrosia,” “Cups & Cups,” and “Pale Rider,” all of which he played.
Although he was missing his full band for this stretch of his tour, he brought the same measure of emotion and musicianship to the stage, with his lone guitar accented only by a group of effects pedals nestled neatly by his feet. This is merely the second time I’ve seen Chris perform and the outcome was quite similar: He won over everyone in the room, rendering everyone speechless and so quiet you could hear a pin drop. His songs have a way of connecting with people in a way that makes me want to hug him. After the show, that’s exactly what I did when I spotted him outside, and he welcomed me with open arms.
The headliner of the night, Joe Pug, was someone whose music I wasn’t quite familiar with, but I’d taken the time to listen to most of his songs before I saw him live. The number one thing I can say about Joe Pug is that he’s a tireless and passionate performer. The songs blended themselves seamlessly into each other, and the moment when you thought the song was over, it wasn’t. Joe and his band, comprised of bassist Matthew Minx, drummer Mark Stepro, and guitarist Greg Tuohey were so locked in they would stop on a dime without missing a beat.
Joe also had great stage presence, joking about wearing the same shirt he wore on the Windfall album cover and mentioning how he’d promised himself he wouldn’t bring up dying alone during this show. Clearly not dying along any time soon as he’s currently engaged to be married, he indulged us with many of his somber tunes, such as “The Measure,” “Hymn #76,” and “I Do My Father’s Drugs.” The song “Pair of Shadows” was one of the few that Pug played solo shrouded in darkness, except for a few circular spotlights that dotted the stage and audience. Joe also is pretty amazing at harmonica, playing with just as much zest as he does on his records. By the time the encore rolled around, it felt like he had played his entire catalog. Maybe he was in agreement because instead of coming back out, he re-introduced Chris Porterfield, who sang one last song before saying his final goodbyes to the audience, and hugging Joe.
Overall the feeling of the night was one of family and long lost friends that came together under one room to share stories, both new and old. Looking around the bar downstairs, I also saw Anthony D’Amato in the crowd, who I recently took photos of at Mercury Lounge, as well as all of the musicians from the bands chatting and mingling with their fans. A magical night from start to finish.
Article: Lesley Keller