Honest Folk Returns with Joe Pug at Arbor Loft

On February 17, 2020, Honest Folk hosted Joe Pug at Restaurant Good Luck. We know now, it was just month out from a worldwide pandemic that would shut down live music and continue to disrupt it going on two years. Pug’s show would be the second to last for Honest Folk. Until he returned, exactly two years to the day, February 17, 2022.

The world had changed. Everyone in attendance had been affected in one way or another. Pug insisted that he never took anything surrounding his live performances and audiences for granted. But now, it was especially true.

He was thankful to be able to play completely acoustic, without amplification, or any technology, which he did in a midset “Deep Dark Wells.” It was something he couldn’t do in his many streaming performances.

He was thankful, though chiding his tour manager who “couldn’t read a map,” to be able to perform for the attentive Rochester audience again, even if it meant driving in from his show the previous night in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Just a bit out of the way.

He was thankful to have known some of the great artists we lost since the last time he had played here. The great John Prine, one of the early losses to COVID, who he never met but respected from afar. And Justin Townes Earle, who he knew well and had toured with. Pug took advantage of his opportunity to continue to perform to pay his respects to each of their bountiful contributions to the great American songbook, beautifully covering Prine’s “Sam Stone” and Earle’s “Mama’s Eyes.”

Joined on the stage by Charlie Muench on upright bass, Pug worked his way through his own songbook, presenting his poetic masterpieces on both guitar and piano, always with his harmonica at the ready to provide some extra oomph when called for.

The crowd was quiet and attentive in the calming loft space overlooking Rochester’s East End. Each song elicited gasps of excitement would emerge from different corners of the room. It seemed everyone had their favorites, and he was working his way to get them all in. But just in case, he stayed on for an all-request encore. So someone got the “Bright Beginnings” they were hoping for, another got to hear “The Great Despiser.” The night ended on “Not So Sure,” which Joe Pug thought was a bit of a bummer song to finish with, “but it’s my fault for writing a bunch of songs that are bummers,” he quipped. Nonetheless, Rochester couldn’t have been happier to have him back, hopefully it won’t be another two years before they get to have him again.

It certainly won’t be another two years before another Honest Folk show. The next one is mere weeks away when Canadian duo Ocie Eliot comes to town to make their own bit of magic up in the Arbor Loft on March 10. Tickets are on sale now. Don’t miss it!

Set List: Hymn #35, The Letdown, Nation of Heat, Exit, After Curfew, Sam Stone (John Prine), Mama’s Eyes (Justin Townes Earle), Veteran Fighter, Deep Dark Wells, I Don’t Work in a Bank, I Do My Father’s Drugs, The Flood In Color, Hymn #101, Speak Plainly Diana, E: Bright Beginnings, The Great Despiser, Not So Sure

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