Photos by Miranda Hontz, Words by Leon Hontz
As a rule of thumb, if I walk into a venue and there is an upright bass on the stage I can be confident that I am in for a good time. Friday’s performances from The Devil Makes Three and their opener, Joe Pug, reinforced this rule.
Joe Pug and his three-piece band welcomed in an adequately bearded and flanneled crowd to The Fillmore Silver Spring with a set of solid folk-rock. Joe Pug seems to be equal parts musician and storyteller in the vein of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. Like these icons of the genre, where Pug stands out is in his ability to capture and share his version of “America.” This perspective isn’t a whitewashed or blind patriotism but an honest and intimate experience that radiates a deep love as often as it does an honest critique. Pug thrives in the conversation he has with the listener, and in songs such as “I Do My Fathers Drugs” and “Hymn 101” I was genuinely captivated by the ideas and perspectives Pug was presenting.
The only exception I had with Pug’s set was that it lived too much in that thoughtful state and never drifted into anything near the rowdy, or the carefree, or the wild fun that The Devil Makes Three supplied. For openers, I have an expectation that they will set the tone for the evening and set up the headliner. In this sense, I felt a bit let down by Joe Pug’s time on stage. This didn’t distract from the quality of the performance, but it did feel a bit out of place.
The Devil Makes Three delivered an unyielding good time that had the crowd pulsing throughout the set. The trio, as well as the occasional guest musician or two, played the hell out of a revolving door of bluegrass-standard instruments while the stomping feet of the crowd provided all the needed percussion. The Devil Makes Three is a band of showmen (and a show-woman). Each instrument and each voice are independently impressive and unique. When combined, the band creates a compelling wall of sound, allowing for the individual parts to show off while never undermining or distracting from the sense of togetherness and completeness that they convey.
There is an inherent and dangerous fun about the bluegrass that The Devil Makes Three plays, something in the vein of too-much-to-drink-wake-up-to-a-car-parked-in-the-front-lawn kind of fun. The band seemed to be enjoying the experience as much as the crowd with energies high to the end. I find this type of music irresistible, and if you are looking for a high-spirited good time, The Devil Makes Three does not disappoint. If you missed Friday’s show, you can catch them at one of their upcoming stops throughout the U.S. and Canada with tour dates listed through the end of July.