About halfway through Joe Purdy’s set at the Mercy Lounge on June 25th he declared that he’d “like to play a song I haven’t been able to play, like, ever. I found the right band for it.” He’d follow that statement up with an impressive rendition of “Death of a Maiden,” from his ‘Last Clock on the Wall’ release backed by an impressive 7-piece outfit, The Giving Tree Band, that can more than handle their own on stage. The group, spilling off to either side of the large posts of Mercy Lounge’s small stage, backed Joe’s gritty vocals on the elegy with energy, depth, and to the delight of the sparse – yet loyal to Purdy – crowd, a ton of talent.
Purdy’s lyrics and voice paired perfectly with The Giving Tree Band’s country bluefolk roots rock, a genre I can only hope catches on so that someone can give it a better name. The Giving Tree Band opened the show themselves shortly after 8pm playing songs from their library for about an hour. With banjos, fiddles, slide guitars, organs, and drum rhythms that sounded right off of the fields of the Battle of Nashville, the band developed quite a relationship with the crowd, pulling more and more of the attendees to the stagefront as the show progressed. Each member had standout moments throughout their set, including approximately 57% of the band taking lead vocal responsibilities on various songs, but it was lead guitarist and fiddler Phil Roach’s passionate solos that swelled within the venue and prepared us what the headlining act would deliver.
The crowd reacted with delight as The Giving Tree Band returned to the stage for Purdy’s set, lasting nearly 2 hours, covering hits and deep tracks, and once again allowing each of the band’s 7 members to strut their stuff on their respective instruments. None of this is to say that Purdy himself took a back seat to his band on this night. Instead, his vocals seemed even more energized. You could feel the passion in the lyrics that he wrote, especially apparent as the group shouted “I got you now!! Down, down down!!” during a raucous version of ‘Walking Down’ to close the set.
Purdy found ways to satisfy both his longtime fans and win over the newcomers on this night as he slowed down and played a sing-along of ‘Outlaws’ by himself on the keys during the encore after shocking some in attendance with the darkness of songs like ‘Angelina’ during his primary set. As the band would join him for a final two pieces of the encore, Joe and The Giving Tree Band had everyone rocking back and forth on ‘San Jose’ and sent the crowd out into the cool night delighted.
I can only recommend to anyone in St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus, and New York who might be reading find a way to catch Purdy and The Giving Tree Band as they ride through town in the coming weeks. Leading into ‘Brooklyn, I Called,’ Joe proclaimed to the crowd “I hope you don’t hate it,” but there was nothing to fear for Purdy on this night. Cause a Scene and the several other hundred in attendance at The Mercy Lounge loved it.