club cafe

pittsburgh, pa
Paul Luc (Full Band Performance) with Special Guest Nik Westman

Paul Luc
From the outside, Paul Luc’s story is seemingly normal. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, he started playing guitar and joined a garage band in high school; from there, he attended a small college just south of the city, studied economics, and got a business job in healthcare. On the weekends, he'd play local shows, write music, and even put out his first album. But after years of working a grueling 9-5, Luc woke up one day, tired, bored, and unhappy with his situation -- and without a plan, quit corporate America. Since then, he’s harnessed his full energy toward making music. He’s toured throughout the country and caught the ear of the Americana world. As he gears up to release his third album, Paul Luc’s story has rapidly grown into one with an authentic sound and relatable message for the masses.

Luc’s love for music dates back to early childhood, when he found his parent’s record collection at age five, “I'd sit there with big, olive green headphones on, spiral cord plugged into the stereo, just caught up in the sounds.” Those early influences aren’t hard to hear in his music; traces of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, John Lennon, The Band, and Elton John are uniquely weaved throughout his melodies. And by elementary school, he'd gained a brand new perspective of music from mentor and well-known jazz saxophonist Don Aliquo. “He would pick up things quicker, and you could see he had talent,” Aliquo says, “It was very evident to me he had talent over and above most of the kids in the class.” Luc studied trumpet under Aliquo for years, before eventually finding guitar in high school and touring regionally with his rock band, Simon. But Aliquo’s support, the skill set he learned, and the importance of music were things that would never leave Luc, along with his myriad of influences.

In 2014, Luc came in full force with the release of his second full-length album, Tried & True. The ten-track album caught the attention of major, mainstream radio station WDVE, who championed the record and played it on heavy rotation. The album showcased Luc’s ability to merge upbeat rhythms with brutally-honest and relatable lyrics. When he was ready to start his newest project, Bad Seed, Luc turned to Dave Hidek, the same Pittsburgh producer that helped him the attain the folk rock sound in Tried & True. But this time around, the duo wanted to attempt the unknown; they formulated a plan to travel to Nashville, TN, and decided to recruit musicians that they'd never met, much less worked with. “I had this sort of romantic idea. I’d see photos of songwriters and musicians on a studio floor together, no computers, just doing things in that moment, which is probably what made the records that a lot of us idolize so great,” Luc says, “So I got this idea that I wanted to get acquaintances or strangers together and just do that.”

Recorded at Welcome to 1979 Studios, Luc might've gambled -- but didn’t place his bets on just anyone. The lineup of Nashville badasses featured on Bad Seed includes bassist Cameron Carrus, drummer Paul Griffith (John Prine, Jason Isbell, k.d. lang), backing vocals from Leah Blevins, and pianist Jefferson Crow and guitar/pedal steel player Laur “Lil’ Joe” Joamets, both part of Sturgill Simpson’s band from the iconic 2016 album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. And while his studio lineup turned out to be a recruitment of some of Music City’s most valued players, Luc was working on a tight timeline and budget, “We had no rehearsal time, we didn’t rehearse at all actually,” he says, “So we decided to record to tape, it gives you less options to change things. It forces you to make decisions.”

But even with an abundance of unknown variables, Bad Seed found its way. “It would either work or it wouldn’t. Luckily, it really did. We all clicked and worked things out take-by-take.” It’s impossible to ignore that Bad Seed was fated for success, not only because of Luc taking a chance on the setup, but also his ability to organically build songs. While in the studio, Joamets even dubbed his songwriting ‘healing’ which Luc hopes to achieve with Bad Seed, “I try to write about personal experience, and people usually relate in their own unexpected ways. There’s something beautiful about music and the unpredictable ways it connects people.” And if anything, that’s what Bad Seed is -- proof that even out of the unknown, something beautiful can surface.

Nik Westman
Nik Has released 3 LP's since 2010 under the name "Central Plains" His Stories are personal and relatable. His Music is driven by Guitar and Vocals. Central Plains Music has been described as Twangy Indie Rock. Reviews have compared Central Plains to the likes of Stephen Malkmus, Neil Young, Modest Mouse and Galaxy 500. Nik grew up in Sweden, Los Angeles and spent his College years in Pittsburgh before moving to Brooklyn in 2011 where he currently resides with his wife Deirdre.

Paul Luc
From the outside, Paul Luc’s story is seemingly normal. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, he started playing guitar and joined a garage band in high school; from there, he attended a small college just south of the city, studied economics, and got a business job in healthcare. On the weekends, he'd play local shows, write music, and even put out his first album. But after years of working a grueling 9-5, Luc woke up one day, tired, bored, and unhappy with his situation -- and without a plan, quit corporate America. Since then, he’s harnessed his full energy toward making music. He’s toured throughout the country and caught the ear of the Americana world. As he gears up to release his third album, Paul Luc’s story has rapidly grown into one with an authentic sound and relatable message for the masses.

Luc’s love for music dates back to early childhood, when he found his parent’s record collection at age five, “I'd sit there with big, olive green headphones on, spiral cord plugged into the stereo, just caught up in the sounds.” Those early influences aren’t hard to hear in his music; traces of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, John Lennon, The Band, and Elton John are uniquely weaved throughout his melodies. And by elementary school, he'd gained a brand new perspective of music from mentor and well-known jazz saxophonist Don Aliquo. “He would pick up things quicker, and you could see he had talent,” Aliquo says, “It was very evident to me he had talent over and above most of the kids in the class.” Luc studied trumpet under Aliquo for years, before eventually finding guitar in high school and touring regionally with his rock band, Simon. But Aliquo’s support, the skill set he learned, and the importance of music were things that would never leave Luc, along with his myriad of influences.

In 2014, Luc came in full force with the release of his second full-length album, Tried & True. The ten-track album caught the attention of major, mainstream radio station WDVE, who championed the record and played it on heavy rotation. The album showcased Luc’s ability to merge upbeat rhythms with brutally-honest and relatable lyrics. When he was ready to start his newest project, Bad Seed, Luc turned to Dave Hidek, the same Pittsburgh producer that helped him the attain the folk rock sound in Tried & True. But this time around, the duo wanted to attempt the unknown; they formulated a plan to travel to Nashville, TN, and decided to recruit musicians that they'd never met, much less worked with. “I had this sort of romantic idea. I’d see photos of songwriters and musicians on a studio floor together, no computers, just doing things in that moment, which is probably what made the records that a lot of us idolize so great,” Luc says, “So I got this idea that I wanted to get acquaintances or strangers together and just do that.”

Recorded at Welcome to 1979 Studios, Luc might've gambled -- but didn’t place his bets on just anyone. The lineup of Nashville badasses featured on Bad Seed includes bassist Cameron Carrus, drummer Paul Griffith (John Prine, Jason Isbell, k.d. lang), backing vocals from Leah Blevins, and pianist Jefferson Crow and guitar/pedal steel player Laur “Lil’ Joe” Joamets, both part of Sturgill Simpson’s band from the iconic 2016 album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. And while his studio lineup turned out to be a recruitment of some of Music City’s most valued players, Luc was working on a tight timeline and budget, “We had no rehearsal time, we didn’t rehearse at all actually,” he says, “So we decided to record to tape, it gives you less options to change things. It forces you to make decisions.”

But even with an abundance of unknown variables, Bad Seed found its way. “It would either work or it wouldn’t. Luckily, it really did. We all clicked and worked things out take-by-take.” It’s impossible to ignore that Bad Seed was fated for success, not only because of Luc taking a chance on the setup, but also his ability to organically build songs. While in the studio, Joamets even dubbed his songwriting ‘healing’ which Luc hopes to achieve with Bad Seed, “I try to write about personal experience, and people usually relate in their own unexpected ways. There’s something beautiful about music and the unpredictable ways it connects people.” And if anything, that’s what Bad Seed is -- proof that even out of the unknown, something beautiful can surface.

Nik Westman
Nik Has released 3 LP's since 2010 under the name "Central Plains" His Stories are personal and relatable. His Music is driven by Guitar and Vocals. Central Plains Music has been described as Twangy Indie Rock. Reviews have compared Central Plains to the likes of Stephen Malkmus, Neil Young, Modest Mouse and Galaxy 500. Nik grew up in Sweden, Los Angeles and spent his College years in Pittsburgh before moving to Brooklyn in 2011 where he currently resides with his wife Deirdre.

Helene Augustine / Bitter Whiskers / Elliot Sheedy

Helene Augustine is the musical project for the visual artist Jenn Meridian, based in Pittsburgh. These are like queer prayers - the best form to express the never-ending rhyme/devotion that inhabits my being. Tragedy and miracle expressed as heartbreak and devotion. All of it. My version of ecstatic poetry. I began this practice with a Casio keyboard and have now graduated to a Yamaha P45 digital piano. Using very basic chord structures for accompaniment, Helene Augustine performs with the borrowed/inherited name of my great great-aunt who died in 1901 at the age of 18 in Austin, TX.

Helene Augustine is the musical project for the visual artist Jenn Meridian, based in Pittsburgh. These are like queer prayers - the best form to express the never-ending rhyme/devotion that inhabits my being. Tragedy and miracle expressed as heartbreak and devotion. All of it. My version of ecstatic poetry. I began this practice with a Casio keyboard and have now graduated to a Yamaha P45 digital piano. Using very basic chord structures for accompaniment, Helene Augustine performs with the borrowed/inherited name of my great great-aunt who died in 1901 at the age of 18 in Austin, TX.

Wayne 'The Train' Hancock

Since his stunning debut, Thunderstorms and Neon Signs in 1995, Wayne “The Train” Hancock has been the undisputed king of Juke Joint Swing - that alchemist’s dream of honky-tonk, western swing, blues, Texas rockabilly and big band. Always an anomaly among his country music peers, Wayne’s uncompromising interpretation of the music he loves is in fact what defines him: steeped in traditional but never "retro;" bare bones but bone shaking; hardcore but with a swing. Like the comfortable crackle of a Wurlitzer 45 jukebox, Wayne is the embodiment of genuine, house rocking, hillbilly boogie. Wayne makes music fit for any road house anywhere. With his unmistakable voice, The Train’s reckless honky-tonk can move the dead. If you see him live (and he is ALWAYS touring), you’ll surely work up some sweat stains on that snazzy Rayon shirt you’re wearing. If you buy his records, you’ll be rolling up your carpets, spreading sawdust on the hardwood floor, and dancing until the downstairs neighbors are banging their brooms on the ceiling. Call him a throwback if you want, but all Wayne Hancock wants to do, is simply ENTERTAIN you, and what's wrong with that?

Since his stunning debut, Thunderstorms and Neon Signs in 1995, Wayne “The Train” Hancock has been the undisputed king of Juke Joint Swing - that alchemist’s dream of honky-tonk, western swing, blues, Texas rockabilly and big band. Always an anomaly among his country music peers, Wayne’s uncompromising interpretation of the music he loves is in fact what defines him: steeped in traditional but never "retro;" bare bones but bone shaking; hardcore but with a swing. Like the comfortable crackle of a Wurlitzer 45 jukebox, Wayne is the embodiment of genuine, house rocking, hillbilly boogie. Wayne makes music fit for any road house anywhere. With his unmistakable voice, The Train’s reckless honky-tonk can move the dead. If you see him live (and he is ALWAYS touring), you’ll surely work up some sweat stains on that snazzy Rayon shirt you’re wearing. If you buy his records, you’ll be rolling up your carpets, spreading sawdust on the hardwood floor, and dancing until the downstairs neighbors are banging their brooms on the ceiling. Call him a throwback if you want, but all Wayne Hancock wants to do, is simply ENTERTAIN you, and what's wrong with that?

Hey Monea!

Hey Monea are:

Dan Monea – vocalist, guitarist, shark fisherman, foodie

Nate Monea – vocalist, drummer, MacGyverer, skeptic

Stephen Fernandez – vocalist, bassist, herboligist, shaman



Hey Monea have always been driven by a healthy sense of wanderlust – a deep desire to see the world, try new things, and to challenge the limits of what is possible. This band of tender-hearted rascals has been bonded by three albums, years of touring and recording, with a deep love of music and desire to bring people together. They’ve played festivals all over the world including Hard Rock Calling in London (Bruce Springsteen / Lady Antebellum), The Rock Boat (Sister Hazel / Barenaked Ladies), 311 Cruise, and even a performance on Guam. In addition to traditional touring, the band travels annually to Guatemala with an organization called The Music Is Love Exchange for a week of service work and performances at schools and hospitals.



“We love what we do, and we love being on the road. Connecting with people from every corner of the world through music brings real joy to us. Everybody has a story, and we want to hear that. And we want to share ours,” says Dan Monea. The band performs constantly, either touring nationally or playing bar gigs to pay bills.



Hey Monea’s pop-leaning rock music centers around emotionality and their soaring harmonies aim directly at the heart of the human spirit. Dan and Nate were raised Jehovah’s Witnesses and it was their family’s decision to leave that community that set the boys on a path toward pursuing deeper connection points. Every tour stop is an opportunity to meet people, be of service, an effort to build bonds with their audience. The band refers to their extended community as their “ghetto family”, and the family reunion takes place every September in downtown Canton at the band’s own Little C Music Festival, now in its third year. "We've spent quite a few years traveling, meeting new people, and having amazing experiences at every stop. Along the way we've made so many friends who are incredibly talented, and have something unique and inspiring to offer. Little C is our way of bringing all those friends to Canton to show them the little corner of the earth we call home, and to show all of our friends here in Canton the cast of characters we've met out there on the road,” offers Nate Monea. This year’s event will take place September 14 and 15 in partnership with the Canton Flea, ArtsInStark, VisitCanton, and several additional local sponsors.



The band’s new single, “Push And Pull” is available now.

Hey Monea are:

Dan Monea – vocalist, guitarist, shark fisherman, foodie

Nate Monea – vocalist, drummer, MacGyverer, skeptic

Stephen Fernandez – vocalist, bassist, herboligist, shaman



Hey Monea have always been driven by a healthy sense of wanderlust – a deep desire to see the world, try new things, and to challenge the limits of what is possible. This band of tender-hearted rascals has been bonded by three albums, years of touring and recording, with a deep love of music and desire to bring people together. They’ve played festivals all over the world including Hard Rock Calling in London (Bruce Springsteen / Lady Antebellum), The Rock Boat (Sister Hazel / Barenaked Ladies), 311 Cruise, and even a performance on Guam. In addition to traditional touring, the band travels annually to Guatemala with an organization called The Music Is Love Exchange for a week of service work and performances at schools and hospitals.



“We love what we do, and we love being on the road. Connecting with people from every corner of the world through music brings real joy to us. Everybody has a story, and we want to hear that. And we want to share ours,” says Dan Monea. The band performs constantly, either touring nationally or playing bar gigs to pay bills.



Hey Monea’s pop-leaning rock music centers around emotionality and their soaring harmonies aim directly at the heart of the human spirit. Dan and Nate were raised Jehovah’s Witnesses and it was their family’s decision to leave that community that set the boys on a path toward pursuing deeper connection points. Every tour stop is an opportunity to meet people, be of service, an effort to build bonds with their audience. The band refers to their extended community as their “ghetto family”, and the family reunion takes place every September in downtown Canton at the band’s own Little C Music Festival, now in its third year. "We've spent quite a few years traveling, meeting new people, and having amazing experiences at every stop. Along the way we've made so many friends who are incredibly talented, and have something unique and inspiring to offer. Little C is our way of bringing all those friends to Canton to show them the little corner of the earth we call home, and to show all of our friends here in Canton the cast of characters we've met out there on the road,” offers Nate Monea. This year’s event will take place September 14 and 15 in partnership with the Canton Flea, ArtsInStark, VisitCanton, and several additional local sponsors.



The band’s new single, “Push And Pull” is available now.

The Steel Wheels with Special Guest Luke Zacherl

Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, The Steel Wheels are familiar with the traditions of folk music and how a string band is supposed to sound. In fact, they’ve been drawing on those steadfast traditions for more than a decade. Yet, their name also evokes a sense of forward motion, which is clearly reflected in their latest album, Wild As We Came Here. The Steel Wheels recorded their album in rural Maine, where producer Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter) owns a recording studio inside a renovated farmhouse from the 18th century. All four band members – Trent Wagler (guitar, banjo), Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (upright bass) and Jay Lapp (mandolin) – hunkered down for a week and a half to create Wild As We Came Here. The band’s name is a tip of the hat to steam-powered trains, industrial progress and the buggies of their Mennonite lineage. Their musical style weaves through Americana and bluegrass, folk and old-time music, and the acoustic poetry of the finest singer-songwriters. By incorporating percussion and keyboards into their recording sessions for the first time, Wild As We Came Here adds new textures to their catalog, as themes of discovery and perseverance run throughout the collection.

Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, The Steel Wheels are familiar with the traditions of folk music and how a string band is supposed to sound. In fact, they’ve been drawing on those steadfast traditions for more than a decade. Yet, their name also evokes a sense of forward motion, which is clearly reflected in their latest album, Wild As We Came Here. The Steel Wheels recorded their album in rural Maine, where producer Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter) owns a recording studio inside a renovated farmhouse from the 18th century. All four band members – Trent Wagler (guitar, banjo), Eric Brubaker (fiddle), Brian Dickel (upright bass) and Jay Lapp (mandolin) – hunkered down for a week and a half to create Wild As We Came Here. The band’s name is a tip of the hat to steam-powered trains, industrial progress and the buggies of their Mennonite lineage. Their musical style weaves through Americana and bluegrass, folk and old-time music, and the acoustic poetry of the finest singer-songwriters. By incorporating percussion and keyboards into their recording sessions for the first time, Wild As We Came Here adds new textures to their catalog, as themes of discovery and perseverance run throughout the collection.

(Early Show) Opus One Comedy Presents Greg Warren

Greg Warren, most recently seen on “ Late Night with Seth Meyers”, "The Late Late Show on CBS" and “Last Comic Standing” " has built a strong fan base with an act inspired by his Midwestern upbringing. His CDs, “Fish Sandwich” (2017) "Running Out of Time" (Sept 2013) and "One Star Wonder" (June 2009) hit #1, #3 and #6 respectively on the iTunes Comedy charts. Self-deprecation, frustration and an arsenal of lifelike characters highlight Greg's colorful perspective.

Greg attracts a diverse audience, having performed on BET’s "Coming to the Stage", Country Music Television's "Comedy Stage" and Comedy Central’s “Comedy Central Presents”. He is a favorite on the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom radio show. He toured theaters across the country with The Bob & Tom All Stars Comedy Tour.

Greg Warren, most recently seen on “ Late Night with Seth Meyers”, "The Late Late Show on CBS" and “Last Comic Standing” " has built a strong fan base with an act inspired by his Midwestern upbringing. His CDs, “Fish Sandwich” (2017) "Running Out of Time" (Sept 2013) and "One Star Wonder" (June 2009) hit #1, #3 and #6 respectively on the iTunes Comedy charts. Self-deprecation, frustration and an arsenal of lifelike characters highlight Greg's colorful perspective.

Greg attracts a diverse audience, having performed on BET’s "Coming to the Stage", Country Music Television's "Comedy Stage" and Comedy Central’s “Comedy Central Presents”. He is a favorite on the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom radio show. He toured theaters across the country with The Bob & Tom All Stars Comedy Tour.

(Late Show) Opus One Comedy Presents Greg Warren

Greg Warren, most recently seen on “ Late Night with Seth Meyers”, "The Late Late Show on CBS" and “Last Comic Standing” " has built a strong fan base with an act inspired by his Midwestern upbringing. His CDs, “Fish Sandwich” (2017) "Running Out of Time" (Sept 2013) and "One Star Wonder" (June 2009) hit #1, #3 and #6 respectively on the iTunes Comedy charts. Self-deprecation, frustration and an arsenal of lifelike characters highlight Greg's colorful perspective.

Greg attracts a diverse audience, having performed on BET’s "Coming to the Stage", Country Music Television's "Comedy Stage" and Comedy Central’s “Comedy Central Presents”. He is a favorite on the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom radio show. He toured theaters across the country with The Bob & Tom All Stars Comedy Tour.

Greg Warren, most recently seen on “ Late Night with Seth Meyers”, "The Late Late Show on CBS" and “Last Comic Standing” " has built a strong fan base with an act inspired by his Midwestern upbringing. His CDs, “Fish Sandwich” (2017) "Running Out of Time" (Sept 2013) and "One Star Wonder" (June 2009) hit #1, #3 and #6 respectively on the iTunes Comedy charts. Self-deprecation, frustration and an arsenal of lifelike characters highlight Greg's colorful perspective.

Greg attracts a diverse audience, having performed on BET’s "Coming to the Stage", Country Music Television's "Comedy Stage" and Comedy Central’s “Comedy Central Presents”. He is a favorite on the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom radio show. He toured theaters across the country with The Bob & Tom All Stars Comedy Tour.

Hot Club of Cowtown

Adapted from “The Chemistry and Magic of Hot Club of Cowtown” by Terry Roland, No Depression, January 14, 2015

Since 1998, the Western swing-gypsy jazz trio Hot Club of Cowtown has traveled the world bringing their own brand of magical musical chemistry to audiences far and wide. Along with Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin are equal partners in this original marriage of gypsy-jazz-inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt — which accounts for the “Hot Club” portion of their name — with the hoedowns, traditional tunes, and Western swing-inspired music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, represented in the “Cowtown” of their name. They have created a legacy of the preservation of musical traditions that have often been overlooked by the mainstream and alternative music worlds. Even Americana and roots enthusiasts have only scratched surface of the multitude of musicians, past and present, who continue to inspire the Hot Club of Cowtown.

“This music may be more prevalent now than fifteen years ago,” says James. “I don’t think as much of this was going on when we first got together–the seamless blending of Western swing tunes and hot jazz standards a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli.” While the merging of gypsy jazz with Western swing sounds natural when listening to Hot Club of Cowtown, in the beginning the fusion of the two styles seemed more unorthodox than it does now. “We just have always listened to old recordings and get inspired by that endless trove of astonishing performances. Mixing these genres together has always just been such a natural fit. Over the years other ‘hot club’ bands come and go but I guess generally we may be the most visible touring Western swing power trio out there.”


The band has a long list of accomplishments since their first album, Swingin’ Stampede, first appeared in 1998 on HighTone records. Most notably, they are marking their 20th anniversary during the 2017-2018 touring season. They have released nine studio albums and they are among the youngest members ever to have been inducted inot the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. A considerable accomplishment for a band that have migrated their way from New England and the Midwest by way of New York City. They have most recently been named Western Swing Group of the year in 2015 at the Ameripolitan Music Awards (a new genre created by Dale Watson to recognize roots-influenced bands). In 2015 James won for Western Swing Female as well. The band has also represented the U.S. State Department as Musical Ambassadors over the past several years to places as diverse as Azerbaijan, Algeria, Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, and the Sultanate of Oman. Their festival appearances have been as diverse as they’ve been numerous including jazz, bluegrass and country festivals throughout the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and North America.

In 2004 the Hot Club of Cowtown gained a special fan in Bob Dylan when they were invited to open a month-long tour of minor leaue ballparks with Dylan and Willie Nelson. James sat in with Dylan’s band often on that tour and the following year James was hired to play briefly in Dylan’s touring band — the first dedicated female instrumentalist to join his road band since Scarlet Rivera some 30 years before.

Hot Club has maintained an on-again, off-again relationship over the years, which appears to be more about career choices than personal differences. When asked about the brief times the band has not been touring or recording, James says, “It’s like Brokeback Mountain — ‘I just can’t quit you!’” she laughs. “Some bands are maybe more studio bands, or other bands are really more about songwriting. We came together as instrumentalists who love to jam and play, and we really are at our very best as a live band. To me it’s as almost as though the instruments have gathered us together to sing and play their music. Like the songs conjure us and we gather together and deliver them.”

Indeed, when seeing the trio perform, hearing them on studio or live records, there is a sense of something beyond them individually–and beyond their years–taking over through this music that has lasted through the years. “At the end of the day, it’s fun to get up on stage when you’re with your A game,” James says. “If you don’t have a great show, great people up on stage together who you believe in, it’s hard to get up on stage. To do this thing we are truly thrilled by, as a band together, this is what makes us go. That there is a demand for us, for this little Western swing trio, to continue to tour, play, record, travel, it truly is a great gift. We’ve been together a long time and continue to share something unique and mysterious that continues to develop. As the saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you get. For me it’s like this magical tree that we nurture and feed and in return it gives us shade, fruit and joy over the years.”


EARLY HISTORY:
The Hot Club of Cowtown was born when Whit Smith, a reformed rock-and-roller living in New York City, started getting into Django Reinhardt and early Bob Wills recordings while working at Tower Records and playing in bands in the early 1990s. “As a guitar player, he was really getting into these guys I had never heard of–George Barnes, Tiny Moore, Thumbs Carllile, Hank Garland, Django Reinhardt, Oscar Aleman, Eddie Lang. Whit would make me these cassette recording of these guys in their various bands and I would listen to them religiously and couldn’t even tell the difference between country and jazzy guitar and rhythm in those tunes” says James. “It all blended together. Even the violin soloists–people like Stuff Smith, Joe Venuti, Johnny Gimble, Stephane Grappelli, Hugh and Karl Farr, Louis Tierney and Keith Coleman from the Bob Wills band–were hard for me to differentiate at first. They all sounded so inspired, romantic, squirrely, virtuosic. It didn’t matter what they were soloing over, the melodic ideas just killed me. And they eventually took over my life!”

Smith is a native New Englander who was born to folk music-loving parents. From childhood, he internalized a daily life of practicing and performing music. “My mom and dad used to sing and play folk music every night after my dad got home from work. Every weekend my dad would spend hours sitting in front of the record player figuring out rural tunes by Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt,” Smith explains. “Then he was really big into Manitas De Plata and flamenco guitar.” While in his early 20s, Smith moved to New York City where, for 15 years, his music took shape and found a home in the foundation his father had built during his impressionable years.

During his early years in New York, Smith studied jazz guitar, a little classical piano, and the intricacies of vocal harmony and chordal voicings. It was his apprenticeship with guitarist Richard Lieberson that defined his own musical approach. Lieberson taught Smith traditional jazz forms along with traditional country guitar. Like his father’s way of absorbing folk and blues guitar patterns, Smith began from that early blueprint and applied the same discipline and imagination to the study of country and jazz guitar.

By 1994, Smith had begun applying his new-found knowledge to weekly shows in the city leading a revolving 13-piece Western swing orchestra called the Western Caravan. The group played hoedowns, country tunes, Western swing and jazz standards with fiddles and steel guitar. Around this time he answered an ad put in the music section of the Village Voice by Elana James, who was looking to join a band on the side as she was working in publishing in the city. When the two finally got together to play a unique partnership began.

Time went by and eventually first James and then Smith left New York City for points west. In 1997 they relocated to San Diego, found their first bass player, and began playing as at farmers markets, parks, and cafes for tips. After a year in San Diego they were inspired to move to Austin, where Western swing was part of the natural order of things, and a town where living as a musician was known to be possible and even desirable.

Different bass players came and went over the early years, but with the addition of upright bassist Jake Erwin in 2000, the trio had found its stride. The youngest member of the band, Erwin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, very near to Cain’s Ballroom, the home of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. He was drawn to the bass instrument and roots music in general during childhood. He specializes in slap bass–a New Orleans jazz approach and is equal to the task of skillfully playing his instrument and contributing to the vocal textures of the trio.

Elana James was raised in Kansas. She started out as a Suziki-method Classical musician when she began playing violin at age four after hearing her mom playing violin around the house. “We all have our individual influences,” she says. “My background is Classical music, though I have always been interested in folk and traditional music. But when I first started playing roots music, I was surprised how many people considered this ‘retro.’ To me, Aaron Copeland was modern! I was used to Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Brahms. It has taken me a long time to get used to that notion that these songs or this style is considered “old.” I guess you can consider it old in the same sense that a fine cheese from France is ‘old’ or the baguette is ‘old’ but you eat it every day! Is steak ‘retro’ because man has eaten it for millioins of years? For me great music is always contemporary. This idea that so many people thought of Bob Wills’s music as old music was weird. He and the sound of his band has always been more contemporary, more alive and inspired to me, than tons of stuff being performed and recorded right now.”

The Hot Club of Cowtown has performed throughout the world over the past two decades as Musical Ambassadors for the US State Department, as music festival headliners, and touring with other artists. Highlights include US State Department tours to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria, the Republic of Georgia, and the Sultanate of Oman, tours with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Gatemouth Brown, Dan Hicks, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Robert Earl Keen, the Avett Brothers, Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music, and may others. Recent career highlights include the Rochester International Jazz Festival, A Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center in New York, the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival in Bristol, Tennessee, and the Red Ants Pants Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

* * *
“This trio’s stylistic genesis–as well as title–stems from the realization that the great heritage of strings (guitars and violins) originates mutually with the Manouche gypsies of France and the no-less virtuosic hillbilly pickers and fiddlers of Oklahoma and Texas….Together for over 15 years and a dozen albums, the threesome of high-heeled violinist Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin showed from the beginning that jazz and country music could exist together on the same page, a highly commendable achievement if ever there was one.”
– Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal

“Hot Club of Cowtown swung light and tight, like tumbleweeds made of velvet.”
– Live Review, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Frank De Blase, Rochester City Paper, June 2017

“[James’s] inventive violin style can still conjure up the unique image of Bob Wills strolling through Tin Pan Alley.”
– Sean Daly, JazzTimes

“As instrumentally and vocally tight as any band out there working in any genre today….three skilled musicians who can seemingly just tune up and play, something that’s becoming increasingly rare these days.”
– Rick Moore, American Songwriter, 2011

Adapted from “The Chemistry and Magic of Hot Club of Cowtown” by Terry Roland, No Depression, January 14, 2015

Since 1998, the Western swing-gypsy jazz trio Hot Club of Cowtown has traveled the world bringing their own brand of magical musical chemistry to audiences far and wide. Along with Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin are equal partners in this original marriage of gypsy-jazz-inspired by the music of Django Reinhardt — which accounts for the “Hot Club” portion of their name — with the hoedowns, traditional tunes, and Western swing-inspired music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, represented in the “Cowtown” of their name. They have created a legacy of the preservation of musical traditions that have often been overlooked by the mainstream and alternative music worlds. Even Americana and roots enthusiasts have only scratched surface of the multitude of musicians, past and present, who continue to inspire the Hot Club of Cowtown.

“This music may be more prevalent now than fifteen years ago,” says James. “I don’t think as much of this was going on when we first got together–the seamless blending of Western swing tunes and hot jazz standards a la Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli.” While the merging of gypsy jazz with Western swing sounds natural when listening to Hot Club of Cowtown, in the beginning the fusion of the two styles seemed more unorthodox than it does now. “We just have always listened to old recordings and get inspired by that endless trove of astonishing performances. Mixing these genres together has always just been such a natural fit. Over the years other ‘hot club’ bands come and go but I guess generally we may be the most visible touring Western swing power trio out there.”


The band has a long list of accomplishments since their first album, Swingin’ Stampede, first appeared in 1998 on HighTone records. Most notably, they are marking their 20th anniversary during the 2017-2018 touring season. They have released nine studio albums and they are among the youngest members ever to have been inducted inot the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame. A considerable accomplishment for a band that have migrated their way from New England and the Midwest by way of New York City. They have most recently been named Western Swing Group of the year in 2015 at the Ameripolitan Music Awards (a new genre created by Dale Watson to recognize roots-influenced bands). In 2015 James won for Western Swing Female as well. The band has also represented the U.S. State Department as Musical Ambassadors over the past several years to places as diverse as Azerbaijan, Algeria, Armenia, the Republic of Georgia, and the Sultanate of Oman. Their festival appearances have been as diverse as they’ve been numerous including jazz, bluegrass and country festivals throughout the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and North America.

In 2004 the Hot Club of Cowtown gained a special fan in Bob Dylan when they were invited to open a month-long tour of minor leaue ballparks with Dylan and Willie Nelson. James sat in with Dylan’s band often on that tour and the following year James was hired to play briefly in Dylan’s touring band — the first dedicated female instrumentalist to join his road band since Scarlet Rivera some 30 years before.

Hot Club has maintained an on-again, off-again relationship over the years, which appears to be more about career choices than personal differences. When asked about the brief times the band has not been touring or recording, James says, “It’s like Brokeback Mountain — ‘I just can’t quit you!’” she laughs. “Some bands are maybe more studio bands, or other bands are really more about songwriting. We came together as instrumentalists who love to jam and play, and we really are at our very best as a live band. To me it’s as almost as though the instruments have gathered us together to sing and play their music. Like the songs conjure us and we gather together and deliver them.”

Indeed, when seeing the trio perform, hearing them on studio or live records, there is a sense of something beyond them individually–and beyond their years–taking over through this music that has lasted through the years. “At the end of the day, it’s fun to get up on stage when you’re with your A game,” James says. “If you don’t have a great show, great people up on stage together who you believe in, it’s hard to get up on stage. To do this thing we are truly thrilled by, as a band together, this is what makes us go. That there is a demand for us, for this little Western swing trio, to continue to tour, play, record, travel, it truly is a great gift. We’ve been together a long time and continue to share something unique and mysterious that continues to develop. As the saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you get. For me it’s like this magical tree that we nurture and feed and in return it gives us shade, fruit and joy over the years.”


EARLY HISTORY:
The Hot Club of Cowtown was born when Whit Smith, a reformed rock-and-roller living in New York City, started getting into Django Reinhardt and early Bob Wills recordings while working at Tower Records and playing in bands in the early 1990s. “As a guitar player, he was really getting into these guys I had never heard of–George Barnes, Tiny Moore, Thumbs Carllile, Hank Garland, Django Reinhardt, Oscar Aleman, Eddie Lang. Whit would make me these cassette recording of these guys in their various bands and I would listen to them religiously and couldn’t even tell the difference between country and jazzy guitar and rhythm in those tunes” says James. “It all blended together. Even the violin soloists–people like Stuff Smith, Joe Venuti, Johnny Gimble, Stephane Grappelli, Hugh and Karl Farr, Louis Tierney and Keith Coleman from the Bob Wills band–were hard for me to differentiate at first. They all sounded so inspired, romantic, squirrely, virtuosic. It didn’t matter what they were soloing over, the melodic ideas just killed me. And they eventually took over my life!”

Smith is a native New Englander who was born to folk music-loving parents. From childhood, he internalized a daily life of practicing and performing music. “My mom and dad used to sing and play folk music every night after my dad got home from work. Every weekend my dad would spend hours sitting in front of the record player figuring out rural tunes by Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt,” Smith explains. “Then he was really big into Manitas De Plata and flamenco guitar.” While in his early 20s, Smith moved to New York City where, for 15 years, his music took shape and found a home in the foundation his father had built during his impressionable years.

During his early years in New York, Smith studied jazz guitar, a little classical piano, and the intricacies of vocal harmony and chordal voicings. It was his apprenticeship with guitarist Richard Lieberson that defined his own musical approach. Lieberson taught Smith traditional jazz forms along with traditional country guitar. Like his father’s way of absorbing folk and blues guitar patterns, Smith began from that early blueprint and applied the same discipline and imagination to the study of country and jazz guitar.

By 1994, Smith had begun applying his new-found knowledge to weekly shows in the city leading a revolving 13-piece Western swing orchestra called the Western Caravan. The group played hoedowns, country tunes, Western swing and jazz standards with fiddles and steel guitar. Around this time he answered an ad put in the music section of the Village Voice by Elana James, who was looking to join a band on the side as she was working in publishing in the city. When the two finally got together to play a unique partnership began.

Time went by and eventually first James and then Smith left New York City for points west. In 1997 they relocated to San Diego, found their first bass player, and began playing as at farmers markets, parks, and cafes for tips. After a year in San Diego they were inspired to move to Austin, where Western swing was part of the natural order of things, and a town where living as a musician was known to be possible and even desirable.

Different bass players came and went over the early years, but with the addition of upright bassist Jake Erwin in 2000, the trio had found its stride. The youngest member of the band, Erwin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, very near to Cain’s Ballroom, the home of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. He was drawn to the bass instrument and roots music in general during childhood. He specializes in slap bass–a New Orleans jazz approach and is equal to the task of skillfully playing his instrument and contributing to the vocal textures of the trio.

Elana James was raised in Kansas. She started out as a Suziki-method Classical musician when she began playing violin at age four after hearing her mom playing violin around the house. “We all have our individual influences,” she says. “My background is Classical music, though I have always been interested in folk and traditional music. But when I first started playing roots music, I was surprised how many people considered this ‘retro.’ To me, Aaron Copeland was modern! I was used to Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Brahms. It has taken me a long time to get used to that notion that these songs or this style is considered “old.” I guess you can consider it old in the same sense that a fine cheese from France is ‘old’ or the baguette is ‘old’ but you eat it every day! Is steak ‘retro’ because man has eaten it for millioins of years? For me great music is always contemporary. This idea that so many people thought of Bob Wills’s music as old music was weird. He and the sound of his band has always been more contemporary, more alive and inspired to me, than tons of stuff being performed and recorded right now.”

The Hot Club of Cowtown has performed throughout the world over the past two decades as Musical Ambassadors for the US State Department, as music festival headliners, and touring with other artists. Highlights include US State Department tours to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria, the Republic of Georgia, and the Sultanate of Oman, tours with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Gatemouth Brown, Dan Hicks, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Robert Earl Keen, the Avett Brothers, Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music, and may others. Recent career highlights include the Rochester International Jazz Festival, A Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center in New York, the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival in Bristol, Tennessee, and the Red Ants Pants Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

* * *
“This trio’s stylistic genesis–as well as title–stems from the realization that the great heritage of strings (guitars and violins) originates mutually with the Manouche gypsies of France and the no-less virtuosic hillbilly pickers and fiddlers of Oklahoma and Texas….Together for over 15 years and a dozen albums, the threesome of high-heeled violinist Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin showed from the beginning that jazz and country music could exist together on the same page, a highly commendable achievement if ever there was one.”
– Will Friedwald, Wall Street Journal

“Hot Club of Cowtown swung light and tight, like tumbleweeds made of velvet.”
– Live Review, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Frank De Blase, Rochester City Paper, June 2017

“[James’s] inventive violin style can still conjure up the unique image of Bob Wills strolling through Tin Pan Alley.”
– Sean Daly, JazzTimes

“As instrumentally and vocally tight as any band out there working in any genre today….three skilled musicians who can seemingly just tune up and play, something that’s becoming increasingly rare these days.”
– Rick Moore, American Songwriter, 2011

The Brook & The Bluff

Established in Birmingham, AL, The Brook & The Bluff is a four-man band that consists of frontman Joseph Settine, drummer John Canada, guitarist Alec Bolton and bassist Fred Lankford.

The guys have quickly become recognized for their evocative blend of instrumental talent and vocal harmony. These elements are readily apparent in the band's debut track, “Masks.” Having initially gained momentum via Spotify, the song has helped spur the band forward in their musical pursuits.

The group's first year as a full band has been widely successful. From charting on Spotify's US and Canada Viral 50 Playlists, performing at the NAMM shows in both Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in Atlanta, Birmingham, Huntsville, Nashville and Opelika, the band has had an exhilarating first year.

Originally an acoustic duo, Alec and Joseph started turning heads in local venues with clean vocals and expert guitar work. John noticed the talent and potential of the duo and offered to play drums and sing with the guys. Soon after, he officially joined the group, expanding their sound with driving rhythm and an added voice. The trio instantly locked in and have been playing together ever since. With their new bassist Fred Lankford, The Brook and The Bluff relocated to Nashville in 2018.

Established in Birmingham, AL, The Brook & The Bluff is a four-man band that consists of frontman Joseph Settine, drummer John Canada, guitarist Alec Bolton and bassist Fred Lankford.

The guys have quickly become recognized for their evocative blend of instrumental talent and vocal harmony. These elements are readily apparent in the band's debut track, “Masks.” Having initially gained momentum via Spotify, the song has helped spur the band forward in their musical pursuits.

The group's first year as a full band has been widely successful. From charting on Spotify's US and Canada Viral 50 Playlists, performing at the NAMM shows in both Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in Atlanta, Birmingham, Huntsville, Nashville and Opelika, the band has had an exhilarating first year.

Originally an acoustic duo, Alec and Joseph started turning heads in local venues with clean vocals and expert guitar work. John noticed the talent and potential of the duo and offered to play drums and sing with the guys. Soon after, he officially joined the group, expanding their sound with driving rhythm and an added voice. The trio instantly locked in and have been playing together ever since. With their new bassist Fred Lankford, The Brook and The Bluff relocated to Nashville in 2018.

Motherfolk with Special Guest Stay Outside

MOTHERFOLK HAS BEEN REVERED AS "THE BEST BAND EVER" BY ALMOST ALL OF ITS CURRENT MEMBERS. WHAT STARTED IN 2014 AS A WRITING PROJECT BETWEEN TWO COLLEGE FRIENDS HAS GROWN INTO A PHENOMENON THAT HAS CAPTURED THE HEARTS AND SOULS OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.
WITH TWO FULL LENGTHS AND A FEW SINGLES UNDER THEIR BELT, MOTHERFOLK HAS TOURED HEAVILY ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND HAS MADE A NAME FOR THEMSELVES WITH THEIR HIGH-ENERGY PERFORMANCE. CURRENTLY IN 2018, THEY CONTINUE TO TOUR REGULARLY AND ARE SPENDING THE TIME IN BETWEEN IN THE STUDIO WORKING ON WHAT'S NEXT.

DON'T SLEEP ON THIS BAND, SLEEP ON A BED.

MOTHERFOLK HAS BEEN REVERED AS "THE BEST BAND EVER" BY ALMOST ALL OF ITS CURRENT MEMBERS. WHAT STARTED IN 2014 AS A WRITING PROJECT BETWEEN TWO COLLEGE FRIENDS HAS GROWN INTO A PHENOMENON THAT HAS CAPTURED THE HEARTS AND SOULS OF DOZENS OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.
WITH TWO FULL LENGTHS AND A FEW SINGLES UNDER THEIR BELT, MOTHERFOLK HAS TOURED HEAVILY ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND HAS MADE A NAME FOR THEMSELVES WITH THEIR HIGH-ENERGY PERFORMANCE. CURRENTLY IN 2018, THEY CONTINUE TO TOUR REGULARLY AND ARE SPENDING THE TIME IN BETWEEN IN THE STUDIO WORKING ON WHAT'S NEXT.

DON'T SLEEP ON THIS BAND, SLEEP ON A BED.

@clubcafelive

56-58 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh PA 15203 (In Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side)