You’ve seen them playing on the stoop. You’ve stopped and listened, maybe snapped a photo. Then, probably, you came home and sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, asking us, “what’s the deal with the stoop band?”
Well, today’s the day! We finally nailed down Zack Brough of The Jugtown Pirates to tell us more about the band. Read on.
For the uninitiated, The Jugtown Pirates plant on the stoop at 1609 Haight Street on weekends, crack open some PBR tallboys, and start strumming. By the end of their first song, they often have dozens of people dancing, taking pictures, or simply staring slackjawed that this kind thing just happens in this neighborhood. Wait around for three more songs, and you’ll see a crowd that takes up three storefronts, so big you have to walk in the street to pass them, with a second mirror-crowd across Haight Street.
The original band formed in Vermont in 2004, and in 2008, they traveled to San Francisco in a vegetable oil-powered bus. Their bass player defected after making it to SF, but then Brough and his brother ran into two of Jugtown’s members, Tobias Sanchez-Mahan (who does guitar and vocals) and Paul “Mendelsohn” Girouard (vocals and mandolin), at a show in North Beach. The next day, they all decided to meet in Washington Square Park to “do some pickin’,” and the rest is history. “We’ve been playing music every day since.”
The band’s current iteration, in addition to Zack, Toby, and Mendelsohn, comprises Rhyne Erde on percussion, Ben Andrews on fiddle, and Johny “Cat” Shahery on vocals, piano, and organ.
They’re sort of bluegrass, sort of folk, but sort of other. Their songs sound deceptively simple, but there’s a lot going on underneath. Brough tells us they draw from “punk rock, funk, rock, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, folk country, classical and blues to name a few”, but with consistent energy, harmonies, and instrumentation to tie together their sound.
After getting shuffled around by the cops every time they set up camp on Haight Street, they finally settled on the stoop at 1609 Haight, where Toby lives. The first time they set up shop there, they made great tips and the acoustics were better than the street corner, so they stayed.
We asked Brough if anything crazy every happens during their Haight Street gigs. “Something crazy happens every day on Haight Street. It’s when normal things happen that really catches our attention.” Somehow, we believe that.
If you want to see them play a full set, they’ll be playing at Milk Bar on July 4th. She Haw, an all-girl country band, will open. Brough tells us they’ll be playing for over 2 hours, during which you’re likely to get to hear most of their catalog.
In the meantime, you can buy their stuff on iTunes, or, come out this weekend and watch ‘em work.