In Rear-View: Chuck Ragan

I was sitting in the back of my friend’s beaten up mini van when I heard Hot Water Music and Chuck Ragan’s raw vocals for the first time. The grit and gravel in his voice

I was sitting in the back of my friend’s beaten up mini van when I heard Hot Water Music and Chuck Ragan’s raw vocals for the first time. The grit and gravel in his voice and the depth of the lyrics were far different than the melodic punk that was typically played in this particular crap-mobile. When the group disbanded in 2005, Chuck began releasing his own solo albums. His independent work had the same attitude as Hot Water Music, but he chose to continue the acoustic folk style similar to that his former band’s side project, Rumbleseat. Over the next seven years, he put out four studio albums and I was fortunate enough to be able to see him perform a number of those songs live for my birthday in Pittsburgh at Club Cafe.

I have to admit that my evening was made long before Chuck even took the stage. While Bret Kunash played there were rumors that Chuck was having a beer at the bar, but I didn’t see him there. I decided to go out for a smoke before the end of the set and guess who walks around the corner. Yep, the man himself. I wish that I could say that I played it cool, but I didn’t. My friend took control of the situation and went over to introduce himself. I finally unrolled my tongue long enough to ask for a picture for my birthday. He was super kind and gracious and I loved him even more at that point. 

We followed him inside and Chuck went on stage with his guitar and harmonica accompanied by Todd Beene on the Steel Pedal. He proceeded to open the show with one of my favorite songs, Nomad by Fate. His voice was just as emotional as I had imagined and the venue was small enough that you could get up close and personal with the performance. Over the course of the next hour or so he gave us one hell of a show and his genuine humble nature was at the forefront. 

The crowd went crazy and sung along at the top of their lungs when he played the favorite Get What You Give. This song is about having a reason to pick yourself up after being down. It’s something that the crowd could relate to and there was something extremely powerful about 200+ people singing in unison. Before he played his acoustic cover of  Hot Water Music’s Drag My Body, he explained that the song was about living fast and running hard and the sacrifices that come from it. I love this song and the deep personal meaning that it had for me when I am going through one of life’s rough patches. He certainly met my expectations when belting out the lyrics and he proved that punk rock can be heartfelt.

The set ended with Gathering Wood, a song about sticking together and being there for each other when the road gets hard. I was fortunate enough to see this show with a bunch of my favorite people so it was easy to grab my friends around their shoulders and sing about how much they mean to me. By far, this was my favorite of the night as I watched Chuck and Todd get funky with the song. The soul coming from the stage was infectious and everyone was dancing and grooving along with them. Multiple times throughout his show and after his encore of Meet You in the Middle, he mentioned that it was a huge honor for him to play for us. However, after the performance that we all received that evening, I can assure him that the honor was ours. CHUCK YEAH!!

Setlist 

Nomad By FateGod Deciding
Nothing Left to ProveDrag My Body
VagabondWhat We Leave Behind
RevvedFlame in the Flood
RotterdamCalifornia Burritos
Wish on the MoonThe Boat
You Get What You GiveGathering Wood
Something May Catch FireMeet You in the Middle

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