Local 913, Episode 71: Bindley Hardware Co.
About a year ago, Pittsburgh native Jon Bindley formed the band Bindley Hardware Co. borrowing the name from some family history:
“It goes all the way back to my great-great grandfather. His uncle was a wholesale hardware distributor. I think they started around the late 1800s. There was a building in Shadyside that is now apartments and there was also a building downtown. It was one of the biggest distributors and providers during that booming period.”
Bindley has just recently moved back to town after living in Nashville for two years pursuing a solo career and perfecting his craft. He found inspiration while he was away for the song “The Ballad of Manuel Garcia:”
“I was in Nashville and was soooo successful as a songwriter that I got to work at a cantina as a bar back and a bus boy. I had never met anyone from Guatemala or Honduras. I would hang out with the guys in the kitchen a lot and I struck up some genuine friendships. I learned a little bit about ranchero music. I am heavily influenced by the Tex-Mex folk: Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Romance in Durango with Dylan. That sort of thing had always struck me as so interesting with Country music and Latin music having some sort of overlap.”
Sound Scene Express
Grandadchilds and Bindley Hardware Co. Rock the Speakeasy
Descending into the dimly-lit Speakeasy at James Street Gastropub on the North Side evokes a certain vibe: a sense of old-school cool, of intimacy, a feeling that what you’re coming down there to see is a lesser-known diamond in the rough. For fans of folk, blues, and funk alike, Thursday night’s show proved the accuracy of that premonition. Featuring Grandadchilds as the headliner, with openers Bindley Hardware Company and Pop Thief & The Grand Larceny, what marked this show more than anything else was a sense of fun. Both the musicians and the audience members were enthusiastic and clearly enjoying themselves. Whether sitting at a booth, at the bar, or getting up close and personal in front of the stage, guests enjoyed both great tunes and good vibes.
Pop Thief & The Grand Larceny kicked things off a little after 8:30. A Philadelphia transplant which now calls Pittsburgh home, the band describes their sound as a mixture of Afropunk, neo-soul, and R&B, citing such influences as James Brown and Bootsy Collins. Comprised of lead singer/guitarist Virgil Hawkins, bassist Forrest K., and drummer Zach L., their funky rhythms and fast-paced lyrical dexterity shone through in their short set. It was an unexpected and delightful way to start the evening, keeping the crowd nodding their heads to the groove. Their next gig is on Friday, May 27th, opening for the Scroll Downers at Brillobox.
Next up was Bindley Hardware Company. Led by frontman Jon Bindley, three recent lineup changes expanded the former five-piece to six members. Ryan Kantner (on stand-up bass), Christopher Putt (on backup vocals/electric guitar), and Greg Marchetti (on keys and accordion) have been playing with BHC for about six weeks. Drummer Brian Ganch, who also drums for Lovedrug and Balloon Ride Fantasy, and electric violinist Waylon Richmond have been part of the Hardware Company lineup for years. Their sound was cohesive and full, a mark of musicians who both enjoy and know what they’re doing. The addition of keyboards and accordions provided a great new dimension to BHC’s folk-rock, classic Americana sound.
They opened with “Left Well Alone,” a midtempo tune that advises listeners not to “go messin’ with a natural progression.” During the song’s final chorus, Bindley pointed to his friends in various places in the audience, remarking “You know, you know, you know, you know, and you know…” before moving into the last line: “It’s best, if it’s left well alone.” Following that was “The Ballad of Manuel Garcia,” long a staple in BHC shows but recently debuted as a studio track on the new two-song release by the band, titled “Vol. I.” They then moved into Vol. I’s other song, “Stars and Stripes,” which Bindley described as a “sarcastic national anthem, if you can get with that.” The audience certainly could get with that: when Bindley asked if he could get an “awooo,” they howled back without hesitation. Next up was “Penelope,” another BHC standby, followed by “Future Trippin’.” Bindley introduced the latter by saying, “Who’s got shit to do tomorrow?” Several audience members raised their hands, to which he replied “Fuhgeddaboutit,” and provided the context for the song: constantly worrying about the future instead of enjoying the present.
For their next track, “Water,” which was released in 2013 on Bindley’s “Son of Someone” EP, the band was joined by Kay Rush, a violinist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the mother of John Rushlander, frontman of Grandadchilds. (Waylon sat this one out.) Her remarkably skillful additions made a strong case for talent being at least partially genetic. Bindley reveled in the collaboration, smiling and dancing around his bandmates, and occasionally venturing among the concert-goers. Their penultimate song, “Hey There (You’re Alive),” was preceded with “This is for anyone who’s got dead homies, I know we all got dead homies.” A soothing, melancholy-yet-hopeful number, it celebrates the gift of life, despite whatever hardships are faced, from the perspective of the deceased. This sentiment was epitomized in the line, “The time on your hands is worth more than gold.” They wrapped up their set with the uptempo, crowd-pleasing ode to Pittsburgh, “Three Rivers.” Bindley intermittently stepped away from the mic to hear the crowd sing during the song’s final bridge: a repeated anthem of “Monongahela! Ohio! Allegheny!” Both the city pride and the voices were strong, and Bindley remarked genuinely, “You sound beautiful.” It was an engaging, entertaining performance—and if you missed them this time, their next show is this coming Friday, May 27th, at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
When Grandadchilds took the stage around 10 PM, opening with the groovy, energetic “Terracotta Skyline,” the audience’s enthusiasm was immediate and infectious: several people in the front started dancing. The three-piece band is the newest outfit for John Kono “Moon Cat” Rushlander, the second student to have an EP produced by Point Park University’s record label, Pioneer Records. He’s previously performed both as a solo act and as one half of the duo Red Meat and Whiskey. His current lineup includes two bandmates, Tyler McLaughlin on bass and Evan Pearson on drums. They complement his skill as an electric guitarist and vocalist, and make for a talent-packed trio whose musical compatibility and genuine enjoyment of what they do is obvious to everyone who watches them. Their blues rock sound is equal parts powerful and heartfelt, energetic and nuanced, straightforward and skillful.
The second song was “Captain,” which Rushlander preceded by flattering the crowd with, “There are some really good-looking people in this room.” They then moved into “Billy Raynes,” followed by “Jabberwocky Blues,” a tune Rushlander used to play by himself, but the added instrumentation turned it into a driving powerhouse of a number. It also allowed him to take one of many extended guitar solos, whose staggering fluidity indicated not only immense technical skill, but an authentic, intuitive feel for how the blues—his blues—should sound. One audience member showed his appreciation by playing on the band’s name, yelling, “Love you, gramps!” Rushlander responded in kind with a smile. Next, they played “Beautiful Alien” for the first time ever, fittingly described as “very new, very fresh, very virgin.” It was a standout among standouts that night: the crowd absolutely loved it, cheering a couple of times midsong, particularly after Pearson completed an impressive drum solo. The band revealed afterwards that the song had been written only the night before. If its reception was any indication, it will likely show up in future Grandadchilds sets.
They kept the momentum going with “Just Got Paid,” “Go Around,” (during which Bindley and Ganch from BHC were spotted dancing along at the front of the crowd), and a spirited cover of Slim Harpo’s “I’m A King Bee.” They followed that up with “Horseman,” and then Bindley joined them onstage for a cover of the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young tune, “Almost Cut My Hair.” Bindley’s acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals allowed Rushlander to focus solely on a face-melting, cheer-inducing distorted guitar solo. Afterwards, seemingly caught up in the fun they (and the crowd) were having, the trio moved into an instrumental jam, with some lyrics towards the end advising that you “can’t ever lose if you’re born to love.”
By this point it was past midnight, and while some audience members had departed, those that remained fed off the band’s unfaltering energy, continuing to dance and cheer with gusto. The band closed out their set with their take on the blues classic, “Crossroads,” and another standby from Rushlander’s solo days, “Crystal Ball.”
It was a night defined by pure fun, authenticity, and raw talent. Grandadchilds’ next show is happening this coming Saturday, May 28th, also at James Street Gastropub, as part of the Memorial Day Weekend Ballroom Bash. They’ll also be playing the Layer Cake Festival, returning to the Speakeasy at 7 PM on June 3rd. If you have even the smallest amount of love for rock or the blues, they’re an act you definitely won’t want to miss.
SOMEONE TO WATCH: JON BINDLEY
Over the course of his new EP Son of Someone, Jon Bindley treads an emotional tightrope, balancing lofty romantic notions with practical life experiences. The proud Pittsburgh native turned Nashville resident explores the highs and lows associated with commitment in this winning three-song primer, touching on returned, unrequited, and diminishing affection. Ultimately, he concludes that while relationships and lives may fade away, love bears its own inexplicable legacy .
Helmed by Justin Loucks and Jeremy Lister, Son of Someone features appealing production that draws on a diverse array of sounds. Folk-country charmer “Full-Time Fool” opens the set, incorporating humor and pathos. Undeterred by his lack of professional accomplishment or skill, the narrator declares himself a “full-time lover” who subsequently becomes a full-time fool when his beloved no longer returns his feelings. He wryly muses in the bridge, “Love is a labor/I’ve been working while I can/Trying to use my heart/Not just my hands/So I don’t get left behind/In that unemployment line/When I’m an older man.” The song’s jaunty instrumentation echoes Bindley’s self-aware lament, emphasizing both the bitter and sweet elements of the narrator’s predicament.
The understated “Water” also details the state of a couple that exists “separate[ly] and together” in the midst of a period of self-discovery. In this particular case, the pair is on the verge of making its break permanent when the narrator refuses to settle in a dead-end relationship. Interspersed by guttural cries that foreshadow the relationship’s end, Bindley’s staunch insistence that the split is for the best carries the song to a satisfying conclusion.
Conversely, the atmospheric pop of “Infinity” speaks to the pleasures of being tied to one’s better half forever. The song’s dreamy sentiments, co-written with Richie Lister, are grounded by the acknowledgement of both man’s inevitable mortality and eternal influence. “I’m just the son of someone of someone of someone I never met/After I’m gone it will go on and on like that,” Bindley notes of his place in the world, capturing both the intimacy and breadth of the song. When he promises that his love can depend on him, his confident delivery makes the audience inclined to believe him.
While the songs on Son of Someone can stand on their own, taken together they form a broader and welcome introduction to Bindley’s thoughtful songcraft. Based on this small taste, he’ll be someone worth watching.