July 23, 2017

Packed into a tiny, black box theater in the upstairs of an old church in Pittsburgh, PA, a few dozen people sat on the floor to see Brian Swindle (of Have Mercy) and Chase Huglin play acoustic sets. The musicians, along with two local bands, took turns sitting on bar stools on the tiny stage, lit from behind with strings of twinkling fairy lights. The musicians bantered back and forth with audience members, with Chase telling jokes while he re-tuned his guitar mid-set, and Brian telling stories from the road and asking people to shout out songs they wanted to hear instead of following a strict setlist.

Each musician in the lineup gave a very low-key performance, but Brian’s really stood out due to the fact that fans are used to hearing him in a rougher, rock setting alongside the rest of Have Mercy. This time around, all of the songs were stripped down and very intimate, giving the typically grungy tunes a whole new perspective.

While the atmosphere as a whole was mostly lighthearted, this show happened just hours after the news of Chester Bennington’s death. Brian and Chase both spoke briefly about his passing, and about their dealings with depression and suicide. Furthermore, they reminded audience members about the importance of talking with loved ones, and even offered an ear to listen to anyone in attendance who needed to talk. Rather than casting a dark cloud over the performance, their discussions seemed to bring the audience together in a beautiful way.

At the end of the evening, the musicians extended genuine words of appreciation to the single technician that set up and controlled the sound, and stayed long after the show was over to talk and drink with everyone in the room. With people sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor, and everyone chatting and laughing throughout the evening, the environment seemed less like a concert and more like a gathering of friends. A shared love of music brought people into the room, and it left everyone feeling as though they shared more than just a similar taste in music.






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