Jon Hardy and The Public
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Jon Hardy and The Public

Band Rock Americana


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Playback STL"

Jon Hardy & the Public: On the Porch

In many cases, opening bands are practically designed to be ignored, especially when the opener is a one-shot performance from a local artist. Oftentimes, these bands get the unenviable task of simply providing the background for spaced-out bar patrons awaiting the stars of the evening and maybe, if they’re lucky, they get to sell a T-shirt or two. I was certainly expecting to easily ignore a new, little-known local band called The North Country when they took to the stage at the Galaxy in March 2003 to open for Canadian indie-pop darlings Tegan and Sara, but that was, frankly, impossible. This was roots rock at its finest, with aching, mournful lyrics sung in a yearning moan over gently strummed acoustic guitars and slow, measured violin. The musicians clicked in a way that made them seem like brothers, neighbors, and lifelong friends who had been working out these songs on hot summer nights out on the porch for as long as they could remember.

Not quite. “Yeah, we had been playing together for, what, about two or three months,” remarks Jon Hardy, who fronted The North Country and leads its new incarnation as Jon Hardy & the Public, when I told him about my introduction to the band. The Public operates as a foursome, with Hardy’s voice, guitar, and the occasional piano and organ joined by Seth Pendergrass on percussion, Greg MacNair on violin, and Shaun Lee on bass, who has been playing with Hardy since before The North Country days. What brought about the name change? “For one thing, people would always get the name wrong,” says Hardy, “like they would say ‘North County’ or whatever. Also, we were looking for something that was more ambiguous and not as easy to peg.”

A more ambiguous name is only fitting, given the much more varied sonic palette that the band has developed over the last two years. Make Me Like Gold, their first full-length, builds upon the band’s innate alt-county sound by adding a variety of rock influences. Album opener “Grand Canyon Meltdown” belies a definite Doors influence, made even more pronounced on the following track, “The Flood,” in which Hardy barks dark, drugged-out poetry easily worthy of Jim Morrison (“Without words there’s no tomorrow/The steeple wrapped in sorrow/But we want darkness and silence/And feel at peace in this violence”) over a relentless drumbeat that gives way to a tender, piano-led chorus with doo-wop backing vocals. The punky adrenaline of The Replacements lets loose on “Lost in San Quentin”; “The King of Main Street” wouldn’t feel out of place on a late-’60s Bob Dylan record, but the most instantly likable song award goes to “Cassius Clay,” which features a lovely harmony vocal by Rachel Huertas that plays like Natalie Merchant dueting with Jeff Tweedy.

The country influence pokes out on the downtrodden “Fire,” built on a low key organ figure, Hardy’s hard-strummed electric, and some dark, depressed strings from MacNair, and there’s plenty more slow, sad songs to cry into your beer to on the back half of the album, as well. The dark folk of “Radioman,” “What They Say,” and “Prophet Blues” form a suitably dark triptych, but the album reaches its most heart-wrenching point on the closer “Running Hot,” an elegant lament set to a tender organ playing a funeral march. Make Me Like Gold was recorded by local producer Chris Deckard of The Penny Studio. Known for working with decidedly noisier bands like The Conformists, Deckard seems an odd choice, but his hands-off production gives the album a raw, unrefined quality that very much works to its benefit.

Jon Hardy & the Public have pulled opening duties for a number of national touring acts, including the Pernice Brothers, Brandtson, and a double bill featuring John Vanderslice and Okkervil River. Their sound plays especially well in Chicago, where the band played a show at Paddy Mac’s this past October. “We were supposed to play a much bigger show that fell through,” Hardy recalls. “We ended up basically playing as the bar band. The next night, we played a show in Milwaukee and all these people told us that their friends in Chicago called up and told them, ‘You have to see this band.’”

The Public hopes to spread their fanbase even farther with their upcoming visit to the Midwest Music Summit (in part, sponsored by PlaybackSTL, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention) in Indianapolis late this July. What can fans look forward to at their MMS shows? Turns out that the band will debut some fresh new material at the show. “Actually, we’ll be recording right before we leave,” Hardy reports. “About five new songs.” Does this recording activity mean that a sophomore album, or perhaps a follow-up EP, is in the works? Not quite yet, says Hardy, but the songs will be available on The Public’s page. The uninitiated would do well to check out the songs for a sample of a band that’s definitely worth paying attention to.
| Jason Green

- Jason Green

"UK Press"

Jon Hardy and The Public - Make Me Like Gold

Phew, has this guy got his demons! Reputedly the son of an itinerant preacher, and one time child preacher himself, Jon Hardy brings us a hard-hitting set of songs studded throughout with religious imagery. He's not trying to convert us to Jesus, though, but rather wrestling in public with his doubts and fears. He comes back time and again to our ultimate loneliness; in the song "Time", for example he contemplates his abandonment of (or by) faith and by those he thought loved him and concludes "I myself must bear this weight".All this to a fairly bleak arrangement offset by a very sweet fiddle part. One of the considerable strengths of this album, in fact, is the very varied musical texture, from the sharp, aggressive rock of "Grand Canyon Meltdown" to the bare simplicity of acoustic guitar and voice on "What They Say", a love song colured with a desperate need to love and be loved. A church organ makes a few appearances to drive home the religious associations; "Grand Canyon Meltdown" has disconcerting lyrical echoes of "Bohemian Rhapsody": "Mama, there's blood upon my hands, and it ain't mine, mine, mine", but where the Queen song was a pile of flippant nonsense, this is entirely bleak and serious - as is the entire album. As with "On The Beach", there's something fantastically compelling about somebody prepared to lay themselves so bare in public, and I admire him for it. Not a comfortable listen then, but very well worthwhile.

John Davey

- Net Rhythms UK

"Blog review"

These guys scare me a little; but in a good way. Not sure why? The Lyrics? The music? Their story? They are cloaked in a bit of mystery and legend that makes it all the more enticing. It's a twisted country-noir sound that will have you under it's spell in no time. Just don't drink the Kool-Aid kids.

At first listen Jon Hardy and The Public reminded me a little of one of my favorites, Frank Black and The Catholics. Check out what No Depression magazine had to say about their debut release, Make Me Like Gold.

Listen to more Jon Hardy and The Public at their MySpace page.

- Your Standard Life

"No Depression Review"

No Depression review of Make Me Like Gold in the Nov/Dec. issue of 2005 by, Ed Ward

Its gotta be Americana; it's got a flag on the cover. But.... what is it? And who are these people?

Jon Hardy and the Public seem to be a real band, based somewhere around St. Louis. They don't play often because, well, there are a lot of bands out there in the Midwest, and they're just one of them. They have a website (, from which you can buy this CD for eleven dollars, including postage.

I recommend you do that. Now, I have no way of knowing if the bios of the band member on the website are true or not. If they are, this is a fairly remarkable mix of experiences and may explain the individuality of the record. If they aren't, the creativity that went into making them up shows on the album.

All I know is that this CD came in the mail one day and, along with a pile of other CDs sent to me by readers of this magazine, I played it one night, and it stood out. A lot. Maybe it was the Neil Young-ish guitar that started the first song, "Grand Canyon Meltdown," Or the song's stark, scary lyrics. Or maybe it was Hardyâs way with a melody, as on "Cassius Clay," which took hold right away. I have to admit that I was amazed when the last track, "Running Hot," was delivered to the accompaniment of an honest-to-Bach pipe organ, enough so that I didnât notice the lyrics were a little weak for several more plays.

The more I played Make me like Gold, the more I heard that I liked. Thereâs the strangely engaging little computer program playing underneath the first half of "Prophet Blues," a song best described as Bowie's "Space Oddity" as composed by The Band, with a nod toward the Flaming Lips' "Race for the Prize." The way Seth Pendergrass' drumming is solid enough to sustain dub-like sections with bassist Shaun Lee here and there, as well as being able to propel the band through moments of near-frenzy. The flat-out Dylan sound of "King of Main Street." The overall weirdness

My final judgement was that this record is about as original as any grass-roots recording by a guitar-based band is going to get at this late date. Do they sound like this live? Probably, or at least somewhat. Is some of it derivative? Inevitable, but itâs where they're doing their deriving, some of which mentioned above, thatâs important.

There are too many records being made by competent people these days, and no way to get an overview on the thousands upon thousands of them. The needle pins at average and not much pushes past that. This does. Maybe there are loads of bands better than this. I havenât heard them, so Jon Hardy and the Public are, for me, a rare find.

I hope Hardy's got more albums in him, because he's doing fascinating work. In fact, of late- we've been corresponding some in the six months since I got the CD, and heâs pointed me to some MP3s of recently recorded stuff- heâs gotten even more confident and well, add: "This House Shall Fall" starts with much guitar, sinks down to an acoustic thing and then huge hunks of near silence, before it picks up again. The more I listen to his stuff, the more the Hieronymous Bosch critters on the website (Hardy didn't seem aware of who Bosch was, strangely enough) makes sense.

I hope I'm not the only man who gets to hear him; I hope he doesn't get lost in the torrent.

Go ahead. Risk eleven bucks. I don't think you'll be sorry.

- No Depression, Ed Ward

"Radar Station"

Local Debut Song of the Year: Jon Hardy and The Public, "Newark"

Jon Hardy and The Public came out of nowhere and quickly captured some ears with their great debut EP, 5 Songs. The leadoff track, "Newark," is a slam-dunk: Catchy and moving, with humming violins and keyboards backing a solid melody and enigmatic but arresting lyrics, "Newark" places Jon Hardy and The Public at the head of the pack of local up-and-comers.
- The Riverfront Times

"St. Louis Press"

Jon Hardy and The Public, 5 Songs: I admit it. I let 5 Songs sit on my desk for a while. The hand-drawn cover just screamed "another alt-country retread." What a pleasant surprise these former members of Shelby and Sons of Shame gave me: Bare-boned and crystal clear, these songs show that no genre is ever mined out as long as there are artists with sharp eyes for spotting gold. The secret weapon is the atmospheric violin of Greg MacNair, who almost escapes your notice on first listen, but adds density (and therefore gravity) to the tracks. Jon Hardy's more out-front gifts as a singer are bolstered by some sweet backup harmonizing from the rest of the band. You can check them out at their CD release party at the Rocket Bar October 17.

- The Riverfront Times


"5 Songs" EP released in 2003
"Make Me Like Gold" LP released in 2005
"Obervances" EP released in 2005
Songs are streaming live at
Various songs from "Make Me Like Gold" are being played in regular rotation on KDHX,, KWUR, and many other community radio stations across the country.



Who knows how they all came together. Chalk it up to strange grace or some rarefied stroke of fortune. If you ask them, you're liable to get four different stories. And they'll probably all bear some small resemblance to the real way it all went down, but make no mistake, that tale is long lost.

Sometimes, particularly in the minds of those prone to wander, memories like that, once fluid in their recall, just slowly blend into the deep patchwork of the brain. And to be sure, all of these boys have lived the wandering life.
Full Biography at