While most people on campus at the University of Houston were discussing marijuana in some way, shape or form - it was, after all, 4/20 - Aftermath, along with about 50 other people, were focused on the talented Hana Pestle. In our two years at UH, we've never seen so many people so intently paying attention to a visiting artist before. The heat and humidity got to Pestle's body, but it didn't touch her attitude; by the end of her 40-minute performance, she was sweaty and sunburned but still smiling and laughing. Playing at colleges has been, as Pestle puts it, "a learning experience... but that's the exciting part - winning over an audience and getting people to turn around and watch you." She definitely won us over. We walked outside of the University Center Satellite with a cup of coffee in hand and the intent to go eat off-campus, heard Pestle's voice and immediately delayed our plans for lunch. We were hoping she would be a local artist, which is unfortunately not the case, but nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the show.
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Pestle was born in Georgia, settled in Montana when she was in fifth grade - the same year she got her first guitar - and now lives in Los Angeles, where she works with Ben Moody, the former lead guitarist for Evanescence. Moody and Pestle met during her junior year of high school. She was playing a show, and a friend told her that a friend of a friend from Los Angeles would be there. Like any down-to-earth unsigned artist, she thought to herself, "Yeah, right." But a recording of her performance that night eventually made its way into the hands of Moody and his friend/business partner, Michael Herring. They loved it. "It was crazy," Pestle said, fondly remembering her senior year of high school, when everything started to take off. "I'd get my homework, fly to L.A. and then record." Pestle has released two CDs; one is simply her vocals and guitar, while the other is a fully produced album. We bought one of her full-length LPs. "Since I tour alone, we thought it would be a good idea to put out one CD where it's just me and my guitar," Pestle said. "Eventually, though, I'll take out a band with me on the road."
While her performance in Houston was simply her, her guitar and a looper (a jam man, which she uses to take full advantage of her wide vocal range and harmonize with herself), Pestle also plays the piano but emphasizes that she is self-taught: "I don't think I've really gotten to the point where I can say I'm a pianist, but I do it anyway." She laughed, and we smiled. Writing will be Pestle's primary concern for the near future. She has been playing her current set list for about five years, she said. We look forward to new content but, in the meantime, will enjoy her current album and be envious of her four-day stint in San Antonio. She'll be playing today, tomorrow and Saturday at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Enjoy the Riverwalk, we say, then come back to the H, where the real party is.