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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Pokey Lafarge July 2013

Pokey Lafarge  |  Petit Campus

POKEY IN REAL TIME  |  NATHAN NAVIDZADEH
       PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

Look-see the young chap’s pompadour and the well curled tips of that fine girl’s eyelashes!

Slurping on the thickest milkshake, I walk up rue Saint-Laurent. With the straw still nuzzling my lips, I’m reminded of a more innocent time: red light, green light, 1-2-3. It’s as if the creamy chocolate swirls that caress my palette induce a glaze over my eyes. I walk up the sidewalk with the sun shining on my smiling face. I spot a crowd of proper blokes sporting newsboy caps and flapper girls smoking outside the venue’s entrance. My arrival at Petit Campus is just short of being surreal, in an old fashion Technicolor kind of way. I take a final (and serious) swig of my chocolate shake and make my way in to see tonight’s show: Pokey LaFarge.

The charming attire that I observed upon walking through the doors made complete sense when I saw the band walk on stage. A time warp to an era just before the Great Depression is what it felt like, a 1920’s St.Louis slick swagger, if I may.  The 5-piece ensemble stood before me: Ryan Koenig on harmonica and percussion including his custom washboard, Joey Glynn, who fashioned some mean mutton chops on upright bass and Adam Hoskins on guitar formed the South City Three. In addition, Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet and saxophone and the youngest lad TJ Muller on cornet and trombone completed the ensemble. But where was Pokey? The band was fully placed and ready to go when, casually, Pokey made his way onto the stage. He wore a three-piece suit and a charming smile. The audience watched as he picked up his guitar and said to us,  “I’m going to take you back to St.Louis now ok?” 

Their style of music breathed life back through our lungs after nearly a century of retirement. It was the type of storytelling that had the audience sit down and listen for a while, the type of blues that made us smile as we acknowledged the sentiment, the type of rockabilly swing that had us dancing along to just a bass line and some horns. Chloe brought us through melodic transgressions and lifted our spirits out of this material world. She shared with us her soul through the wind she huffed through her clarinet. As though she was speaking to us, her solos went from quiet and sultry to explosive and passionate. Ryan was outrageous on the harmonica. Not only were his melodies able to heighten the feeling of a verse, but the manner in which he fired his solos at us may have heightened our general sense of arousal. It was like his tongue was on rapid-fire as his mouth moved left and right across the harmonica. I was blushing. The songs often extended themselves into musical interludes as the group members took turns trying to out-shine each other. Quite literally, there was a time during their set in which guitarist Adam and Ryan went head to head and another time which featured Chloe on her clarinet versus TJ on his cornet. Their chemistry together was fantastic. The playful musical banter back and forth, along with the foot-tapping rhythms that Joey consistently gave us with his upright bass, made for great moments of cheer and laughter. Pokey was the glue that held it all together. His charisma was magnetic. When he spoke and when he sang, the audience listened. He easily had us all singing along. “Close the door!” we all shouted. “Close the door!” he’d sing with us. “Don’t let that doctor come in!” He would finish the verse as we all danced, bouncing here and there.

In between the songs, Pokey and the gang would try to get to know us by cracking jokes and asking questions. “Let’s slow it down,” he said. “We’re not the Usain Bolt of music. We’re the other guys.”
The first time he made reference to modern day pop culture felt odd initially, but it reminded us that although his music may be in the style of years past, that the artist is, indeed, living and breathing in our lifetime. This reminder lead to a refreshing realization that allowed me to hear every song in a new light. Simply knowing that he wrote those songs while living in modern times made me feel that they were now genuinely relatable. Another thought warmed my heart: this whole night felt like a true time capsule. In a previous lifetime, people shared this style of musical expression. They enjoyed it. It was just as relevant and relatable for them as it was for us now. And as surreal as the night had started, I somehow felt connected to the past. As if I had shared an experience with folks that had lived their lives circa 80 years ago.

An encore followed by a double-encore with shots of whisky being toasted to the audience and the night, ends an evening full of laughter and good times. The quality and the authenticity of the performance spoke far beyond their written feats. Jack White discovered Pokey LaFarge while listening to some Nashville radio waves and he liked his voice so much that he called him to work together. After doing a single on Jack's debut solo album, Pokey toured with White for numerous shows and finally recorded an album in 2011 with Jack’s record label Third Man Records titled “Chittlin' Cookin' Time in Cheatham County”. He released two more albums since then, performed and worked with many more artists, had a gig on David Letterman in July 2013, and just released his second album with Third Man Records simply called “Pokey LaFarge”. Keep an eye out for the next time the band is in town and 'till then, sit yourself down with your favorite beverage and get yourself some Pokey, ya’ hear?


More photos of Pokey Lafarge and opening act, Old Time Honey
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