Pokey LaFarge, Esther Rose, and Matt Rouch and The Noise Upstairs at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, CO on 9/19/17.

Pokey LaFarge – All photos by
 The Rock and Roll Princess

It felt like you were walking into a juke joint in the 1940’s. Part of the crowd was dressed in vintage attire, others were wearing their everyday concert wear, and one annoying guy in a red cap was drinking too much for a Tuesday. They were gearing up to witness the old music charm of Pokey LaFarge (born Andrew Heissler). His mother nicknamed him Pokey for being too slow and it stuck. Since leaving home at the age of seventeen, LaFarge has been playing a mix of country, blues, and jazz from a bygone era. In the beginning, LaFarge played his old timey music by himself mainly busking on the streets. In 2009, his band The South City Three started to accompany him. That led to opportunities to perform in bigger venues, on television (Boardwalk Empire), and with my Lord and Savior Jack White. LaFarge and the band were recruited to play on White’s first solo record and be the supporting act on his 2012 Blunderbuss World Tour.

Pokey LaFarge and Ryan Koenig

The evening started with Devil Ain’t Lazy with only Pokey LaFarge and the South Side Three on stage. The frantic pace of the song energized the audience immediately. Ryan Koenig played an amazing harmonica solo while his mouth harp disappeared in his bushy beard. Stand up bass player Joey Glynn and lead guitar player Adam Hoskins backing vocals made the song sound like your grandparents’ records without the scratches. Drummer Matthew Meyer joined them for Won’tcha Please Don’t Do It giving the band a more rock vibe. Trumpet player Luc Klein and saxophonist Ryan Weisheit came out later for Something in the Water. This allowed Pokey LaFarge to dive more deeply into his jazzier side. The guy in the red cap started to scream “YEAH” after every verse of the song.

Pokey LaFarge and his band

 LaFarge introduced the song Silent Movie by confessing how horrified he was about the recent riots in his home of St. Louis. “It’s not about politics. It’s about humanity.” The song lyrics explain, “It’s hard for me to say this/Without feeling bad/I see people fighting/All over this land/All the rights are wrong/We couldn’t get along, if we tried.” The guy in the red cap pointed to the band in agreement after every verse.

Pokey LaFarge

LaFarge shared his heartbreaking tale of his first trip to Colorado. A Colorado University student at the famous Oregon Country Fair swept him off his feet. LaFarge hitchhiked to the Rocky Mountains to follow her. During his long journey, LaFarge picked up lice (just one more reason not to hitchhike). When he finally reunited with the object of his desire, she rejected him because of …. his lice. This led to the ballad Josephine showcasing LaFarge’s remarkable finger picking. The song Mother Nature spotlighted Luc Klein’s stunning trumpet playing that was captured on their latest album Manic Revelations that Klein co-produced. The night ended with LaFarge confessing he recently smoked pot with Huey Lewis (the Hip to be Square guy) at a Chuck Berry tribute concert.  It was the perfect introduction to The Father of Rock and Roll’s You Never Can Tell made famous from the John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing scene in the movie Pulp Fiction. The guy in the red cap held up his empty beer cup toasting the band after every verse.

Esther Rose

Before the man with the slow name started, Esther Rose took the stage. The New Orleans singer’s music is a combination of country and folk with a tinge of western swing. Rose’s deeply personal songs were conjured up as she navigated her bicycle through the streets of the French Quarter. Rose demanded, “If anyone has ever been to New Orleans, get up and dance.” She was on a mission to dance herself while traveling in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s where Rose discovered her fiddle player who helped transform her live performance from folk to country.  Her dancing mission continued as she cut a rug with audience members when Pokey LaFarge was on stage. The guy in the red cap was too busy drinking to notice.

Matt Rouch and The Noise Upstairs

Denver’s own Matt Rouch and The Noise Upstairs started the night off with a crowd-pleasing set of alt-country sounds. Rouch acknowledged the gated barrier in front of the stage and joked, “It’s protecting us from this dangerous crowd.” The band formed at an open mic night in Denver, CO.  One of the highlights was their song Black Noon Dawn. It described dark imagery with an upbeat melody featuring classically trained violinist Alex Fostar. The guy in the red cap was probably finishing off a six-pack in the parking lot.

See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one staying away from that guy in the red cap.  I hate that guy.

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