Saturday, February 23, 2008

JJ Grey and Mofro: Tampa, Fla. 2/22/08

Friday night, I attended the first part of JJ Grey and Mofro's epic two-day concert at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa, Fl. For those who never heard of Mofro, Billboard describes their latest album as

"A glorious, soul-drenched delight...down-home funk, blues and Dixie-fried rock, unmistakably Southern, undeniably soulful"

I'll admit, I caught on to the Mofro bandwagon kinda late. Although I heard about them while I was in Tallahassee, the only album I have is their latest, Country Ghetto. But after hearing that, and having numerous people tell me that their show is not to be missed, I took the chance to see them live.

About the show:

In a word: amazing. Although I didn't know more than half of Mofro's songs (those from their first two albums), the band lived up to expectations. A lot of groove, soul, blues, and southern-rock. Stuff that makes me proud to live in the south. And that's what JJ Grey tries to do: invoke a non-redneck southern pride. Not the Dixie flag-waving Confederate type of pride, but a different, back-to-nature, "oh-why-are-they-building-another-housing-development?"-type of Florida pride. So many of the songs lament of things and times long gone, where grandma's home-cookin' of grits, cornbread, collar greens, and fried chicken made it worth getting up on Sunday. Musically, Mofro incorporates trumpet, sax, slide guitar, blues harp, and piano to a drum beat full of funk. For some reason I thought the saxophone was really impressive. I haven't seen one of those live in a long time.

As mentioned, I only knew about a third of the band's songs. Most of the crowd however, knew all of them, which led to some interesting call and response sing-alongs. Surprisingly, for a blues club the call and response that disappointed me the most was Mofro's cover of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Workin'". At first, most of the crowd didn't know to respond. Fortunately, they got it quick. Or I would have had to slap someone.

About the venue and crowd:

Skipper's Smokehouse is one of those new-age blues venues. Not quite the old juke joint, it's a good place to see live music. Hippie memorabilia, old show posters, and other random miscellanea decorate the walls. As it doubles as a restaurant, there is the whole seafood, beach vibe going on. Nothing wrong with that.

The crowd, however, took some getting used to. Granted, there were some beautiful college-age women there, but accompanying them was some of the most rudest people I've ever been in a crowd with. People who see an inch between two people, and they think they can fit themselves and their girlfriend, her friends, and their boyfriends closer to the stage. At heavy metal shows these are the first people to get pushed into the mosh pit. Trust me, the band doesn't get even better when you are two feet closer.

Oh, one more complaint. To those who smoke out at the show: if you don't bring enough to share, please get high before you show up. Thanks.

(Note: Pic not from Friday night's show. Acquired via Google images.)

1 comment:

Clay said...

Hey Jordi...good concert review. Skipper's is a great venue, but it does get a little crazy for a Mofro show. Truth is they've outgrown it, but JJ insists on playing there.

They sold out both shows earlier than they ever have before. They could sell out a 3rd night if they wanted.

But, you're right, there are some rude people out there, and it's equally offensive between women and men. (I saw a near-fight; between 2 women. Skipper's, in 28 years of business, has never had to employ a bouncer...fights there are very rare.)

I saw Mofro both nights, as well as the night before at the Culture Room in Ft. Laud, and the night after at The Social in Orlando. All were great, but if I had to rank them, the Orlando show was their hottest. Sold-out crowd of 300 ready to party into the a.m. on a Sunday/Monday--gotta love it.

Been to over 20 shows in the past year or so; I can tell you the addition of Art (sax) and Dennis (trumpet) has been a real treat.

They just came on board last February; before that it was just the 4 guys (including JJ), although there have been quite a few variations to the band line-up over the years.

They have horns on Blackwater (their first CD) but are interstingly sparse to none on their second, Lochloosa. Country Ghetto wouldn't be the record it is without the horns.

The horn section makes such a huge difference in the feel of their sets now--even more lively. And watching the 2 guys try to outstep each other is fun too. Yep, Art plays a mean sax and is a teddy bear too--got that Memphis twang, and so nice...he takes a real interest in people when talking to them, he's very genuine.

Check out the fansite at www.mofrofans.com to see pictures of all 4 shows--they're not up yet, but will be in a few days.

Thanks for letting the world know about your Mofro experience!

Clay

Oh, P.S. Share? At $20/g for Dro?Next time, roll your own. Skipper's only turns their heads so much for that sort of thing (unlike Ft Laud where I think they must have a grow closet in-house, I swear), so people in-the-know there are aware that they could get throwed out (I seen it more than once). Most try to maintain a very discreet position. Plus, Friday night's show was family night. We were right up front, and there were kids to the left and kids to the right (it was an all-ages show.) Saturday wasn't a kid in sight.