Saturday, October 16, 2010
J.J. Grey and Mofro
This year's weekly free outdoor concert series Live On The Green built on last year's solid foundation. With bands such as Dr. Dog, The Wailers, Five For Fighting, and Band of Horses, the scene got bigger and the crowds swelled. Sorry to say, I missed most of the shows but I did make it to the finale featuring J.J. Grey and Mofro and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. It was a perfect cool clear night for seeing free live music downtown.
With my backpack full of aluminum bottles that matched the beer vendors, I parked for free and walked the 8 blocks downtown towards the resonating funk. I arrived a few songs into Dumpstaphunk's set. This five piece from New Orleans was led by Ivan Neville, son of R&B superstar Aaron Neville. Their lineup included Ivan on B-3 and clavinet, Ian Neville on guitar, a bass player, a drummer, and a guy who switched back and forth between guitar and bass. I love the concept of two bass players. With Ivan on the clav, and both basses going, the funk meter, so to speak, was off the charts, which wasn't a surprise with that much Neville on stage. It seemed to come so naturally to them. I loved it when they introduced the next song as a "love song" and then busted into another complete funk fest instead of the usual slow sleeper. Then they went totally New Orleans when they invited about 20 ladies onstage for a number whose lyrics consisted mostly of "shake yo' sexy booty". This band was a lot of fun and in my mind, stole the show from Mofro.
That's not to say that J.J. and company didn't put on a helluva show. Grey came out with his usual saunter and played a really fun set, mostly consisting of songs off of his newest release Georgia Warhorse. The ever evolving lineup of the band included Derek Trucks' bass player Andrew Trube and the Hercules Horn Section. Daryl Hance was great on electric guitar but I gotta say that was the worst tone I have ever heard out of a Les Paul. I guess that's what you get when you run a Gibson through a Fender amp. I didn't think it was possible but that thing sounded less like a Les Paul and more like a Fender Strato-Tele-Mustang-caster, which is always a shame. The high end was ear splitting and the attack sounded like a kitten with a ball of string. Come on professional guitarists, get your gear straight. Anyway, the Florida based swamp rock driven by fat bass lines, a super-tight minimalist drummer, and heavy keyboards behind J.J.'s raspy voice and harmonica got the crowd fired up and into a sort of a "Mardi Gras meets Spring Break" atmosphere. Grey covered topics ranging from his "Gramomma's Cookin" to keeping development and high rises out of his home swamp land, two topics that I can totally relate to and support.
J.J. Grey and Mofro have been around in one form or another since the late 90's. I've seen them a few times and every time was a blast. J.J. knows how to connect with his peeps, whether he's playing guitar, harp, or just singing, it's like he's playing a field party in the swamp with all his buddies and a keg. I never really got into his records but the live shows are always worth an eight block hike with a backpack full of beer.