Music fans get ready to be transposed back to the 1930s when Pokey LaFarge and The South City Three (plus two horn players) descend upon Oskar Blues in Lyons on Friday, June 14, starting at 9 p.m. Only in their twenties themselves, these guys know how to delight modern-day audiences while evoking images of days gone by. Though heavily influenced by the greats of the 20’s and 30’s, these guys are no novelty act. They still manage to be authentic, original, fresh, and most important of all, fun!
The band writes and performs songs with titles like, “Keep Your Hands Off My Gal” and “So Long Honeybee, Goodbye.” They play an old-time
mix of folk and western swing. They dress in their grandfathers’ clothes. Before hearing their music, it’s hard to image their relevance to audiences today. Yet, by their second song of their set they usually have the audience in the palm of their hands.
LaFarge dons his trademark slicked back hair and holds his guitar like a shotgun. He is a classic showman, even offering the odd “hey baby” to the lucky ladies of the front row. He recruits the audience by giving them a special refrain to sing in almost every song. In between swinging dance tunes, LaFarge recalls tales of heartbreak, betrayal, and old time scoundrels. All this on the back of the singer’s incredible voice and some excellent instrumental playing from the South City Three, not to mention the horns.
The music is innovative and clever. The harmonica player’s imitation of a police siren is a rip-roaring crowd pleaser “He’s In The Jailhouse Now” earns extra cheers from the already ecstatic crowd. Whether you’re shouting the refrain of “Two Faced Tom” back to the band, or swing dancing with a fellow Pokey fan, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually in a 1930s dance hall on a Friday night. LaFarge and his band create the effect so effortlessly that you can’t help but wonder if they are from a different time.
In the past year alone, Pokey signed with Jack White’s Third Man Records, was honored with a second consecutive Best Americana Album win by the Independent Music Awards, joined Vince Giordano for a track featured on an episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and recorded alongside Jack White on his album Blunderbuss. His songwriting prowess not left behind, Pokey was also named an International Songwriting Competition finalist. As an opening act for Jack White’s tour, Pokey delighted sold out crowds at Red Rocks Amphitheater and Radio City Music Hall, among other prominent venues in America, Canada, and Europe. At only twenty-nine years old, Pokey’s career has not slowed in momentum since it began with his first release in 2007 shortly followed by “Beat, Move and Shake” (2008) and “Riverboat Soul” in (2010). Pokey has quickly graduated from breakthrough artist to a leading musical figure. Last year brought us a great “Live In Holland” CD, which captures the band as they are best, live. Another new CD was being released June 1, and Pokey and the big band are touring behind it.
We first hosted Pokey and band in May of 2009 and I thought that would be the last time I could get him into our little club because they were so good. But as luck would have it, I was offered another show with him that I could not pass up. Come and see a great band in an intimate setting. I know its not Red Rocks, but it is much cozier. Pokey Lafarge is on a mission, encouraging audiences worldwide to think differently about what it means to celebrate musical traditions. Simply put, Pokey explains, “It’s not retro music. It’s American music that never died.”