Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pokey LaFarge at the Bowery Ballroom

Andrew Heissler was reportedly nicknamed "Pokey" as a child by his mother in Bloomington, Illinois, as she repeatedly scolded him to hurry. Pokey's grandfather, a member of the St. Louis Banjo Club, gave Pokey his first guitar and tenor banjo. In his early teens, while living in Normal, Illinois, Pokey's love of Americana grew when he first heard blues in a local pizza parlor. Then, after hearing Bill Monroe at age 16, Pokey traded his guitar for a mandolin. Pokey graduated from high school in 2001, and the 17-year-old Pokey hitchhiked to the West Coast and then to Ashville, North Carolina, busking on sidewalks and pedestrian malls along the way. He adopted the name Pokey LaFarge because it sounded like the musical direction he desired; this would later become the name of his band as well. Two albums received the Independent Music Award for Best Americana Album, and the band began getting better gigs and recording opportunities. Pokey LaFarge's seventh and most recent studio album, Manic Revelations, was released on May 19, 2017.

Headlining tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, Pokey LaFarge performed original songs founded in timeless music that sprung from both the heart and from the heartlands. LaFarge himself led the charge with smooth, crooning vocals, guitar and guitjo, and ably backed himself with Adam Hoskins (guitar), Joey Glynn (bass), Ryan Koenig (harmonica, washboard, guitar, guitjo), Luc Klein (trumpet), Ryan Weisheit (clarinet, saxophone), and Matthew Meyer (drums). Rooted in old-timey sounds, the songs avoided a dusty retro or nostalgic tone by featuring keen lyrics, pop melodies and lively arrangements. The set bounced with free and fresh takes on hot swing, early jazz, rolling ragtime, muddy blues, Appalachian folk, and front porch bluegrass. The musicians frequently were given moments to improvise and shine, which prevented the music from locking into one stiff genre and also further distanced the performance from becoming a novelty event. This was old-fashioned music with a biting new edge.

Visit Pokey LaFarge at

  1. Close the Door
  2. Knockin' the Dust Off the Rust Belt Tonight
  3. Something in the Water
  4. Better Man Than Me
  5. Goodbye, Barcelona
  6. Actin' a Fool
  7. Good Luck Charm
  8. Wanna Be Your Man
  9. Silent Movie
  10. Garbage Man Blues (Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three song)
  11. When Did You Leave Heaven
  12. Ryan Song
  13. Going to the Country
  14. You Can't Be Satisfied
  15. Must Be A Reason
  16. Central Time
  17. Mother Nature
  18. I Will Never Change
  19. Wellington
  20. Hard Times Come and Go (Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three song)
  21. Encore:
  22. Bad Dreams
  23. Can You Hear Me (Lee Dorsey cover)
  24. Drinkin' Whiskey Tonight (Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three song)
  25. You Never Can Tell (Chuck Berry cover)