Rock Report: JJ Grey and Mofro @ Skipper's Smokehouse

In Florida August nights are hot and I don’t mean wear a pair of shorts hot. I’m talking wear as little clothes as possible and you’re still gonna sweat hot. It’s a fact that we’ve come to live with. Rain offers no solace, instead it adds to the stifling humidity. This is Florida and these are our August nights. The Mofro boys come from Jacksonville and they know this. This particular Friday night was not an unfamiliar site for Floridians. Afternoon thunderstorms turned into night mug. We had a hurricane out in the Caribbean projected to come just close enough to the Gulf to allow the weathermen to practice their hunkerdown speeches and Mofro playing under the ol’ Oak trees that cover the Skipperdome. Sweat, affordable beer, fried foods and a swampy soulful blues band from J-ville following the hyper-sweaty dirty blues outfit that is Tampa’s own Nervous Turkey made this seem like a perfect Florida storm. A Florigasm if you will.

As I said last week, I had never seen the Mofro boys live before and as the sold out crowd began to filter in I soon realized I was definitely in the minority but it seemed like a welcoming enough crowd. I settled in at the front of the stage to watch the Nervous Turkey boys. I have seen Nervous Turkey two other times in bars with acoustics as poor as my grammar. Seeing them in the Skipperdome sealed the deal for me. I love these guys. They play a brand of blues that makes me wanna drink and there’s nothing wrong with that. For the bulk of the show I was completely taken in by Mr. Locke but as their set was winding down I took a look around. The crowd had probably tripled in size and a lot of them were just as enthralled with these fellas as I was. If you get a chance do not pass on seeing Nervous Turkey, I guarantee that you’ll have a good time.

Next came the reason for the evening. A bead of sweat slowly ran the length of my back as the band took the stage and began to tune up. “It’s been too long Skipperdome” were the first words from Mr. Grey’s mouth. The crowd response was exactly as it should have been. The opening instrumental quasi-jam band number with Grey announcing his band gave way to Florida:

Now skyscrapers and superhighways / are carved through the heart of Florida / Building sub-divisions while the swamps are drained / makin’ room for people and amusement parks / It’s like watchin’ someone you love die slow / Yeah they’re killin’ her one piece at a time / I know some fools who think I should let go / but they never seen Florida through my eyes

It was here I really began to appreciate both the honesty of these guys and the connection they have with the crowd. I would really like to think that the connection with Florida based crowds is a lot closer to the bone than it is with outta state crowds but something tells me I should not be so naive. Blogcritics put it so perfectly I am just gonna quote them direct:

Like shamans, the charismatic Grey and his sinuous band build their modestly structured, unprepossessing songs into small volcanoes of emotion, with the audience supplying half the energy.

It wasn’t some low key soul show mind you. No, No, No. The funk of tracks like “How Junior Got His Head Put Out“, “Nare Sugar” and “Ho’ Cake” most definitely proved to be crowd favorites and caused more than a few folks to break out in fits of spontaneous dancing. In the end I left feeling less like I went to a show and more like I had just witnessed an event. Do you know what I am saying? I know it sounds cheesy but I just feel like I am devaluing the the night if I just call it a show. I dunno, maybe it’s the heat talking.

Mofro – Florida
Mofro – Ho’ Cake
Mofro – How Junior Got His Head Put Out
Mofro – On Palastine

Pictures from the show can be found here.

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