Davenport, Iowa (June 12, 2013)– I traveled over two hours and ended up at what could be one of my new favorite venues. For eight dollars, Pokey LaFarge played in The Redstone Room in Davenport, or what I found out is called Rhythm City. Happy I didn’t have to drive to St. Louis to see him in his hometown, I was still walking distance from the Mississippi River and a few miles away the World’s Largest Truckstop where you can get clean in a clean shower. He visited Iowa so we could enter his world from another time visually and auditorily.
The show started with Chicago Farmer, a one man show playing his modern Americana with a fine blend of humor. A regionally touring musician from the other side of the river, it was obvious the crowd knew his material and wanted to see him again –and now I would see him again too.
Pokey LaFarge started the show with the song “Central Time” and reminded us how much he loves playing in the Midwest. Between songs he mentioned playing in Davenport in the past when he played for a short time in The Hackensaw Boys and of course for Daytrotter in Rock Island. For those unfamiliar with the music, Pokey plays simply old timey music of all sorts blended together and original songs.
He is not imitating, but influenced by the past greats and wants to keep it alive. He was talking about his songs when he took the stage and announced they are “gonna play some old songs but also new material because that’s how we keep the music going.” I only caught one cover song and that was “The Devil ain’t Lazy” which is also on his new album. No gimmicks and no novelty, there were a few Confucius jokes shared by the harmonica playing percussionist who only played his thimble washboard on one song –but didn’t ring the service bell! Pokey was dressed sharp in a suit with a gentleman’s haircut.
The band played the part too, though they looked less 1930’s gangster and more late 1800’s western train robbers, especially Ryan Hoskins the harmonica/percussionist. The lead guitarist, Adam Hoskins, sometimes played twangy slide and would often emulate the sound of the lap steel guitar perfectly. Joey plucked and slapped the stand up bass just at the right times. There was a horn section consisting of a muted trumpet and an attractive female named Chloe who danced and played clarinet mostly or a saxophone in the back. The band had it all together.
There were people of all ages upfront by the stage and sitting far in the back. Pokey said, “Hello” to a toddler from the stage. At one point he jumped off the stage with his archtop guitar in hand to show there was room for the crowd to come closer and still leave room for the dancers.
There were couples dancing to the western swing and ragtime sound, guys jumping to the blues numbers, and even women shouting during the whiskey songs . . . It felt like a speakeasy. But the music came from further back than the days of prohibition as Pokey continues to study the past through books and music deeper than that. He isn’t just a historian but living it out and helping us enjoy the great sound of the past reminding us the problems of the past are still contemporary. Go see Pokey LaFarge and watch for shows at the Redstone Room – you just might see me dancing there also.
Live in Holland 2012