Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, Classic Grand, Glasgow 25th June

The Pokey LaFarge carnival rolled into town last Saturday for a triumphant show at the Classic Grand. I say carnival because there’s an element of old time showmanship surrounding Pokey and his band. Apart from the thrift shop (although dapper) threads Pokey always comes across like a cross between a showground barker and a vaudevillian M.C. While he might not always enjoy the “old time” tag that follows him around there’s no doubt that he invokes a happier, more innocent time that comes across in the shows and records. Having said that Pokey and the band don’t display any stuffiness or reverence when it comes to playing songs written half a century ago instead injecting a large dose of vim and vigour into them. His own songs, influenced by the likes of Jimmy Rogers do hark back to the past but are delivered with a youthful joy, looking backward and forward at the same time the effect is dizzying.
A packed Classic Grand crowd was treated to a hectic, fast paced show, crammed into around 80 minutes due to an early curfew. In addition LaFarge himself was due to celebrate a birthday at midnight and was keen to start the celebrations early. The crowd, most of whom were well familiar with the band from previous performances joined in with several shouts of Happy Birthday and a rendition of the eponymous song at one point.
While the band played several songs from the new album (Middle of Everywhere) crowd pleasers from his last two albums were delivered with gusto. Claude Jones, Hard Times Come and Go and Walk Your Way Out Of this Town all featured. A fantastic version of the 1920’s vintage Sadie Green The Vamp of New Orleans was a particular favourite while the crowd surged when Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight from the new album was played. Throughout the show the South City Three demonstrated some superior picking, plucking, slapping and blowing. Bassist Joey Glynn had numerous short solo spots while guitarist Adam Hoskins either alone or sparring with Pokey played some sweet jazzy Django runs. Ryan Churchmouse Koenig’s harmonica and vocal asides were a joy to hear while his donning of his washboard, bells and horns and all added a Spike Jones surrealism to the show.
Hats off however to their rendition of Pack It Up, a song they recorded for vinyl release with Jack White of the White Stripes. With the lyrics adapted almost as a tour diary this was a tour de force with audience participation included.
All in all a great night, Pokey and the band are on fire right now so if they set up a tent by your way be sure to join the queue.

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