Concert Review: JJ Grey and MOFRO



Saturday, January 4th 2008

Bamboo Room, Lake Worth

Better Than: Tearing up a hot bowl of grits on a cool winter morning in Florida.

The Review: After just a few notes, anyone witnessing JJ Grey in action can't help but notice how strong his stage presence is. He doesn’t need pyrotechnics or an elaborate stage show or costumes to pull a crowd in. All he needs is a microphone, a harmonica and a guitar or two and he’ll pull the crowd down to his world of dirty, authentic Southern grooves and deep fried soul lyrics. Grey epitomizes what a front man should be, and the rest of MOFRO kick out grooves that would make a dead confederate dance like his reanimate life depended on it. His lyrics are reminiscent of the great southern poets; fiercely personal, universal, and political without a hint of superiority or peachiness.

I had the pleasure of seeing MOFRO’s second show in a sold out three night stand at The Bamboo Room in Lake Worth. It would be hard to pick a better indoor venue to catch MOFRO; The Bamboo Room screams southern jazz, funk and blues from the countless guitars and banjos carefully hung on the walls to the vast array of mixers, shakers, glasses and stuffed wildlife peppered throughout the venue. A slew of tables were carefully reserved for guest who called ahead, but once the first chord rang out, the tables emptied as patrons were compelled to stand up and groove along with JJ.

Grey opened up with an acoustic version of "Lochloosa," but hardly had to sing a word as the entire room shouted each lyric in perfect harmony. A wry smile flashed across his face and set the mood for the rest of the nearly three hour testimonial to rich Southern traditions and yearning for an unmolested nature we’ll never again know. The passion behind each word of MOFRO’s music is tangible and reciprocated by each person lucky enough to be in the same room they play.

Each song tells a story of its own, and JJ Grey loves to add to those stories as the concert progresses, be it between verses or while switching instruments between songs. There just aren’t many places you’ll find out the true definition of a jit, a cracker and the intricacies of rye whiskey. JJ Grey is what Bob Dylan would have become had he been raised by John Lee Hooker in unspoiled Florida; a storytelling poet who can capture an audience instantly. But lyrics aren’t the only thing which tells a story in MOFRO. The 6 piece band lays out southern soul music, gritty funk and juke joint pieces like you’ve never heard.

Personal Bias: Listening to MOFRO makes me wish I was a Florida native.

Random Detail: JJ Grey sited Danny Elfman as one of his greatest musical heroes.

By the Way: The Rattlesnake logo that has become synonymous with MOFRO is modeled after one of the first U.S. flags and has Don’t Tread On Me written backwards across its body.

-Brett Gillin

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Jonathan Cunningham