Having heard all the rumors swirling about the “band that opened for Jack White” last month at his WaMu Theater show, I was more than excited to check out old-timey, Americana act Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three at the Tractor Tavern Monday night.
Openers, Alialujah Choir started the night with a lovely set of country blues tracks that featured intricate arrangements, textured melodies and – wait for it – a Theremin. If you’re unfamiliar with the theremin, you’re missing out, because it’s pretty much the coolest thing ever.
Using the electronic instrument to create spooky sounding melodies, Alialujah Choir’s lovely harmonies, folksy disposition and mellow demeanor set the tone for the night – playing to the roots-y sensibilities of every plaid shirt wearing stomper in the room. but the act really found their stride on “A House, A Home,” a soothing Americana track, from their self-titled debut release, driven by steady guitar plucks and a rolling beat.
Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three took the stage just after 10 p.m., kicking off with boot stomper “Devil Ain’t Lazy.” Dressed in a dapper suit and cowboy boots, vocalist/guitarist Pokey LaFarge is the epitome of a southern gentleman, captivating the crowd with his punchy, saloon-friendly songs of the hillbilly soul variety.
The instrumentation for the act is simple:
Electric guitar, upright bass, vocals/acoustic guitar, Harmonica/snare/washboard. But the music they create, rich with history and driven by LaFarges’s powerfully twangy vocals and punchy guitar plucks, is anything but.
Ripping through a 17-track setlist that pulled heavily from 2010′s “Riverboat Soul,” as well as from the band’s more recent release, “Middle of everywhere,” the act also covered Jimmy Rodger’s “Peach Picking Time Down In Georgia,” a bluegrass standard about finding a Southern Belle.
A highpoint of the night came in “Pack It Up,” an upbeat call-and-response song the group recorded with Jack White – and pretty much every moment LaFarge pulled out the kazoo. I’m a sucker for a good kazoo, and Mr. LaFarge, in all his southern wonderfulness, more than delivered.
But what really stood out was the musicality of the group. Stealing the show on more than one occasion, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Koenig’s understanding of the harmonica is unparalled – and watching him play the instrument with such vigor and control was incredible. Guitarist Adam Hoskins also proved to be a show stopper – and not just for his abilities on the axe. In addition to playing some of the fastest, most intricate Americana riffs I’ve ever heard, Hoskins also delivered the most accurate interpretation of a horn section I’ve ever heard – with his voice.
As LaFarge pointed out, the feat gave a whole new meaning to “working with what you’ve got.”
Keegan Prosser is a writer in the Seattle area.