Words / Photo: Alex Wood
Pokey Lafarge & The South City Three played a boisterous, confident set at Lincoln Hall, packed to the brim with the energy of all their pre-WWII musical idols rolled into one.
Swing. Ragtime. Blues. Jazz. Country. Folk.
The band owned every single one.
Even beneath the entertaining stage personality that Pokey himself plays, Adam Hoskins’ lightning fast guitar, Ryan Koenig’s beyond-expert harmonica and Joey Glynn’s rowdy upright bass make up a band worth hearing on their own.
Add on the more recent addition of cornet and clarinet, and you’ve got yourself a prohibition-era jamboree.
The band’s set drew from Pokey’s early, solo days to tracks from their newest full-length and Third Man Records debut, Pokey LaFarge. But regardless a tune's vintage, the band exuded a confidence it’s been building toward for years.
Perhaps it was the connection with Jack White. Perhaps it was the slight fan base boost that followed.
But I like to think this is simply a band hitting its stride in a style truly their own.
Pokey was constantly keeping the crowd excited, dancing and singing his unique tenor with more conviction than half the blues singers I’ve heard in my life. He excitedly introduced and joked with band members, speaking to the crowd often as though to keep them involved.
The band itself showed an increased confidence, musically, with shredding harmonica solos lasting nearly a minute and fast, thumping bass solos throughout.
The added cornet and clarinet simply solidified their old-time roots, providing a big-band feel that only increased the energy.
“In The Graveyard Now,” a highlight of the set, raced forward at a high speed, its repetitious lyrics keeping the crowd singing, until suddenly switching to a horn-led halftime section, slowing the song dramatically before bringing the energy back up for a climactic ending.
Songs melded into the next and varied stylistically, tied together by the no-frills musicianship and sheer passion of each performer.
From the folk-based, New Orleans swing of “What The Rain Will Bring” to the classic bluegrass styling of “Two Faced Tom,” the band kept a consistency in energy and quality throughout.
And there’s no doubt the crowd could tell.
There were the screams in response to a shout out to Pokey’s hometown of Normal, IL, a flare of Midwestern pride that showed up prominently soon after in “Central Time.”
There was the full crowd sing-along in “Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight” and “La La Blues” that allowed Pokey to leave the microphone for extended periods of time.
There was the time Pokey said, “Where are we gonna go?” and the girl responded “Anywhere with you, Pokey,” the singer blushing and backing away in laughter.
A nod to his location, Chicago politics even found their way into the show on multiple occasions, with Pokey asking, “How’s Rod Blagojevich doing?” before playing “In The Graveyard Now” and referring to “Close The Door” as a song about health care.
Pokey LaFarge’s popularity growth feels natural given the nature of their act. A larger audience simply gives Pokey more energy to feed off of and put back into the show, which will only make the fan base grow larger still.
The increasing success of Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three is the result of a newfound confidence, something that, in the tradition of the bands they look up to, takes time on the road to build.
Having put in their time, Pokey LaFarge is moving toward bigger things, and there’s hardly a band more deserving.
1.) All Night Long
2.) Bowlegged Woman
3.) Close The Door
4.) What The Rain Will Bring
5.) My Window Faces The South
6.) Pack It Up
7.) The Devil Ain’t Lazy >
8.) Two-Faced Tom
9.) Kentucky Mae
10.) The Riverboat Shuffle
11.) Hard Times Come And Go
12.) Day After Day
13.) Sweet Potato Blues
14.) Cairo, Illinois
15.) Central Time
16.) Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight
17.) Joesphine (Pokey solo)
18.) La La Blues
19.) In The Graveyard Now
20.) Show Me The Way To Go Home