JJ Grey & Mofro
Kansas City, Missouri
July 17, 2008
JJ Grey & Mofro’s music always seems to have a sense of place. His lyrics tie emotion to memories of the Southern upbringing that guides his music.
Recalling backwater bayou humidity or lamenting the urban jungle replacing Florida’s swamps, Mofro’s music brings the audience along like they had grown up watching alligators and swatting mosquitoes on the porch beside Grey. It’s this southern aesthetic that Mofro brought to The Crossroads in downtown Kansas City on a steamy July summer night.
Opening up with slow riffs of Hammond on “Footsteps” into the soulful whine of guitar on "Turpentine," the band deftly set the tone for the rest of the show. The first half of the set slowly built through “Lochloosa” and “By My Side,” to a driving “War” where JJ clearly put the pedal down and the crowd loved it.
Longtime fans might have been concerned how the addition of Anthony Cole on percussion would impact group dynamics. Any such worries were quickly dismissed by the drummer’s cohesiveness with the rhythm section.
It was Mofro’s first time playing in Kansas City and it was apparent they had an opportunity to take in some of what has inspired others to write songs about Kansas City. Conversing with the crowd, Grey spoke of sampling KC style barbecue at Bryant’s, exploring downtown and shopping the eclectic stores that give the Crossroads district its vibe.
This ability to connect with the audience makes Mofro shows a little more intimate than most acts. It was immediately apparent that JJ Grey is able to rapidly appreciate what makes a place unique, and do so in a way that makes the crowd instantly feel connected to the frontman through shared experience.
A slow, lamenting "Florida" grabbed the crowd and took them on a journey through Grey’s homeland and quickly had the audience missing the Sunshine state. The journey continued with a solid “Mississippi,” dedicated to blues great Muddy Waters.
Mofro ended their set with a harmonica-infused “How Jr. Got His Head Put Out” that had the crowd on their feet and served as a nice wrap up to a hot July evening’s journey through Mofro’s music.