JJ Grey and Mofro
August 16th 2007
photos by Zach Mahone / lifeshotz.com
A line of JJ Grey and Mofro fans extended its way down the sidewalk outside of the Social in downtown Orlando, eagerly awaiting the Florida-bred band with deep roots. Mofro has cultivated a strong following of devoted enthusiasts with a thick concentration in the South and particularly in their home state. Their fans always come out in full force and ready to get down. The recent Orlando show was no exception.
Tickets were hard to come by as the venue was filled to capacity, and then some. JJ Grey stepped onto the stage, exuding soulful southern charisma, and opened up with an acoustic solo version of “Circles”, a track off 2007’s Country Ghetto.
Making his voice and presence known comes naturally to JJ, but his band Mofro is the completing factor that can command any audience’s attention. With a long summer tour almost behind them when they came through Orlando, they were well-rehearsed and in sync with one another.
Daryl Hance, the band’s long time guitarist was, as usual, a steadfast driving force all night, sitting at JJ’s right side. Rather than a typical band with a bass guitarist, Mofro’s Adam Scone supplied the base line using his organ. Scone lacks nothing, making a bass guitar useless to Mofro’s framework. George Sluppick kept the funky rhythm flowing, acting as a central solid rock on drums, and even took time for a brief but energized drum solo.
The Hercules Horns (Art Edmaiston – tenor sax, Dennis Marion – trumpet) were a welcomed addition to the group’s dynamics. Edmaiston and Marion seamlessly lent themselves to JJ Grey and Mofro’s preexisting energy and influences. All this combined creates something relatively new – a soulful Southern rock, funk, and blues-influenced harmony that is uniquely captivating.
Half of the songs played were off of Country Ghetto (Alligator Records). A notable solo of the night was “The Hurricane” by JJ halfway through the set. He wasn’t shy when discussing the hurricanes from recent years, but he wasn’t talking about Katrina. He reminded the crowd that Florida was hit by multiple hurricanes; specifically Hurricane Charlie that hit Orlando. Grey stated that the hurricanes devastation and magnitude in Florida encouraged him to write the track by reminding him of the “Beauty of feeling so small in the face of something so much bigger”… “What a lesson in humility.” The casual approach of sharing anecdotes with his audience helped to create a more personal and memorable experience through crowd interaction.
The set list for the Orlando show at the Social was well organized, timed and executed. The band seemed to be unified and confident in each other’s abilities. They closed the long set with “Shining Down,” and then hit their encore hard with “Jookhouse,” which started with just JJ but ended as a full out jam session.
JJ Grey and Mofro showed their love of Florida crowds and their Southern roots once again. They’ve traveled all summer, hitting festivals, clubs, and crossing the Atlantic to tour Europe, and deserve a break. Still, the band won’t be taking long between tours. On September 2 they are hosting the first annual Blackwater Soul Revue in St. Augustine, FL with a lineup that is worth checking out.