There’s gonna be a riot in the streets of Ann Arbor this Sunday night. He captured our hearts as a headliner at the 2019 Ann Arbor Folk Music Festival last winter, then crushed them after a cancelled March show at the Ark. Now, Pokey LaFarge looks to return to lamplit streets of Ann Arbor Oct. 27 at The Ark.
Lafarge embraces the legacy of his predecessors, and has refashioned music of eras gone by for a contemporary audience. No small feat, given that many modern listeners would scoff at listening to the music popular in parents’ and grandparents’ time.
His magic comes from his ability to blend vintage and modern effortlessly. LaFarge looks like an old folk musician right out of Nashville’s 1950s heyday — almost amusingly out of place in the 21st century crowd. His voice has a tinge of the classic country warble; lyrics recall the old-timey jazz of the South. Yet while harmonica riffs and lyrics recall the music of the past, guitar riffs and swing rhythms wield a sharp, enjoyable edge that elevates LaFarge’s music from a mere rehash of old hits. At times, his music echoes the style of classic French or Spanish music, echoes which are softly carried in the picking of a guitar.
And while LaFarge’s music remains distinctly familiar, he manages to defy expectations in all regards. Traditional song structure is bucked, bent and then twisted round to suite LaFarge’s wicked, musical mastery.
The Ark’s intimate performance space is perfect for LaFarge. His music, which often features plenty of instrumental breaks and riffs, and his unique style of singing both lend themselves to a venue like The Ark. Every seat is the best seat in the house when you’re down at Ann Arbor’s local live music joint.
Whether you’re ready to gear up for his upcoming performance this weekend, or you’re looking to jump into the world of LaFarge for the first time, start with “Goodbye, Barcelona,” “La La Blues” and “Riot in The Streets.” For a more classic feel, go to his earlier albums, like Beat, Move & Shake, then switch it up to LaFarge’s modern twists with Something In The Water.
Maybe, if this preview does its job, I’ll see you in the audience this Sunday night. Until then, indulge in the old-fashioned with the world’s coolest time traveller, Pokey LaFarge.