It was surprising to see that this concert was sold out given that Pokey LaFarge’s profile is only starting to grow in this part of the world. Put it down to a strong roots community with their ears to the ground and word-of-mouth buzz from his other Australian festival and headline shows perhaps. Regardless, the full room provided a celebratory and uproarious atmosphere for both acts.
Mustered Courage opened the show and had to deal with a decidedly sub par sound mix. Vocals struggled to cut through the other instruments and the banjo sounded like it was being picked underwater. Those frustrations aside the string-centric quartet played a rousing and enthusiastic set complete with a guest appearance by Choirboys singer Mark Gable for a bluegrass rendition of their 1987 hit ‘Run To Paradise’. That sounds gimmicky but hell it worked and the crowd loved it.
Pokey LaFarge and his five-piece band received a heroes welcome and set about befriending everyone in the room with their hybrid sound that encompassed western swing, jazz, folk, country and blues. All of the players were masters of their instruments – clarinet, trumpet, upright bass, guitar plus bearded and be-hatted sidekick Ryan Koenig on harmonica and various percussion. Even though LaFarge was the consummate showman, singer and player his guitarist Adam Hoskins deserves special mention for his note-perfect and effortless solos. The exuberant yet respectful crowed were treated to album highlights such as ‘Central Time’, ‘Kentucky Mae’ and ‘In The Graveyard Now’ plus a smattering of covers such as Bob Wills’ ‘My Window Faces South’ and the 1920s drinking song ‘Show Me The Way to Go Home’. Essentially it was the audience interaction and band’s virtuosity and unassuming professionalism combined with LaFarge’s charm, authentic musicality and versatile voice that made the show so enjoyable and impressive, no doubt guaranteeing we’ll see him back here again soon.