Pokey LaFarge paused before beginning his next song, looked inquisitively into the audience and asked, “Y’all got enough room to dance down there?” A few toes were stepped on, a couple drinks were spilled, but I’ve never seen more people dancing at one show before. And no, I don’t mean a slight head nod or foot taps. I’m talkin’ slow dancing, fox trotting, jumping-around and yeehawing. It was LaFarge’s last night on the tour, and he made sure to make it a memorable one.
Dressed in baggy and cuffed denim pants, a navy blazer and a fedora, LaFarge graced the stage this past Saturday at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City with opening band The Easy Leaves. The now-converted garage in downtown KC was lined with fans sitting at lunch-room style tables, leaning against the walls and, of course, stompin’ around in the pit. Yet, LaFarge made it seem like we were just listening to an old pal playing in front of a party. At one point, he sat on the edge of the stage and serenaded folks, and he even took a shot from a guy in the front row. LaFarge took his sweet time swallowing it and said, “I’m just savoring the $12 he spent on this.”
Whether it’s at the 2017 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival or an old-timey venue, LaFarge’s shows feel like he’s letting you in on a secret. Like he’s telling us deep personal information that he’s never told anyone; we’re Cameron Crowe, and he’s the deeply fascinating and enigmatic artist. However, Pokey lacks that pretentious air that other musicians strive for; he often broke into a goofy grin as he looked out into the dancing crowd at his feet. He kept repeating throughout the show, “It’s an honor to do what you love, and we get to do it,” LaFarge said. “We get to just travel around and make music.” This may be the common mantra artists tend to spew at their shows, but there’s something raw and authentic about the way in which LaFarge says it. You can tell it’s the truth.
LaFarge’s journey to success hasn’t been without struggle, and that struggle isn’t all in the past. Less than a month ago, long-time member of the band Ryan Koenig was struck by a car in Charleston, South Carolina during a tour stop. Although it would have been easy to call off the tour, LaFarge and his remaining three members continued on. Pokey said, “We’re doing it for you guys, the fans, and also for Ryan.” Then LaFarge smiled and said, “I’m sure he can’t wait to have his first Stag.” Later in his jam-packed set and with a melancholy look in his eye, LaFarge told the crowd about Koenig’s YouCaring fund, where the band is asking for help in covering staggering medical bills.
Needless to say, after the set this Roots N Blues alum put on this weekend, I would argue that Pokey LaFarge is far more than just a “plain ole Midwestern boy.”