Andrew Heissler, a Bloomington, Illinois native, always had a keen interest in World War II and American literature. Adopting the nom de guerre “Pokey Lafarge” and hitting the busking trail in California not too soon after graduating from high school in the early aughts, he achieved some recognition for his take on music that went out of style when Elvis started shaking his hips, off camera of course, on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Displaying a love for World War II-era music and possessing a look that’s part Hank Williams Sr., and perhaps a dash of post-modern Pee Wee Herman, Lafarge honed his skills in North Carolina when he put a band together. Mesmerized as a youth by American Blues masters such as Willie Dixon, Lafarge mimicked much of what he loved. The result is a sound that’s not quite twenty-first century, but also not of the Mississippi Delta circa 1928. It’s a mishmash of both eras; the subject matter is firmly rooted in today’s world but the timbre is definitely that of a bygone era.
Bringing their unique early Jazz stylings to Waterloo’s Beachland Ballroom and Tavern this past Friday night, Pokey Lafarge is one of those bands that defies classification, yet ably fits into any one of a half dozen musical genres with a toe-tapping, feel good syncopation.
The seven piece outfit: Pokey on guitar, Adam Hoskins on rhythm guitar, Ryan Weisheit on Sax,
Luc Klein on Trumpet, Matthew Meyer on the skins, Joey Glynn on Stand up Bass and Ryan Koenig on banjo, washboard and harmonica are a tight little outfit, consuming the Beachland’s sparse stage with a raw talent.
The ninety-minute set got off to a shaky start; their bus broke down on their way to the 216 from Milwaukee and they were forced to rent some new wheels to finish their journey. Sound check, usually done way before the doors open to the masses, commenced after the openers The Hackensaw Boys finished their set. Taking the stage about an hour later then planned, the band made up their tardiness with a set that made the Beachland crowd forget the indiscretion. Hits such as “Something in the Water,” “Wanna Be Your Man,” and “La La Blues” kept the crowd happy and their collective toes tapping.
Charlottsville, Virginia-based trio The Hackensaw Boys opened with a lively forty-five minute set. The twenty-year old outfit showed off some Americana cred; fiddle player Ferd Moyse really let loose during their time onstage. This is a band that had some moderate success some years ago; it’s a shame that they don’t receive more recognition for their talents.
Check out Pokey next time they come through town; they play your grandma’s music, for sure.
And I’m sure your grandma would feel right at home next to you in the pit, with a vodka and Red Bull in one hand and her cane in the other.