The feeling before JJ Grey and Mofro hit the stage was a uniquely unifying experience. Standing before a restless and excited crowd at the House of Blues Chicago, JJ Grey and Mofro tuned up and opened their set which over the course of an hour and twenty minutes gave every member of the audience the heartfelt soulful experience of a lifetime. With the recent release of their latest album Georgia Warhorse, JJ and company were able to conjure up a set list that represented nearly a decade’s worth of front-porch soul material which did not disappoint. The mass appeal of JJ Grey’s music was personified in the diversity of the audience Saturday night. People of all ages and from all walks of life gathered together to take part in the Mofro experience which can only be described as a purely joyful “funkafied” jam fest.
Prior to the first song I briefly spoke with a young, recently married couple who were thrilled to see JJ Grey in concert for the first time. Wondering aloud if the voice who provided them with a number of memorable wedding dances would sound as good live as on record, they were instantaneously assured by numerous fans that their first live show would only deepen their appreciation for the music.
Once the show began, there was no stopping the momentum created by the band’s unrivaled energy. That energy translated into something special Saturday night; it was as if all the worries, preoccupations and stressful nuisances of the work week were dissolved with that first strum of JJ’s Gibson. The good natured vibes that were oozing from northern Florida’s most soulful sons had a profound impact on those fortunate enough to be in attendance. In between “juke house” dancing until my legs were sore and offering an overwhelmingly off key vocal contribution to the crowd’s collective melody, I took a moment to look around at the faces in the audience.
The intense passion JJ Grey and the boys from Mofro put into each of their performances was markedly clear. The connection to the music and overall jubilant mood on the faces of each member of the audience was truly enough to transport a few hundred people from busy streets of Chicago to the peaceful southern swingin’ town of Lochloosa, FL, (JJ Grey’s home and inspiration behind a number of Mofro’s classics).
If the night hadn’t already completely consumed each member of the audience, JJ graciously took the microphone and briefly noted that he wanted to sing a little tune that might bring the audience a little closer. “I’ve got three words for yall… slow, hot and sweaty.” A roar went up from the crowd as if JJ Grey was personally going to get each member of the audience laid.
As the evening began to come to a close, the anticipation in the audience was almost palpable. A number of staple Mofro hits were yet to be heard and the crowd was not leaving without a finale. Seeing as JJ Grey is not a man in the business of delivering less than completely satisfying performances, classic jams such as “Lochloosa” and “On Fire” were on the brink and the crowd knew it. The encore consisted of the two previously noted tunes and a beautiful song entitled “The Sun is Shining Down” which brought more than a few people on the main dance floor close to tears.
The music in conjunction with the energy of the crowd and band alike transformed the night into more than a concert. JJ Grey and Mofro do everything in their power to assure that the hour and a half you spend with these boys from Florida is something which will keep you coming back time after time. Simply stated, JJ Grey and Mofro provide an experience all their own; an experience that will leave your legs aching and your heart full.