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Pokey LaFarge beats the street

Busker makes old-time rags new again

Andrew Heissler, aka Pokey LaFarge, and his ragtime blues band play Casbah on Saturday.
Andrew Heissler, aka Pokey LaFarge, and his ragtime blues band play Casbah on Saturday.

Ragtime bluesman Pokey LaFarge is the creation of Andrew Heissler. Pokey, he maintains, is what his mother called him as a child; LaFarge is his own invention. He grew up in Normal, Illinois, and the day after he graduated high school he hitchhiked across country to the West Coast. There, he made a living busking on street corners, or so the story goes. The image he’s cultivated is from another era, reminiscent of those door-to-door Bible hucksters as portrayed in a ’60s Maysles’s documentary titled Salesman. Look at any photo of LaFarge as an adult now, and you see the mild sneer of a man who is smarter than you and who knows it.

Video:

"Something in the Water"

...by Pokey LaFarge

...by Pokey LaFarge

Ragtime blues is retro, yes, but LaFarge told a reporter he thinks of his music as being modern. And, no, I don’t like every song he does, but, I like the way he performs his material, shaped as it were by the court of public opinion. No greater pressure cooker than shifty passersby on a corner for an audience, and a tip jar for a bank. But fortunes have improved since, and LaFarge travels these days with a six-piece that includes my current favorite C-melody sax (and clarinet) player, Chloe Feoranzo.

Past Event

Pokey Lafarge

  • Saturday, July 25, 2015, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $15

Pokey LaFarge as an act ain’t about you, though. He gigs whatever interests him. “Well I won’t worry if the world don’t like me/ Won’t let it waste my time/ There ain’t nothin’ gonna change my mind,” he sang on Letterman. Having been to the bottom and knowing one can survive tends to make a musician both bold and self-reliant. LaFarge and his players are hardcore and musically gifted in the lost arts, wonderfully energized, but somewhat dusty: consider Jimmy Reed meets Bob Wills — and I know that half of you won’t even recognize those names. You’ll either love Pokey or you won’t. There’s no in-between.

Quiet Life also performs.

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Andrew Heissler, aka Pokey LaFarge, and his ragtime blues band play Casbah on Saturday.
Andrew Heissler, aka Pokey LaFarge, and his ragtime blues band play Casbah on Saturday.

Ragtime bluesman Pokey LaFarge is the creation of Andrew Heissler. Pokey, he maintains, is what his mother called him as a child; LaFarge is his own invention. He grew up in Normal, Illinois, and the day after he graduated high school he hitchhiked across country to the West Coast. There, he made a living busking on street corners, or so the story goes. The image he’s cultivated is from another era, reminiscent of those door-to-door Bible hucksters as portrayed in a ’60s Maysles’s documentary titled Salesman. Look at any photo of LaFarge as an adult now, and you see the mild sneer of a man who is smarter than you and who knows it.

Video:

"Something in the Water"

...by Pokey LaFarge

...by Pokey LaFarge

Ragtime blues is retro, yes, but LaFarge told a reporter he thinks of his music as being modern. And, no, I don’t like every song he does, but, I like the way he performs his material, shaped as it were by the court of public opinion. No greater pressure cooker than shifty passersby on a corner for an audience, and a tip jar for a bank. But fortunes have improved since, and LaFarge travels these days with a six-piece that includes my current favorite C-melody sax (and clarinet) player, Chloe Feoranzo.

Past Event

Pokey Lafarge

  • Saturday, July 25, 2015, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $15

Pokey LaFarge as an act ain’t about you, though. He gigs whatever interests him. “Well I won’t worry if the world don’t like me/ Won’t let it waste my time/ There ain’t nothin’ gonna change my mind,” he sang on Letterman. Having been to the bottom and knowing one can survive tends to make a musician both bold and self-reliant. LaFarge and his players are hardcore and musically gifted in the lost arts, wonderfully energized, but somewhat dusty: consider Jimmy Reed meets Bob Wills — and I know that half of you won’t even recognize those names. You’ll either love Pokey or you won’t. There’s no in-between.

Quiet Life also performs.

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