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.
"Something in the Water"
...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.
- Saturday, July 25, 2015, 8 p.m.
2501 Kettner Boulevard,
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.