Among the things that make Pokey LaFarge stand out: his unique moniker, his throwback sound, the formal attire he often sports on stage and one of the songs from his latest album, which celebrates….a time zone.
I don’t mind the West Coast, and I don’t mind the East Coast, Oh, baby, but I ain’t gonna live on no coast. I’m just a plain ol’ Midwestern boy, gettin’ by on central time.
LaFarge says the song, called "Central Time", took him only five minutes to write
“Some songwriters would say that’s proof that it’s a good song,” said LaFarge. “Some of the best songs come out that way If it came out in five minutes, I wasn't even consciously thinking about it. It just came out.”
The 30-year-old St. Louis native along with his five-piece band will keep it within the Central time zone tonight as he performs in Bowling Green. The Pokey LaFarge sound can be described in a variety of different ways. He says it changes every time he’s asked.
“If I had to describe it today, I would say that it’s acoustic-rooted, horn-accentuated, lyric- and melody-driven Midwestern swing. How’s that?”
LaFarge says his musical style is rooted in bluegrass, music that was handed down from his grandparents and that he picked up by going to Bluegrass festivals.
“The ‘acousticity’ obviously, the tone of the acoustic instruments, the drive, the tempo, the pace, obviously the high lonesome sound. The melodies, the emphasis on the melodies,” said LaFarge, describing what appealed to him about the bluegrass he heard growing up. “The takeoff solos like that of a jazz format. It was the beginning for me, and still is very dear to my heart, even though I don’t play traditional bluegrass music on a nightly basis."
Last year was a busy one for Pokey LaFarge and his band. They were on the road for much of it, playing 250 dates last year and developing a well-honed on-the-road routine. Ryan Koenig, Adam Hoskins, Joey Glynn, Chloe Feoranzo and T.J. Muller make up the band that joins LaFarge on stage.
“Routine of course can turn into weariness as well and needing a chance, needing a rest and needing something new. I learned that I probably need to spend a little less time on the road in the future,” said LaFarge. “But no regrets, it was an amazing year and I have a lot of memories and gained a lot of experience and it helped me promote my most recent album."
His eponymous album, “Pokey LaFarge” received critical acclaim. He and his bandmates traveled to New York City last July, and performed “Central Time” on "The Late Show with David Letterman".
“I guess the one word a lot of people would probably use to explain when they do something like that for the first time is ‘surreal’. We got to meet Paul Shaffer and all that,” said LaFarge of Letterman’s longtime bandleader. “Just being on the set, it was quite the memory and I’ll never forget it."
"But, altogether, you don’t do this for yourself so much as you do it for your family and your community. I was honored to be able to represent those things on that show.”
"The Late Show" hasn’t been the band’s only TV appearance. Pokey LaFarge music has appeared on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and even on the big screen in the new “Lone Ranger”. On radio, they’ve been featured on “A Prairie Home Companion”, and have another schedule appearance on the show in June.
When on stage, Pokey LaFarge and his band are normally dressed to the nines, often in ties, coats or vests. LaFarge says the wardrobe isn’t necessarily by design, but just part of his belief that appearance matters. He says he doesn’t demand his band mates dress up, but wouldn’t have them on stage in “jeans and a t-shirt”.
Pokey LaFarge plays the Warehouse at Mount Victor in Bowling Green Thursday night, with doors opening at 6:00 central time.