Photos by Boston Concert Photography
It was about the point when I noticed the gigantic bottle of whiskey on stage that I knew where this night was going to go.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning. Last Thursday night, at The Sinclair, I was lucky enough to see one of my favorites, Caroline Rose, share a bill with the inimitable Pokey LaFarge. I know other members of the team here were well familiar with him and loved him already, but I was a newcomer. And now I am a convert. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Let’s get back to the beginning. Caroline Rose and her band took the stage all dressed in her signature “FUCK FEAR” shirts, except for herself. I love her ongoing war against fear; there are a lot of small and large ways in which everyone is afraid every day, and you often only realize how crippling it was when you stop.
She launched right into “Blood on Your Bootheels,” the leadoff track from her latest album, I Will Not Be Afraid (there’s that fear thing again). Cartoon hearts immediately started streaming out of my eyes and I was singing along – really, dear reader, I invite you to come to shows with me all the time, but it’s probably super embarrassing to be with me, so bear this in mind. For a minute I thought she was going to play the album in order, since “Tightrope Walker” was the second song, as it is on the album, but she broke from that path and played a mixture including songs off her first album, new stuff, and old-but-never-released stuff. If you aren’t familiar with her, her sound ranges from surfy to bluesy to flat-out, gut-true howls, and she throws a little tremor into her voice that does the opposite of making her sound weak. Instead, she sounds like she is vibrating with emotion: rage or frustration or need. She is a lot of power in what used to be called “a little slip of a thing,” and if you don’t know, get to know. Here.
And then Pokey LaFarge took the stage. He strolled on out looking for all the world like he was straight out of central casting for a midcentury country crooner. But his band ran the gamut: hair-grease aficionados and horn-rimmed glasses to beardy backwoods types, and their music crosses the range too, through ragtime and the kind of jazz people’s mothers used to warn them about, to blues-tinted country and what I can only call “party music” – which I know is woefully nonspecific, but try and listen and not start partying. Indeed, a whole lot of boogieing was going on. People were dancing with the one that brung them, some people were dancing with someone who didn’t brung them, and some people like me didn’t bring anyone so we were dancing by ourselves. A little bit. Too much and you look maladjusted. Anyway, they played nearly all of the new album, Something in the Water, which means that it sounds like all those things and more.
The energy level was high from the first. It took about a song and a half for him to steal the glasses off an audience member’s face and strut about the stage in them (they suited him, too!), and then jumped off into the crowd and got feisty with the people. I am all for any show that makes the crowd shriek with sudden exhilaration. And I am all for any show that has a family-sized whiskey bottle for onstage swigging, which they then pass into the crowd. Sadly not near me.
I need to tell you about Pokey LaFarge’s face for a minute. He’s got the sort of face where it takes a good long while for a smile to get started and it spreads gradually from his eyes to his mouth to his whole face, and you might expect a guy like that to have some slow jams in his pocket. You would not be disappointed. Then again, he also plays some songs that sound like perfect old-time stripper music, so maybe it isn’t all perfect for serenading your sweetheart with. Maybe you can think of another use case for those songs.
Before we go any further, though, speaking of romance reminds me of something that happened. Pokey LaFarge’s band includes a young woman named Chloe Feoranzo on the saxophone and clarinet, and she came up front to sing a duet with Pokey. And when she did this, some Romeo in the audience decided now was the time to profess his love to her, and to propose marriage. Loudly. Repeatedly. Into a hushed room waiting for the song to start. Gentlemen, we need to have a chat about how you can show your appreciation for ladies performing onstage. Instead of demanding their individual attention, and the attention of everyone in the room, you can clap and cheer when they do something impressive, like everyone else does. But don’t be like the guy who decided the best time to cheer for Caroline Rose was when she bent down (in a skirt) to fix something with her pedals. I hope she kicks his teeth right down his throat, and if she doesn’t have the time, I’d be happy to help out. Now that we’ve got that handled, let’s get back to the party and have a good time, ok?