If They're Worth Hearing, They're Worth Hearing Live

Posted 11/04/2009 by JDub in Labels: , , , , ,

Let's be sure we have the basic math worked out:

Mofo + Afro = Mofro

Front man JJ Grey writes about his childhood home in Florida, a lake called Lochloosa, while on tour in England. Or so he tells us as he politely taps out the intro melody/harmony on the electric piano. The title song from Mofro's 2004 album Lochloosa is one of their more popular pieces, and my favorite of all.

Lochloosa by JJ Grey and Mofro

The second time I saw Mofro live at the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was just finishing up in the little boys' room when they started playing it. I finished rapidly and elbowed my way into the standing room crowd back to two great friends and our PBR Tallboys.

The song's text is JJ's clear desire to return to his homeland of northern Florida, back to the huge old trees, the swamplands, the heat, and retreating away from commercial development.

I love the studio version of this song, and I listen to it frequently. Standing alone as a musical recording, it is excellent: dynamic, heart-felt, and full of soul. But because a simple audio recording can only appeal to one of our five human senses, I'm always left hanging and trying to recall my two experiences with the band in concert.

Hearing the studio recording of "Lochloosa" allows, I think, for easy and very effective understanding of the song's subject matter. Through my sense of hearing, I can construct my impression of JJ and his longing for home. The soul comes through the recording equipment, through the iTunes Store, through the mp3 data, and through my stereo loud and clear.

But as I was saying last week, art is about the creation of a connection between two people through a common emotional identification. When you take as many of the machines and computers out of the equation as possible seeing Mofro live, you also add four more sensory experiences to the blend that will become your connection.

Rather than simply hearing and understanding JJ's words and feeling a bit of his soul, the live experience allows you to hear the band and the crowd, see the stage and the people around you, smell and taste the beer, sweat, and joy, and feel the woofers resonating your skeleton.

While the studio recording of "Lochloosa" is carefully through-composed, their rendition of the song live is relaxed and spontaneous: the intro allowing for JJ to verbally connect with the crowd and tell the story of how the song came to be, the latter portions allowing for ripping trumpet, guitar, and tenor sax solos which are certainly missed on the album version. Mofro's live sound simply seems fuller, richer, and more complete than their album sound, especially with the addition of horns on stage.

The enormous ceiling fan forces fresher air down into a crowd of people who have long since ceased to be an audience to JJ Grey and Mofro. The band's connection with itself, its connection with the crowd, and the crowd's connection with itself in common identifcation with the text are all so complete that all are now a part of the whole art taking place.

Everyone has their own personal version of Lochloosa, the home of their childhood, their roots, and everyone knows the feeling of being separated from their Lochloosa. JJ Grey's brilliance as a musician is his ability to cause his guitar, harmonica, electric piano, etc to get out of the way of the art and allow a whole room of personal human connections to occur in the live setting. Because the "audience" is as invested in the emotion of the song as the band, the live experience of "Lochloosa" is an event of complete art. It ceases to be a song about JJ and his roots and becomes a song about all of our commonality in the human experience of having roots.

JJ Grey and Mofro are certainly worth hearing, but they're even more worth hearing live.

1 comment(s) to... “If They're Worth Hearing, They're Worth Hearing Live”


JD said...

Well put, JDub.

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