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01 May 2016

Stagecoach 2016: Pokey LaFarge's Old-School Coolness Is a Day 2 Highlight

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Pokey LaFarge. Pokey LaFarge. Kevin Fitzgerald

There are a lot of cool things to see at Stagecoach—and Pokey LaFarge was the coolest thing to see on Saturday afternoon in the Mustang Tent.

The St. Louis-born and -raised performer is a true roots-music enthusiast. He’s not a revival act; he lives and breathes vintage music from the ’30s and ’40s.

On Saturday, he was clad in a vintage button-down shirt, navy jeans cuffed around his cowboy boots, and a vintage black hat. He often wears suits with cuts from the ’30s and ’40s, as well as other vintage clothing. One thing’s for sure: He looked dressed and ready for Stagecoach.

Starting his set with “Something in the Water,” Pokey LaFarge made it clear right away that his live show includes elements you don’t always hear on his records: In person, you can hear hints of big-band jazz, calypso, Latin, Americana and country-Western in his repertoire.

The large crowd that gathered in the smaller-sized Mustang tent loved him, and was clapping and singing along to the choruses to his songs. He led a sing-along during “Central Time,” about being a plain-old Midwestern boy trying to survive in the Central Time Zone. He declared that while he doesn’t have a problem with the East Coast or the West Coast, he wouldn’t live in either.

One interesting moment came late in the set when he performed a country-Western/roots-style cover of Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne’s “Carmelita.” The chorus: “And I’m all strung out on heroin on the outskirts of town.” It proved that although much of Pokey LaFarge’s music is upbeat, he’s not afraid to venture into the dark side. There was a lot of variety to be had in Pokey’s 45-minute set—and it was never dull.

Pokey LaFarge is not the only Americana revivalist to come through Stagecoach and put on a fine performance—but nobody that I have seen has ever won over a crowd as well as he did, especially inside the Mustang Tent, a place where Stagecoach attendees often seek shade or even take a nap on one of the bales of hay. With a horn-section, banjo and acoustic guitars, and swing-jazz style drumming, LaFarge won over the audience easily—and proved that he can not only play for a crowd of Americana purists; he can easily entertain the audience of Stagecoach.

See more Stagecoach Day 2 photos below, by Kevin Fitzgerald.

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