By Andy J. Gordon
Downtown Los Angeles is gradually becoming a go-to destination for cultural activities. One of the newer venues in town is a fine mid-sized theater for live music. The Regent Theater on Main Street has been restored to past glory with modern touches added for improvement. The theater hosted JJ Grey & Mofro, a powerhouse southern rock, blues, funk and soul band from Jacksonville, Florida on May 21, 2015.
The Regent Theater feels like a high school auditorium except for the fact that there is a state-of -the-art sound system, multiple bars and balcony area for bird’s eye viewing – unlike any high school we know. It is a general-admission standing-room-only venue and gets quite intimate as guests crowd the stage area once the band starts their set.
JJ Grey is a crooner with an edge. Many of his songs speak about his anguish over the loss of his beloved rural homeland due to so called “industrial progress.” Grey also plays a mean guitar, harmonica and tambourine. Other members of the band include the solid rhythm section of Anthony Cole on drums and Todd Smallie on bass.
JJ Grey & Mofro delivered a passionate set of old tunes and several new ones from the recently released “Ol’ Glory” album. A few of the new songs stood out for their catchy hooks and clever lyrics. “Every Minute” has an infectious beat and a killer guitar solo. “Everything Is a Song” tells the story of a time when Grey was riding in the car with his 2 year old daughter who was singing a nonsense song. “Night to Remember” is a bouncy ballad about an encounter he had with a hot woman in a bar.
They also played excellent versions of some older songs like “Brighter Days,” “Lochloosa” and “Orange Blossoms.” Many in the partisan crowd sang along with Grey. Grey is a dynamic performer and seemed to really enjoy the intimacy of the space. He frequently smiled after applause and whistles from the audience. He also encouraged them to cheer after particularly sweet solos from second guitarist Andrew Trube, trumpeter Dennis Marion and tenor sax player Jeff Dazey.
The show closed with a rousing rendition of the new albums’ title track “Ol’ Glory.” It was an appropriate ending as the band combined tight horn arrangements with sizzling guitars and Grey’s soulful voice. Grey slapped hands with the crowd in front of the stage while the other band members joined him for a group bow. All in all, JJ Grey & Mofro put on a great show and the audience loved every minute – and loved the new venue that we’re sure to return to soon.
All Photos copyright Andy J. Gordon 2015©