From the days of playing greasy local juke joints to headlining major festivals, JJ Grey remains an unfettered, blissful performer, singing with a blue-collared spirit over the bone-deep grooves of his compositions. His presence before an audience is something startling and immediate, at times a funk rave-up, other times a sort of mass-absolution for the mortal weaknesses that make him and his audience human. When you see JJ Grey and his band Mofro live—and you truly, absolutely must—the man is fearless.
Onstage, Grey delivers his songs with compassion and a relentless honesty, but perhaps not until Ol’ Glory has a studio record captured the fierceness and intimacy that defines a Grey live performance. “I wanted that crucial lived-in feel,” Grey says of Ol’ Glory, and here he hits his mark. On the new album, Grey and his current Mofro lineup offer grace and groove in equal measure, with an easygoing quality to the production that makes those beautiful muscular drum-breaks sound as though the band has set up in your living room.
As a boy, Grey was drawn to country-rockers, including Jerry Reed, and to Otis Redding and the other luminaries of Memphis soul; Run-D.M.C., meanwhile, played on repeat in the parking lot of his high school (note the hip-hop inflections on “A Night to Remember”). Merging these traditions, and working with a blue-collar ethic that brooked no bullshit, Grey began touring as Mofro in the late ’90s, with backbeats that crossed Steve Cropper with George Clinton and a lyrical directness that made his debut LP Blackwater (2001) a calling-card among roots-rock aficionados. Soon, he was expanding his tours beyond America and the U.K., playing ever-larger clubs and eventually massive festivals, as his fan base grew from a modest group of loyal initiates into something resembling a national coalition.
JJ Grey will be doing a three show New Year’s Eve tour in South Florida, his second stop being Key West’s Sunset Green Event Lawn on December 29th, making this the last concert of 2018 for Rams Head Presents-Key West.
Sunset Green Event Lawn is a new multipurpose event lawn situated between 24 North and The Gates hotel’s on North Roosevelt Boulevard. The venue can host over 1,000 concertgoers, has multiple bars, a food truck, a large parking lot behind the venue and the accessibility of two hotels just steps away. Also accessible by cab, Uber, and Lyft the entrance to Sunset Green Event Lawn is impossible to miss. Tickets are available at keywestconcertseries.com.
Available online at www.keywestconcertseries.com or at the Key West Theater box office at 512 Eaton St.