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J.J. Grey & Mofro: A night at the Civic

“We most certainly will go to bed deaf tonight,” I told my friends as we walked through the CBD on a recent Wednesday evening, which, in the spring and fall, usually entails the free live music performances at Lafayette Square.

The Young Leadership Council sponsors the spring concerts, while the fall series is managed by the Second Harvest Food Bank; both great organizations bring top notch New Orleans talent for a collection of musical evenings in the CBD.

The Civic Theatre's sign

The Civic Theatre's sign

One of last fall’s performances delivered one of my favorite bands hailing from the swamplands of Florida, and recently, nearly one year later, I got to see them, J.J. Grey & Mofro, again, at the recently renovated Civic Theatre.

After the Revivalists’ set at Wednesdays at the Square wound down and the crowd dispersed into the night, we made our way to the Civic, as we sipped on the tepid ends of our beers.

In a town that appreciates great music, the lines -- both outside and at the cash bar -- were surprisingly short, or at least not as long as I had expected. As the opening number, Honey Island Swamp Band, played, the crowd began to swell. However, since we’d arrived fairly early, we were able to stake out a great spot -- in the middle of the floor right in front of the stage.

Kicking off with supreme energy, Mofro rocked & rolled “Your Lady, She’s Shady” from their newest album This River (2013). Moving backwards and forwards through their catalogue, the band seemed to thoroughly enjoy their performance just as much as I was. J.J. Grey jumped, danced, hooted, hollered, smiled, and sang his way across the stage the entire night. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at Red Rocks over the summer when opening for the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, but that was nothing compared to this night.

Mofro was absolutely in the zone.

Appearing to slow it down a bit, they started playing “Lochloosa,” the first song of theirs I’d ever heard. Needless to say, this rendition was no disappointment, as it was certainly the most impressive song one of the evening. As the melody began, J.J. Grey darted off stage and reappeared with Ed Williams, the pedal steel guitarist of the Revivalists. The variety that his guitar contributed to the harmony added an entirely new layer of wonderful soul and sound to the song, leaving me slack jawed.

By night’s end, I was totally blown away. After a graceful bow and a sincere thank you, J.J. Grey and his band, Mofro, walked off stage. We made our way to the exit and headed home with the Civic’s illuminated sign behind us.

My ears were still ringing when I got up for work at six the next morning. We may not have gone to bed completely deaf, but if I keep up these musical marathons, which won’t be a problem in this city, one night I probably will.

This article was submitted to NolaVie by Zach Wallace. Check out his love for cooking and writing in his painfully slow, work in progress Dash: Good Food Fast.