Music Festival Spotlight: JJ Grey and Mofro
Flood City Music Festival Spotlight: JJ Grey and Mofro (Submitted photo)
Grey and his band, Mofro, have taken his mix of soul, blues and rock to Europe and Japan. He has played from Canada to Mexico. In the United States, he is known to fans far beyond his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.
"The West Coast is just as strong as the Southeast, Chicago, Colorado or New York City," he said in a phone interview last month.
But Johnstown? That's a new one, even for a road veteran like Grey, who will perform two shows at this year's AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival, with sets scheduled for 9:30 p.m. Aug. 5 and 7 p.m. Aug. 6. If the shows are anything like his previous regional stops in Pittsburgh and Morgantown, Grey said he won't be disappointed.
"I love that part of the country. I love Pittsburgh. It's a down-to-earth, straight-ahead, blue-collar town. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up."
That is quite a compliment, considering the obvious love for his swampy Florida stomping grounds shown in his music, which is full tales of the region and the wild characters who live there.
Even the name of his backing band, Mofro, is rooted in local color. The term is a word one of his buddies made up, Grey said.
"It sounded southern to me, and it didn't really mean one particular thing. I wanted the music to sound like that -- not just southern, but to have a kind of grit," he said.
"Those little things like that are, in my opinion, what make music worth listening to. The music is a product of living in a specific somewhere. It reveals the connection people have to that place."
It is fitting, then, that critics have labeled his music "swamp rock," even if Grey himself isn't sure what that means.
"I tried to figure out what made it swampy," he said. "It's the same instrumentation and chords (as other types of rock). I haven't planted a flag on some new territory by any stretch of the imagination. I just don't know what it is."
Whatever it is, the music is finding an audience that Grey said is surprisingly diverse, appealing equally to fans of classic rock bands like Credence Clearwater Revival and modern acts like Kings of Leon.
"Fans and friends have come up to me again and again saying its crazy how many types of people we have, both young and old," he said. "There's no way I could try to market it like that."
He has played at festivals including the Austin City Limits Festival, Bonnaroo and the Montreal Jazz Festival. He has performed with B.B. King, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Los Lobos, Jeff Beck, Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz, Booker T. Jones, Mavis Staples and many others. His sixth and latest release, "Georgia Warhorse," was released last August. For more, go to www.jjgrey.com.