Blacktop Mojo on a Tuesday Night Packs The Soundboard in Orlando, Florida 10-5-2021

 

 

It was a quiet Tuesday night on W. Pine Street in Orlando, Florida. I found myself in line at 6:30pm along with a half a dozen other rock fans waiting to enter The Soundbar. The couple I was conversing with were from Michigan and were thrilled to be able to see Blacktop Mojo during their visit to the Sunshine State. While we were waiting the seven o’clock hour when we would be allowed inside, Matt James, the lead singer for Blacktop Mojo ventured by and struck up a conversation with the couple. He took time to pose for selfies with the waiting fans, myself included. In the back of my mind I wondered why he was just wondering down the street? Upon entering the venue a few minutes before 7:00, the reason was self evident. The venue was extremely small and there was only one green room which was occupied by the first opening band, Danger Bird. I was told the capacity of the venue was 350 occupants. I had a hard time swallowing that number as the Soundbar is a very small venue. There is a narrow bar area opening to the room that contained the stage that takes up approximately a third of the room. There is also a small balcony. At most a dozen people could view the stage from it. In all, the venue is a cozy place to watch a rock n roll show as the audience is close and personal.

Danger Bird was first on stage. I performed a head count and there were 48 individuals in attendance, it was a Tuesday night after all. Danger Bird is a four piece band out of Jacksonville, Florida. They played a short rock n roll set of original music. Lead guitar player Buddy Crump reminded me of the late Alan Collins of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Alan Collins was also from Jacksonville, Florida, and Buddy Crump mirrored him in appearance and playing style. Christian Powers on vocals and Jon Ward on bass were adequate musicians, but the show was Crump on the guitar and Melanie Jo on the drums. As a concert photographer, I have made it my mission to cover the drummer of every band I review to the best of my ability. Drummers are located at the back of the stage and usually in poor lighting. To top it off, their hands are always moving. They are challenging band members to photograph for all photographers.  Photographing a female drummer is always a bonus as their numbers are limited in rock n roll. Danger Bird was entertaining and were deserving of their opening position.

 

Danger Bird:

Christian Powers/ vocals

Buddy Crump/ lead guitar

Melanie Jo/ drums

Jon Ward/bass

 

 

The Cowford Town Band was the next band on the stage. The crowd had grown a bit, and if I were to guess, about 65 fans were now in the venue. A few were up in front of the stage, some were in the bar area, and most were against the wall across from the stage. I was still able to travel from stage right to stage left without much effort. Before their set, I had time to speak with Andrew Garder the bass player. He conveyed they were very happy to be opening for Blacktop Mojo here in Orlando. Like Danger Bird, The Cowford Town Band is a four piece band also from Jacksonville, Florida that performs they own material. The Cowford Town Band brings a feel of 70’s rock n roll with strong vocals from Nat Spaulding Jr. Steven Honig is mesmerizing on lead guitar as he captivates the audience with every lick. The barefoot Andrew Gardner moves well on the bass guitar but stays confined to a small area. Competitive body builder, Elon Hiers, holds his own on the drum kit. Overall, the crowd was into their performance a bit more than they were with Danger Bird, but they weren’t totally sold. The energy didn’t transfer to the audience as you would see with a headliner. Great music with great lyrics isn’t enough anymore; audiences long to be moved and entertained. Cowford Town Band is a very good band and needs just a bit more stage presence and crowd interaction to get to the next level.

 

Cowford Town Band:

Nat Spaulding Jr. – Vocals

Steven Honig – Guitar

Andrew Gardner – Bass

Elon Hiers – Drums

 

 

Setlist:

1.)  Bull Gator

2.)  Blood

3.)  Snakebite

4.)  On The Run

5.)  Sabertooth

6.)  Shine

7.)  Swamp Wizard

 

By the time Blacktop Mojo hit the stage, the crowd had grown and the venue appeared full. My estimation would be that there were 120 people in attendance and moving in front of the stage to photograph was impossible. I still had access to the back of the stage, but the center post hindered the ability for a good concert shot.  I found myself in the balcony with a birds eye view. Matt James had full command of the crowd as his exceptional vocals led the band. The stage behind him was in constant motion as Chuck Wepfer and Matt Curtis traded sides of the stage. Ryan Kiefer pretty much stayed stage left playing lead guitar not moving a whole lot. Nathan Gillis was steady on the drums with not a lot of flash. Their set was highly entertaining and the crowd was totally into what they were selling as the venue was a buzz.

Blacktop Mojo is a highly entertaining rock n roll band.  I must confess my favorite song of the night was the blues number “It Won’t Last” off their 2019 release Under The Sun.  It highlighted Matt James vocal range and tone. The band didn’t keep six feet of distance between themselves as they interacted with one another the entire show. Matt James even sat on the edge of the stage as he sang interacting with the crowd giving them an up close experience. Along with great music, the members of Blacktop Mojo might have been having more fun than their fans.  The energy transfer was hard to deny. Blacktop Mojo is currently touring now in support of their 2021 self titled album release, Blacktop Mojo. Whether the venue is large or small, you will come away feeling a bond with this band after a great night! 

 

Blacktop Mojo:

Matt James – vocals

Ryan Kiefer – guitar

Chuck Wepfer – guitar

Matt Curtis – bass

Nathan Gillis – drums

 

 

 

Setlist:

1.)  Wicked Woman

2.)  Lay it on Me

3.)  End of Days

4.)  Bed Tundy

5.)  Money

6.)  The Void

7.)  Can’t Sleep

8.)  It Won’t Last

9.)  Why

10.)  Coat

11.)  Burn The Ships

12.)  CDB’s

13.)  Tail Lights

14.)  Tush

15.)  Where The Wind Blows

 

 

 

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Freelance Photographer and Editor/Founder of AllMusicMagazine.com. My love of live music has taken me to incredible experiences with the top bands of all time in stadium shows to the smallest venues with equally inspiring musicians. Using the medium of photography and my publication, these memories will last forever.

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