Article and Photos by: Linda Carlson
Covington, KY – Madison Live, situated beside The Madison Theater in Covington KY, rocked southern-style to Blacktop Mojo and opener Lullwater. The crowd, surprisingly light for such a loaded evening (was it because it was a lazy summer Sunday?), enjoyed an incredible evening of exemplary rock ‘n roll.
Lullwater, a foursome from Athens GA, opened. Lead singer John Strickland gave a solid vocal performance with a gracious smile to match the smooth rock tunes. Sweat continually dripped from his arms to the stage floor, and from his hands to the guitar face. The band, currently promoting their 2019 album, Voodoo, performed a strong set to warm up the audience.
Blacktop Mojo, from Palestine TX, came onstage in a flurry of hair-flailing head-bangs that set the stage awash with movement. Lead singer & rhythm guitarist Matt James, with his enormous arms bursting from his button-down shirtsleeves, brought that voice, the one that has captivated viewers of the band’s stellar YouTube cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” (link), at this time nearing 13M views. There’s burgeoning power to his voice that is selectively proffered, giving those moments of power all the more strength. When he sings softly, it’s with a caress in his tone, and when he ramps it up, he brings the house down!
The quintet, consisting of James, bassist Matt Curtis, guitarists Ryan Kiefer and Chuck Wepfer, and drummer Nathan Gillis, mixed the set masterfully with both powerhouse tunes and quieter ballads. Mid-set, James told the crowd that back home in Texas, friends sit around and share the guitar and sing. And with that, he and Curtis stepped from the stage and into the audience and sat down on the floor, in the middle of the crowd. They motioned to everyone to sit and join them, and together, everyone participated in an acoustic sing-along of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.” With lead guitarist Kiefer accompanying from the stage, in the soulful quiet of the venue, surrounded by what at this point felt like an intimate fireside gathering of close friends, Phil Collins’ song never sounded better. The fans sang, and with their hands, they instinctively beat imaginary drums on the floor at the song’s climax. With the glow of an occasional cell phone (people, put them down and savor the moment!), this was an amazing, personal, shared experience.
What left an impression on me was this… the band played for this small crowd with the same passion, enthusiasm, appreciation and energy that one would expect at a larger venue with a larger audience. I have been to shows with less notable bands who walked off the stage after a few songs because (presumably) the crowd was light. But Blacktop Mojo, every member, gave it their all. True professionals, they perform because it is their driving passion, and they appreciate every fan who turns out and pays hard-earned money to see them.
Having covered well over one hundred bands so far this year, Blacktop Mojo’s performance would make my top ten. Hands down.
Blacktop Mojo are touring tirelessly, and I encourage everyone to go out and experience their signature southern-style of rock (with hints of hard metal mixed in). You will leave feeling like I did, that you just had the best time. Check out their tour schedule, with performances nearly every night in August: https://www.blacktopmojo.com/.