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JJ Grey & MOFRO find fans in Steamboat

— Even if you went to last week's Free Summer Concert Series performance not knowing who JJ Grey & MOFRO were, it was hard to leave the concert not a fan. Grey and his five-person band thrilled the typically-large free concert crowd despite the dismal weather.

Although not many could sing along with MOFRO's original tunes, hardly anyone within hearing range of the stage at the base of Howelsen Hill could stand still. A handful of dedicated music fans crowded the stage from the start of the opening set, and they set the scene for the rest of the night. By the time Grey finished his second (or was it his third?) encore, many of the Steamboat families that were at the back of the crowd had made their way off their blankets and danced to the deep bass lines.

Looking like he just stepped off a tractor-trailer with a trucker hat and cowboy boots, Grey's stage presence and talent with the harmonica and piano added a down-home feel familiar to the country and bluegrass scene. Even more impressive was his voice, dripping with a Southern accent as it echoed off the face of Howelsen's ski jumps. He sang with the confidence of an older musician, belting lyrics about growing up in the South, politics, love and life.

The audience danced in the rain to music that seemed to switch genres with every song, from jam-band inspired encores to soulful gospel melodies and even crowd-pumping rock 'n' roll. Although the majority of the audience hadn't heard much of MOFRO, the energy at Howelsen mirrored that of last summer's Spearhead concert and The Wailers show in June. And this time around, there was beer to sell.

- Erin Gleason

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