Sensory Overload: The Floorwalkers and MojoFlo
First, a note about The Floorwalkers: This band has been bouncing around town for most of this decade, but I didn't really give them the time of day until early this year, when I stumbled upon one of their weekly Wednesday night gigs at Ruby Tuesday (the Campus bar, not the chain restaurant).
I soon discovered I had been overlooking one of this town's true treasures. I rarely gravitate towards jammy, bluesy pop music, but The Floorwalkers reeled me in from the start and have continued to ingratiate themselves ever since.
Each player brings so much to their omnivorous sound, but special honors go to singer Jonathan Elliott, so magnetic even he defies frontman decorum by mostly hunching over his microphone and simply letting his formidable voice do its thing.
That thing, more specifically, is a versatile tenor that coos as well as it wails - fitting for a band that so thoroughly pillages the musical landscape from easygoing balladry ("Fly Away") to smoky dirges ("Morning Song") to effervescently energetic purebred rock ("Up the Vine").
Such sonic splendor is available weekly at Ruby's, but I encountered The Floorwalkers last Friday for a special engagement at Rumba Cafe. They were as impressive as ever, but in truth I was there to witness the next act.
MojoFlo is not quite as polished as The Floorwalkers, which makes sense seeing as these Capital kids haven't been going at it for nearly as long. Given their busy summer gig schedule, they'll likely sharpen things a bit before long.
That's not to say they disappointed Friday night; quite the opposite. It's hard to follow a band as accomplished as The Floorwalkers, but MojoFlo, despite showing their greenness, held their own.
Ostensibly, MojoFlo is a soul outfit, but they rarely conjured the same flavor from song to song. The group shifted from instrumental Latin fusion funk to show-stopping signature jam "Waiting," as much a showcase for their not-yet-fully-tapped songwriting potential as for Amber Knicole's pipes.
Horns blaring, dreadlocked keyboard player swaying with the vibe, MojoFlo continued to unfold its restless muse with a jazzy take on Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" and a chipper duet between Knicole and guitarist George Barrie.
On a song-by-song basis, this crew brought its A-game. My hope is that soon they'll find that spark that ties together all these pleasant dabblings into something breathtakingly singular. They're good; they could be great.
It might seem inconsistent to praise one band's versatility only to complain about another band jumping around with its sound. But even as I appreciate MojoFlo's adventurous spirit, I can't help thinking they're still in the process of feeling out their identity. Watching them do so should be a pleasure.
For more local music news and reviews, click to the Sensory Overload blog at ColumbusAlive.com