A few years back I remember watching some videos on Youtube and coming across a WONDERFUL version of Phil Collins’ classic “In The Air Tonight” by a group named Blacktop Mojo which was shot very DIY in a distillery. IMMEDIATELY hearing Matt James’ vocals I was impressed. Then I heard their collaboration with Alex Smith covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”. I was curious to hear some of their original material and I was even more impressed.They have a great sound- blues-based hard rock with some really killer licks and the vocals are top notch. Lookwise the band seems like they could be in the WWE, but they have  real musical talent there. These southern rockers recently played at Artie’s Bar in western NJ and I had to check them out.

Playing a small bar can sometimes be a bit of a daunting task for musicians as it may take a little longer for the crowd to really get into the music, but honestly that wasn’t the case. When Blacktop Mojo hit the stage the crowd just encompassed the stage area and suddenly the show had a bigger feel. Blasting right into the opening track “Wicked Woman” from their self titled album the band had already won the crowd over. It’s pretty rare to see a crowd that into the music so quickly but looking at the crowd it was pretty evident that this was a real meeting of the Mojo Nation.

The grooves and riffs kept flowing like the drinks from the bar that night with one great tune after the other. Vocalist Matt James asked the crowd “Does anyone here like serial killers?” to which the audience EXPLODED with a resounding cheer, it was an interesting, yet slightly disturbing moment but a great segue into their tune “Bed Tundy”. Guitarists Ryan Kiefer and Chuck Wepfer laid the heavy grooves with some really tasty lead work. Bassist Matt Curtis was an absolute madman skulking around the stage the entire night. The energy this guy has should be bottled and sold instead of coffee or Red Bull. Drummer Nathan Gillis seemed to be in a trance most of the night locked into the rhythms for each of the songs, never missing a beat.

One of the more interesting parts of the night was when Matt James grabbed a guitar and played the most melancholy version of the Temptations’ hit “My Girl” that I’ve ever heard. What’s usually a wonderfully upbeat love song suddenly changed into a morose and sad version. That’s the mark of a true musician, being able to adapt a song and make it your own unique version.
The night seemed to end way too quickly for me. The energy the band gave off was amazing, and let me tell you their version of ZZ Top’s “Tush” was top notch and would have blown the beards right off Billy Gibbons and company.

I fully expect these guys to be supporting some real heavy hitters on a huge tour within the next few months. This band has an amazing future ahead of them, until the end of days.Go check them out live on ShipRocked next year after you listen to their catalog. You WON’T be disappointed.

Review and photos by Bryan Bardes