Jorma Fans Flock to the Outpost

Jorma at Outpost It was a long time coming, but after decades of determined collective effort, Outpost in the Burbs finally brought iconic American blues/folk/rock guitarist Jorma Kaukonen to Montclair on Thursday evening, thanks to a grant from the Arnold and Joy Gottlieb Family Foundation. The sold-out event showcased Kaukonen’s finger-picking guitar prowess and silky smooth vocals, as well as the incredible versatility of his Hot Tuna band member, mandolin maestro and New Jersey native Barry Mitterhoff.

The concert was as much a tribute to the dedication of  Kaukonen’s loyal fan base — many of whom had traveled hours to get to Montclair for the show — as it was to his outstanding music.

JormaSpeaking with a random selection of audience members, it became immediately clear that many in the crowd had Jorma stories to tell, and they were anxious to share. Hearing one person tell their story, others chimed in, in a congenial sort of Jorma show and tell. The profile of the somewhat homogenous crowd was typically a rock tee-shirt wearing Baby Boomer male  who had been following the finger-picking legend for more than a few decades, going back to his early days with Jefferson Airplane. “It’s a shame that Grace Slick isn’t here tonight, too,” said one long-time fan.

The common thread to the tales of Jorma is that he’s a down-to-earth, totally approachable, hang-out kind of guy. Story after story conveyed the fact that he puts on no airs and postures no rock star persona, though clearly he could.

Montclair resident Ron Sosely got the chance to spend a friendly evening in a small NY bar near the West Side Highway back in 1986. “Jorma was playing with a small band, and he ended up sitting down with my friends and I,” Sosely reminisced. “He was very friendly and generous. We shared a very good night.”

JormaAnother audience member, NJ bass player Robert Mennella, has been a following Jorma since 1975 and has been to Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch in rural Ohio. Founded by Jorma and his wife Vanessa in the mid-1980s, the “ranch that grows guitar players” is described as a place where both budding and seasoned musicians can collaborate and inspire each other’s music. “It’s not like Rock and Roll camp — you create relationships and really learn from these guys,” said Mennella. Back in 2004, Mennella was preparing to perform at the ranch, but needed a guitarist to accompany him. Mennella’s wife went off to round someone up and came back with Jorma. “I was surprised and nervous, but we played I See the Light together, and it was amazing. These guys are just it for me — they’re the real deal.” For those looking for a taste of Jorma’s Ohio music scene, Fur Ranch merchandise such as “Rhythm Tonic Tea” — a blend of Rooibus, Hibiscus, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Star Anise and Stevia — was available at the Outpost.

Jorma Kaukonen at the Outpost-6Just as he had been portrayed, Jorma was generous with his time and attention at last night’s Outpost show. He and Mitterhoff — who played a range of instruments including mandolin, banjo, ukulele and guitar — wowed the audience for hours with an intricate interplay of strings. Each in his own lumberjack-style plaid shirt, the duo seamlessly told their “musical stories” and exchanged friendly banter. Jorma even gave a shout out to a popular regional pork product. “I’m not leaving Jersey without having Taylor Ham for breakfast,” he said. “It’s better than Scrapple!”

Jorma Kaukonen photos by Todd Boressoff
Jorma Kaukonen at the Outpost-3

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  1. Was there last night. Jorma is salt-of-the-Earth and his voice and music soothe the soul. Two gripes, if I may: Performers need to be elevated above the audience. I was in the 7th row, and it was virtually impossible to actually *see* Jorma and Barry play. Second issue is common everywhere: Idiots with phone cameras. Put those things away and listen to the show. All those self-absorbed attendees were standing up, song after song, blocking everyone behind them so they can get a crappy image on their phone. Really…is this necessary? Will you ever even look at these pics? After the first set, one of the event coordinators told the audience “no more pictures.” TG.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Floyd and Sheepy.

    We are very sorry that your concert experience was less than perfect, Floyd. We’re sorry that you were not able to see the hands of Jorma and Barry. Apparently, they chose chairs and not stools- but your comment is certainly valid and something we need to seriously consider for further shows. (Some artists are on the higher level of the stage). I was not part of that process, but will share your gripe. As I said, it is valid.

    As for the picture-taking and cellphones, there was a sign in the lobby but unfortunately, people either did not see it or didn’t abide by it. As you noted, things changed significantly after the announcement at intermission. As we all know, this is becoming more frequently an issue at concerts everywhere. it is not usually a problem at all at most Outpost shows, but this was JORMA. This is another thing we hope to deal with more effectively in the future, (we were trying) but preventing everyone from using their cellphones might be impossible.

    Sheepy- We are glad you think the acoustics are very good (I know, that’s not exactly what you said)… Jeremy and his crew on sound work really hard at trying to bring the best-sounding show possible to our audiences.

    Thank you both for your comments. Come back on June 7th for the Season Finale. The music will be great and it’s in Fletcher Hall, BYOB- the room has tables and the artists are up on stage. Oh, and there’s not likely to be many cameras and cell phones!

    Gail Prusslin
    Publicity and Promotion Volunteer
    Outpost in the Burbs

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