From The Pit: Eight-Piece New Orleans Funk N’ Soul Band Miss Mojo Throw Down At The Larimer Lounge In Denver

Last Wednesday night was full of firsts for me, which included: my first live show in over a year, my first time going to a concert to write about it, and the first time I’ve seen a funk band play. Given the slow speed at which things are going back to normal, I had low expectations for the crowd both in size and energy – but when Miss Mojo stepped on stage, the room was packed with people dancing, laughing, and rejoicing.

Denver’s Larimer Lounge has not changed over the last year; the dark and sticky stage room that people trickle into from the bar was still dark (less sticky, though) and the venue was still playing the best pre-show music. While I was people-watching, I ran into lead singers Piper Browne and Jenna Winston, who were nice enough to sit outside before the show to chat.

“We’re obsessed with each other,” Winston gushed, as the longtime group of friends sat in the backyard of the venue. It was more like a family gathering than prepping for a gig.

As the band mingled with their fans, it was heartwarming to see the relationship they’ve created – it was just like old friends reuniting. When Miss Mojo started their set, the chemistry between the band members, and between the band and audience was palpable. Coordinated dances and seamless song transitions made the eight-piece band look and sound like a well-oiled machine, their year of semi-aimless rehearsals to thank. 

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Kicking off their set with “Horizons,” (which has yet to be released) which Browne called the band’s “necessary quarantine-inspired song,” had everyone dancing – especially the old man in bike shorts in the front doing Britney Spears-esque choreography (picture hands above head, popping and locking, hips swaying). “Unconditional”  and “Fall Again” were two of my personal favorites early in the set, the former remaining stuck in my head several days later. The two highlight Winston and Browne’s smooth, sultry voices, but contrast each other in sound; “Fall Again” is a ballad-type piece, which combined with a funk bassline and electric organ created the most danceable song about not wanting to fall in love I’ve ever heard.

Throughout the set, the vocalists let the horn players – Ari Kohn on saxophone and Peter Gustafson on trombone – take center stage, each of them soloing over the band for a tune. Unfortunately, I was awestruck by the beautiful melodies the two of them came up with, and I do not have words more descriptive than just that. Sometimes you just have to be there.

In the middle of the set, the group played Winston’s favorite song of theirs, “Crushin’”, (also unreleased) which has a laid-back R&B vibe. It was a different feel compared to the band’s other songs, but emphasized the versatility of the octet’s musical abilities. Shortly after “Crushin’”, we were treated to a cover of Britney Spears’ “Baby…One More Time”, which had every audience member singing along, and screaming “Free Britney!” at the end. 

The rhythm section of the band, composed of Rob Kellner (keys), Mack Major (drums), Cody Greenstein (guitar), and Leo Skovron (bass) were the backbone of the show. Between their dancing, solos, fills, and riffs, it was hard to decide who to watch during a song. The set ended with an energetic and dancey unnamed piece, which left the audience begging for an encore – and the band came back with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” an unexpected but thrilling conclusion to the show. 

Traveling from their native New Orleans to do a small run of shows in Denver, Steamboat Springs, and Snow Mass Village, the band was thrilled to return for their third Colorado-mini tour, which wrapped up on July 4th. After their opening show in Denver, I walked out of Larimer Lounge with aching feet and ringing ears- two things I’m not sure I can say I missed, but brought back the familiar post-concert euphoria I have missed.

Miss Mojo will be doing a run of shows in D.C., Philly, Boston, and New York in August, so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, I’ll be hoping that the band will release their new songs, especially “Horizons”, and “Crushin,’” so I can keep the dance party going- in my kitchen. 

All photos by Nathan Shamblin

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