Soulful funk coming from the Bay to Carson on Saturday

Rojai & The Pocket perform Saturday night in Carson City at the Levitt AMP Concert Series.

Rojai & The Pocket perform Saturday night in Carson City at the Levitt AMP Concert Series.

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Rojai & The Pocket come to Carson City this weekend to share their fusion of funk and soulful melodies to keep the dance party moving Saturday night.
This is the first time for them to play here as part of the Levitt AMP Concerts, presented by The Change Companies, and they’re excited to show off their talents to Carson City.
“We’re stoked to be part of it, and it should be fun,” Roija said, whose real name is Jairo Vargas. “It’s my first time playing the event in Carson, and I got the crew all excited.”
Rojai is known for his singing voice. In the Bay Area they call him the screeching falcon of funk. He’s a blind, soulful singer with his hand in several projects including Kool Kustomer and Bastard Jazz.
He’ll be rolling in with his six-piece band, The Pocket aka Hot Pocket, from the Bay Area. Their goal is to keep true to the funk origins and create some two-stepping dance grooves with soulful melodies, Rojai said. A “pocket” in music terms relates to the groove a song can be built around.
“That goal is to get people dancing and get them grooving,” he said.
Roija said the band is entertaining and exciting to watch.
“On stage, it’s fire, it’s high energy, we’re keeping it tight, keeping it fun,” he said. “Basically, we’re having a party on stage.”
Branden Farmer will be on playing on drums, who Roija said has a big “pocket” when it comes to music.
“He’s got a pocket so clean you could park a bus on it,” Roija said.
Bill Hager on bass helps keep the pocket clean too and helps run the rhythm section.
“He’s my ace in the crew,” Roija said. “He’s got some real heavy bass tones. He’s real juicy in that department.”
Hager and the keyboardist Eli Goldlink sing backup vocals too. The keyboardist does his job keeping it keeping it funky with some nice synth lines and warm tones, Roija said.
And on guitar is Chris Carter. He’s been playing with Roija since 1999.
“This is a gritty, funky, soulful boy,” he said. “This is a guy who stays true to ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s funk. All three decades — just that front porch funk.”
Also on backup vocals is Shamila Ivory, who will also be featured on some songs. Roija said they’ve been singing together for over a decade and have a great repertoire.
“My soul sister who is gonna just bring it,” he said. “I’m gonna let her do her thing. Folks are gonna be like ‘Oh boy.’”
His most recent album, The Strutdown, was released in Fall 2019 from the label Austin Boogie Crew on 12” vinyl. There’s 11 tracks and they’re also available on Spotify.
“I’m feeling really good about it,” he said.
His two previous albums are Solitude and Hard Pressed. He said his live show will include a mix from all his albums and a couple from side projects.
There’s a new EP in the works, titled “Rendezvous” which is in the process of being finished.
A recent accomplishment for Roija was having one of his tracks in the movie “Fatherhood,” starring Kevin Hart. The song is a collaboration between B. Ravo and Rojai, which together they go by Kool Kustomer. The same song was also used on Tyler Perry’s TV show “Sistas” on BET. He said he’ll be sliding in two singles from Kool Kustomer when he plays on Saturday. All the other songs will be picked from his discography.
As far as Rojai’s influences, he says he is a big James Brown fan and gets most of his inspiration from him. He also likes Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and Michael Jackson.
“I just want to keep it soulful and always want to grasp the soul of the music,” he said. “As long as I’m doing that, it’s all right.”

WHAT: Rojai & The Pocket with opener Drinking with Clowns at Brewery Art Center’s Levitt AMP Concert Series
WHERE: The Change Companies Stage, 449 West King St. at the Brewery Arts Center
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 17
on Twitter and Instagram: @rojaisf


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