Back in the ’90s, when “da Soup” was bubbling warmly through live music venues in Old Town and greater Pasadena, Gene Evaro Jr. would have fit right in.
A scion of the sprawling, multigenerational Evaro clan of musicians and singers renowned in the Joshua Tree-Palm Springs desert region, Evaro Jr. resides in JT and projects that creative community’s tribal vibe of funky love vibrations and good times. His immediate musical family includes sisters Gabrielle and Shavaughn, who performed with him in popular family band Evaro (whose self-titled 2010 album closed with a hummed and strummed “Ode to Natalie,” for a sister who had died), and who have also backed him in his Gene Evaro Jr. & the Family lineup. Their father, Gene Evaro Sr., a lifelong musician and producer, toured with the likes of the Temptations and Ike & Tina Turner.
Evaro Jr. comes across as a bohemian free spirit, but behind that everybody-come-together persona lie solid chops; he’s been playing keyboards, composing and programming since childhood, and his extended guitar solos nod to influences like Prince and Derek Trucks. A favorite at the annual Joshua Tree music festival, he’s a smooth showman onstage, encouraging audiences to sing along and dance to lighthearted jams like “Charlie Moan,” “California is Burning,” “Hustlin’,” “Love Awakening,” and “Soul (How I Keep Movin On),” whose silky harmonies and sensual grooves suggest Marvin Gaye after 40 days in the desert. Songs like recent single “Loving You” (a showcase for him and bassist gal pal Piper Robison) and “Smile” stick with standard R&B romance (“Go ahead and smile, girl, it looks good on you”). “We Don’t Need to Be Sold” blends a reggae-kissed message of unity and protest with family faith and stinging leads before torquing into a serious guitar-horn jam:
“We don’t need to be high
We don’t need to sold
We don’t need to be saved
We don’t need to be told
We just wander around with our God-given love”
He celebrated his birthday with a show at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown last week before playing the super groove High Sierra Music Festival on the Fourth, and he’s hitting the road later this month with his band for a string of summer tour dates through the West. First, though, he’s warming up with a duo or trio in One Colorado’s courtyard Wednesday night.