Shakey Graves At North Park Observatory
Jeffery Hallock | Contributor | USDRadio |
After a strong opening from Denver band Tennis, the crew for the night’s headliner at North Park Observatory pieced together an interesting stage. The amps had a rustic look akin to old luggage and were adorned with a variety of lamps that flickered at random intervals. A synth board was draped in a Texas flag and the stage backdrop was a large skull pierced by an arrow that would brightly glow in accordance with whatever color light was hitting it. The night’s main act, Shakey Graves, was billed by the Observatory as ‘country’, but in reality his music was as varied as the components on the stage.
Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, put on blistering 2-hour show for a packed house that saw saw him drift between outright rock, blues, and unique twangy tracks that pull the label of country but sound about as similar to Keith Urban as I do to Adele. The genre blending musician is a local legend in his native Austin, Texas where the mayor has recognized February 9th in his honor as “Shakey Graves Day.” The 28-year-old singer-songwriter receives high praise in any circle whenever I hear his name mentioned and his show at the Observatory on October 28th lived up to his lofty reputation.
Shakey took to a dark stage on his own for the first two songs. His second song, the title track to his first LP Roll Your Bones, pulled the crowd in with hand clapping, a rhythmic kick drum, and distorted experimentation on his guitar. His high energy set the tone and placed him at center stage even as a full band joined him for a large portion of the show.
The next run of songs was the highlight stretch of the performance for me as the band played several hits from Shakey’s 2014 And The War Came. This included ‘The Perfect Parts’, ‘Only Son’ and, my personal favorite from the album, ‘Dearly Departed.’ On the album, ‘Dearly Departed’ appears as a duet with Esmé Patterson. As arguably Shakey’s most well known track, he requested the crowd filled in for Esmé’s parts and they happily obliged.
The show contained a handful of songs where Shakey jammed solo on either an acoustic or electric guitar but also had plenty of others backed by the full band. One thing that was consistent was the banter Alejandro had with the crowd that showed an artist who was truly enjoying himself. One of his several stories noted his time in California and how it made him better understand the caricature people create about his home state of Texas. He made it a point to stress the importance of traveling and this was further reflected in songs such as ‘Built to Roam.’ Dissecting Shakey’s lyrics proved to be an integral part of the show as they portrayed a complex figure who, like so many, is working to find his place in the world despite pain and confusion around him. Shakey’s constant use of imagery that reflects depth of meaning by referencing bones, skin, teeth, and fangs amplified the emotion displayed by his frenetic stage presence.
The back end of the show closed strong with two songs, ‘Family and Genus’ and ‘Pansy Waltz’, that are particularly worth noting. The first of these two sounded like a full scale rock-arena-anthem that clearly differentiated itself from the rest of the show. The song felt transcendent and was a true standout, probably my favorite individual track of the night. ‘Pansy Waltz’ by comparison hit closer to Shakey’s signature, twangy sound. It was preceded by a jam session that had Shakey play through a broken string and was the perfect tune to close out the show before a three song encore. After great renditions ‘Hard Wired’ from And Then The War Came and ‘To cure what ails..’ from Roll Your Bones, Shakey individually introduced and thanked his band members before rocking out to the final track of the night. The group came together for a bow as the crowd gave a roaring ovation, truly thankful for a memorable Wednesday night.
To see a little of Shakey’s unique humor and sound, check out this video of ‘Dearly Departed’ with Esmé Patterson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3jk3pflofk