"I feel like I'm at a One Direction concert." Not a phrase you'd expect to overhear at an Americana show, but we kind of got where she was coming from. Higher Ground was packed to the gills on Thursday night, with more than a few gaggles of girls in their teens and twenties in attendance. This show sold out fast, and it's not hard to see why. Austin native Alejandro Rose-Garcia has been performing as Shakey Graves since 2011, expanding out from his lo-fi solo sound on second LP And The War Came this past October.
Opening up the night was fellow Austinite David Ramirez. Though his speaking voice has a distinctive drawl, his singing voice is more variable. From song to song he ranged from David Gray smooth to a hint of country twang, to the occasional full on metal growl. He describes himself as a "a man and his guitar...honest, unfiltered, and true." The singer-songwriter adds a harmonica on occasion, but for the most part that about covers it. Check out the video for "On Your Side" below and check out his website for more, including some free tracks.
Though these days Shakey Graves brings drummer Chris Boosahda and guitarist Patrick O'Conner on tour with him, they were only on stage for the first and last few songs of his set. For the most part Shakey is still a one-man band, his trusty red Samsonite kick drum providing rhythm. Though his fanbase and recognition have skyrocketed in the past few years, Shakey Graves still manages to put on shows that feel incredibly personal. Sharing the stories behind some of his songs, leading some call and responses, and even occasionally breaking mid-song to interact, he definitely plays to the audience, not just at them. He's managed to expand on his signature sound without losing it, an impressive feat as an artist.
For fans of And The War Came, there's something noticeably missing in Shakey Graves' live shows. Or rather, someone. Esme Patterson is out on her own tour right now, meaning that all the songs she contributes to were lacking a whole vocal line. That includes what is clearly a fan favorite, "Dearly Departed," which she and Shakey co-wrote apparently originally as a Halloween joke. While we have no doubt that her presence would have added to the performance, it still didn't feel anything less than whole. "Dearly Departed" in particular gained a lot of raucousness live that filled in those gaps. It had a very different feel than this Pandora Live session, but in a way that worked equally well.
So, while screaming fan girls can get a little overwhelming, we get why they're so excited. Shakey Graves is a great artist who puts on a engaging show. As usual, he'll be on the road pretty much all summer hitting tons of festivals along the way. Check to see if he's headed your way here.