Shakey Graves at Lincoln Hall, 12.03.14
w/ Esme Patterson & Sean Rowe
Shakey Graves is no stranger to Chicago. In June 2013, he came through the Windy City to play at Schubas, and also recorded a live session at Audiotree TV. I got to see him open for Shovels and Rope at Metro in September 2013, which was amazing. In April 2014, Shakey came to SPACE up in Evanston. And finally, he came back to play this show at Lincoln Hall to promote his long-awaited album And The War Came, released October 7, 2014. And us loyal fans showed up, of course.
If you care to know anything about Shakey Graves, you should know that ::
1. His real name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia. Check out this video on the origin of the moniker "Shakey Graves".
2. He is from Austin, TX. I think it's safe to say that his hometown influenced the unique mix of blues and rock, cowboy and rocker, acoustic and electric. And the super laid-back vibe.
3. He is known for being an incredible one-man band. Shakey picks out these distorted bluesy-rock riffs while keeping the beat on his suitcase-kickdrum-tambourine combo and singing wildly original lyrics. It's genius.
3. Prior to And The War Came, he had "released" only one album, called Donor Blues (way back in December 2012) - and I use quotes because it's one of those name-your-price, 100% downloadable album available on his website via Bandcamp. While this album contains the studio recordings of his most popular hits like "Roll The Bones", "Unlucky Skin", and "Proper Fence", it sounds entirely different from his live performances.
Shakey Graves is one of those artists who sounds better live than he does mixed on an album. [Reignwolf is another one of those guys, and in case you were wondering, yes they are friends! Which blows my mind.. in a good way! ha..] It's mostly because you can't capture the energy that comes with a Shakey Graves performance. That kickdrum suitcase that he uses, those picking patterns, and the raspy way that he plays with each song's melody can transform a quiet and subdued studio recording like "Built To Roam" into a high-energy, bluesy-rock, move-your-feet kind of song.
One more thing about Shakey that I find interesting is that he's an acoustic/folk/blues rocker with a cult-like following. I mentioned that his first album is available for download online via Bandcamp - before the release of And The War Came, that was just about the only place that you could find him. A collection of live recordings on YouTube and word of mouth (mainly in the Austin music community to begin with) were really what powered his eventual popularity. I feel like he's always on the road, or playing shows down in Texas, and he has played a number of notable music festivals like Newport Folk Festival and Pickathon in Oregon. He's still underground enough to satisfy the hipsters, but those of us who know and love him have created a slightly-obsessed, loyal until the end, fan-base. All of that speaks volumes about his live performance and his passion-infused talent that's attractive to any listener.
So about the show! Esme Patterson opened the night - she's actually featured on a few of Shakey's tracks, most notably the duet called "Dearly Departed". Esme is this cute little folksy girl from Denver with a unique voice and style - she sounds like she belongs in the 60's. Sean Rowe also played that night and he is really great! I had never heard him before, but he's got this low, folk-country voice and plays acoustic guitar and just has an authentic quality that really was nice to hear. I ended up buying his album Madman - it's worth a listen!
This show was no exception to the rule of Shakey awesomeness. He played an amazing set with both new and old songs, and brought out a few new faces who have been playing with him lately - Chris "Boo" Boosahda (drums), Pat "from the Pit" O'Connor (guitar, vocals) from L.A., and Esme (vocals). S.G. wore this Wu-Tang sweatshirt and made references to them all night...oh, did I mention he's really funny? It's not to be taken for granted when musicians actually have a sense of humor and a personality!
Anyway, the set rocked. Lincoln Hall was packed for a Wednesday night, and even though I got there for Esme's set, I had to maneuver my way towards the front because everyone showed up way early. The audience was mainly bros, which kind of surprised me at first, but Shakey is so chill with no ego whatsoever, that it kind of makes sense. Maybe that's why the audience was pretty quiet that night - not enough screaming teenage girls to fill the silence? ha! Also, another thing that was cool about the show is that it was live streamed via Chicago-based music company Audiotree TV, known for its live streamed in-studio sessions. So there were many eyes and ears tuned in for this show, which is pretty awesome.
I knew Shakey had recorded the new album with a drummer (Boo, who also co-produced the album), and I wasn't sure how I felt about the movement away from the "one-man-band" image. But I actually really enjoyed hearing S.G. with a fuller sound when the backing band came out - the guys definitely give the songs a harder, rockier vibe, which again is somewhat missing from the studio recordings. [[sidebar: if you really care to know what I mean, check out this version of "The Perfect Parts" with the live version below at the 1:00:45 mark. The album version falls somewhere in-between. Pretty different, but equally great, right?]] I thought that Pat's vocals complemented Shakey's voice really well and the harmonies were great, especially on "Once In A While". Esme also adds a nice folksy and whimsical sound to songs like "Big Time Nashville Star" and the back and forth on "Dearly Departed" is very unique - something that's not really done in mainstream music.
Now, because Audiotree TV streamed the whole show, you get to do something pretty sweet and actually watch the show that I'm writing about..what a rare treat! Below is the setlist with approximate timestamps so you can follow along (if anyone knows the song at the 1:16:53 mark, gimme a shout out). It's awesome music to just have playing in the background while you do whatever else it is that you should have been doing instead of reading this ;-) Big thanks to Audiotree for capturing the talent and awesomeness that is Shakey Graves and I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did! This is a musicsoul favorite, so join the cult and keep him on your radar.
38:00 - "Donor Blues"
41:55 - "Proper Fence"
47:45 - "Word of Mouth"
Boo and Pat join Shakey Graves on stage.
55:34 - "Family & Genius"
1:00:45 - "The Perfect Parts"
1:05:08 - "Once In A While"
1:11:34 - "House of Winston"
1:16:53 - "Where A Boy Once Stood" (thanks for the help, readers!)
Boo and Pat leave. Back to pure Shakey greatness.
1:24:39 - "Tomorrow"
1:29:34 - "Roll The Bones"
1:35:42 - "Built To Roam"
1:41:00 - "Unlucky Skin"
Esme comes back out and sings.
1:48:00 - "Call It Heaven"
Boo comes back out.
1:52:54 - "Big Time Nashville Star"
1:58:15 - "Dearly Departed"
2:05:38 - "Late July"
Boo & Pat rejoin S.G.
2:13:50 - "Pansy Waltz"
Think: Shovels & Rope; Gary Clark, Jr.; Reignwolf
Listen: "If Not For You" , "The Perfect Parts"
Tweet: @ShakeyGraves, @patfromthepit, @boosahdaC