Los Angeles – If it seems like Shakey Graves (nee Alejandro Rose-Garcia) has a familiar face, that’s probably because he does. Getting his entertainment career started as an actor in film and television, he has transitioned to a rough-around-the-edges Americana singer-songwriter over the last few years. This has proven to be a smart decision for the artist out of Austin, TX; while his acting career could be called middling at best, he has instantly stood out as one of the brightest new talents in the alternative-country scene. Critical praise and year-end awards have been rightfully heaped onto the singer and his two proper full-lengths, 2011’s debut Roll the Bones and last year’s And the War Came. With this momentum at his back, he made a headlining appearance this Monday at the stunning Theater at The Ace Hotel, aka the United Artists Theater during Downtown Los Angeles’ golden era.
As the band got ready to kick off the set, Aaron Copeland’s iconic Western-themed score of “Rodeo” pumped through the house speakers, foreshadowing the gritty Americana that would follow. Without addressing the audience, his band instantly kicked into the one-two punch that was “Only Son” and “Dearly Departed”. With the theater’s seating arrangement towering above the venue’s wide stage, Shakey Graves approached the microphone after the second song to lament the dichotomous nature of playing in such an enormous legacy theater that has been intricately renovated to historic standards: “Most beautiful theater I’ve ever been in. But the tragedy of it is you feel so far away!”
Despite much of the audience being literally a hundred feet away and confined to their stadium seat (you’re going to get something thrown at you if you stand up and dance at a venue like this), for much of the night the performance felt incredibly intimate. Shakey Graves began the night in a more rock ‘n roll fashion, bringing out a full band and eschewing the folksy “one-man-band” set-up he made his name with. For the first 30 minutes of the performance, this was hardly an alt-country show; instead, it felt a lot more like a discordant (in a good way!) folk-punk performance. Rose-Garcia has a way of manipulating the hell out of his guitar chords, finger-picking just the right notes and giving his songs a lightly ominous nature that is well suited to his sound.
After five songs, the other members of Shakey Graves’ band left the stage, allowing him to demonstrating his incredibly impressive “one-man-band” setup. Armed with his guitar and a unique stomp-box of an instrument that included cymbals and a bass drum, he ripped through several of his best-known songs, including crowd favorite “Word of Mouth”, “Donor Blues” from the artist’s 2012 EP of the same name, and “Roll the Bones”, the titular track from his debut LP. Eventually, his band took the stage again, helping him close out the set in dramatic fashion.
Despite the enormous venue and less-than-ideal seating situation, Shakey Graves showed he knows how to control an audience. Whether he was plugged in and ripping out dissonant guitar passages or finger picking through some of his more beautiful ditties, the audience was rapt for the entire set.
Shakey Graves continues his United States tour with dates all across the country, including back-to-back shows in Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, and New Braunfels, TX. He will also be appearing in Toronto and Montreal with Those Darlins and several other major cities across the United States.
Take a look at the Shakey Graves tour page for tickets and exact dates.
Photo credit: Matt Matasci for BestNewBands.com