An Impressionistic Look at an Alt Concert of Shakey Graves and Friends
Another one!! This time it’s Shakey Graves at Norfolk, Virginia’s NorVa Concert Venue. Again, young performers of alt this or alt that seem to have made up their minds that no-one’s going to leave one of their concerts without a feeling of damned-near total satisfaction. It’s like the theatre is a bowl, and the music is the nutrition, and the audience’s sensory apparatus is the means for devouring this moveable feast. Time exists separately in these constructs; if it takes 20 minutes for one song’s building and consumption, then it takes 20 minutes. And don’t wipe that smile off of your mouth that’s been stretched thin again with pleasure.
Yeah, in between the fucks and damns of your narration connecting the exquisite mass of these songs, your audience is taken and heart-held ‘til it throbs. Yes, Alejandro Rose-Garcia of Austin, TX, better known as Shakey Graves (derived from imaginary “Indian scout” names arising around a campfire), you do indeed evoke shakey graves and other unexpected imagery and balance-altering experiences. Another contemporary concert has passed and left the street, this time Granby, trembling in its wake.
It appears to be another manifestation of what Darryl McPhearson, Dawes brother with guitar and golden voice, said about their (Dawes’) performances, that he did not want to leave a show until each audience member has filled with joy. It felt to me at tonight’s show, that Graves had the same intention and succeeded, if the wide smiles, massive singing souls, and laughing, touching friends and family I watched from the balcony were any proof.
His was one of the most energetic of the energetic bands I’ve been seeing, and he leading this gymnastics of rock and roll expression loud, fast, and full of spark. And like the audience, his boys, as he called his three band members (guitar/Patrick O’Connor, bass guitar, and drums/Chris Boosahda), looked happy and connected, appearing as if they were joined by elastic thread, his drummer Boosahda appearing as in boyish ecstasy, mouth wide open, eyes locked on Alejandro, drum sticks flying and pounding. Boosahda serves as Graves’ producer as well, with a potential new album next year.”We’ve been through thick and thin,” Shakey said, “these guys are more like family now, brothers.”
Not that his lyric content is all copacetic. There are periods of ballad and reflection, but these too seem crafted as part of a harmonious whole, with some soft within the, in this case, engaging loud syncopation. Harmony is a large part of a cord that these performance structures are connected by; synchronization and constant communication are others.
Shakey started and ended with his signature solo band manifestations, guitar and foot drum driving the rhythm, another underlying and constant structural element. Then, with customary fanfare, the band returns. They come back on the third encore, to close with almost total audience sing-along with Shakey’s hit – Dearly Departed, a good strategy I recently saw The Lone Bellow do with much success, when they closed with their hit Then Came the Morning.
Opening for Shakey was another energetic and adventurous band, one on the move, stretching rhythmic and lyrical muscle while putting on a show. It was clearly a band unknown to the crowd. Yet, the brothers Gibson and band caught the crowd’s attention from the beginning with assured layering of sound and theatrical movement. This band is, as they reminded the crowd several times, from New Zealand, with one American native. So, there you have it, from New Zealand, by way of Brooklyn, where they now reside, the band goes by the American Western-evoking name, Streets of Laredo.
Two in the band, Dave and Dan Gibson, are brothers, and two, Sarah and one of the brothers, Dave, are husband and wife. Sarah is one of the most striking people I’ve seen on stage in a long time and from brief encounter and observation seemed one of the nicest. She plays a variety of drums and acoustic rhythm instruments, some quite unusual, along with unique electric sound makers. She adds her vocals, largely harmony and an occasional solo. The husband is a hot drummer, holding their sound together, with brother Dan doing most of the lead vocals, going up, up high at times, sounding, if you weren’t looking, like a young girl, at other times dipping deeper.
Streets of Laredo at times manifests a layering of sound as if they were casting to sea slightly bitter but lovely autumn flowers, repeating rhythmically the end-of-summer notes and chords.
Stage patter wasn’t, as they acknowledged, their strong suit; but I admired their effort to connect with the crowd, talking directly to some nearby, acknowledging others on the sides and in the balcony, and high-fiving more than once. Shakey talked to the crowd as well. He’s expressive in song and in talk in a way that I found myself thinking about his dual artistic roles as a musician and as an actor – in a recurring role in Friday Night Lights and in several Robert Rodriguez movies.
Graves is nearing the close of a longish Summer Tour, with Floydfest ahead in a couple of days, and shortly after that, he said, a bit of rest. It’s as if he and his band were determined to draw to an end with the proverbial Bang!, and Streets of Laredo was going to join in the fun.