Just like you, I fell in love with Shakey Graves’ music upon hearing his soulful solo Audiotree session back in 2013. Alejandro Rose-Garcia, a dude with a guitar who tripped over a bonfire and fell into the life of a world-renowned artist, charmed us with a wonderful, heartfelt show this past weekend—one I’ve been waiting for for years. The energy and vitality of his performances have not changed.
At Montreal’s Corona Theatre on Sunda,y May 20th, moms in striped maxi dressed and shaggy musicians piled into the venue for a beyond sold-out show. One of my favourite bands, Tennis, was playing on the sound system. Massachusetts band And the Kids opened with a big drumbeat by Rebecca Lasaponaro, driving guitarist and singer Hannah Mohan’s recorder playing. Yeah, I’m talking about the little flute. It was awesome.
And the Kids’ set had all the highs and lows, the deep rockin’ guitar, crystalline vocals of the best contemporary psych pop/rock. They had the energy of a bunch of runaway kids who got a bunch of gear and just started playing, with a few good years of polishing behind them. They had the crowd completely sold by their second song. Their songwriting is really strong, with themes of existentialism delivered from a childlike perspective. We chant along to “Where did all our neighbours go?” and I feel nostalgic about Mr. Rogers. At the end of their set, Mohan swayed back and forth with her guitar as she shredded, with a broken finger no less, behind her head. Later, on my walk home at the end of the night, two women behind me marvelled at how Lasaponaro could sing like that while playing the drums.
“You guys excited for Shakey Graves?” Yes! Yes, we are!
Three tall people in creepy masks start setting up for my dear Alejandro’s set. On stage, we had what looked like an unusually large purple-lit diorama of the Tim Burton variety, and a stack of old TV screens. Shakey’s signature percussion device was set up last, and a cowboy hat rested on top of it. The masked people pick up various instruments, tuning them and placing them around. The spooky, mysterious atmosphere had the crowd jittery. I thought we recognized this kind of body language on a stage. My suspicions were confirmed when one of the men took off his mask and put on the cowboy hat, picked up a guitar and turned around. The audience roared.
Alejandro swayed and swung his guitar as he delivered his soulful-as-ever big-question songs. He tangoed with death, love, and self-sabotage in the songs from his most recent album, Can’t Wake Up. The band grooved well together; his rhythm guitarist stood out especially with bright red electric guitars to match his wild tone, shoegazing throughout the show. That said, it is clear they are there to support him. Alejandro is the artist. He tells a fantastic story with this set, speaking to the audience from his gravel-filled heart between songs. He brings us into his world of wonder at life and loss. He is just as confused and imperfect as we are, and he tells us it’s ok. We are swept along the journey he went through in creating these songs, and the crowd sung along to nearly every single song. “Dearly Departed,” felt orchestral in size, with 500 voices howling together.
The real gem of this show for me was when his band stepped off the stage, Shakey picked up his hollow body guitar, and dragged his mic stand over to his foot-powered percussion contraption. I don’t think he could have kept us waiting one second more for the solo set within the set. The TV screens lit up, glitched and fuzzy like the broken ones at old bowling alleys. He played “Roll the Bones” and “Late July,” and the people around me were positively beside themselves every time his signature guitar-picking riff started a song. The encore chants of “SHAKEY! SHAKEY! SHAKEY!” were deafening. He sung like this is the last show of his entire life.
It is obvious to me that our man here doesn’t need any bells and whistles, any major production, or even a band (although a couple next to me speculated that his next show in Montreal would be at the Bell Center). Stripped down with just his voice, guitar and feet synched up in these beautifully heartbreaking, poetic songs; that was all we really needed. He has come a long way as a writer and performer, and his most recent work is arguably the most concise, but the real nugget here is him, his perspective, and his voice. We can live with the flaws; they make him real.
Written by Hanorah
*edited by Danielle Kenedy