With over 1,800 in attendance, Alejandro Rose-Garcia was headlining in front of his largest crowd ever. “I’m just gonna take a minute to soak all this in,” Alejandro, better known as Shakey Graves, shared with the at-capacity audience.
The hometown favorite had come full circle. Since returning to Austin in 2010, Shakey Graves had taken his one-man band from opening in shady clubs on 6th Street to his very own taping for American television’s greatest music show, Austin City Limits.
Shakey Graves: Austin Native
The story of the Shakey Graves moniker is the stuff of legend by now. Whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter at this point; it just adds to the mythos. The name was born over a campfire at Old Settlers as Shakey and his crew were coming up with “campfire Indian guide names.” An impromptu performance that night had people asking his name. Through fortuitous timing, Shakey Graves stuck.
Here’s the full story on video:
His first album Roll The Bones was written and recorded in makeshift home studios in Los Angeles in between small-time acting gigs. It was released on January 1, 2011 through the artist friendly website Bandcamp, where artists name their own price for the album download and money goes directly back to them.
The Sound of Shakey
So how do you classify Shakey Graves’ sound? Bandcamp tags his music with “alt country, blues, folk, lo-fi, Texas and Austin.” If there is a sound that encompasses “Austin,” Shakey Graves has nailed it. It’s not quite country, not exactly folk, can’t be mistaken for blues, yet it’s all those things at once. Better music writers have been stumped trying to classify the Sound of Shakey, so I’m not even going to try. Safe to say you’ve never heard anything quite like it.
I AM GOING TO BE A SPECIAL GUEST AT BOB SCHNEIDER'S ACL MOODY THEATER VALENTINES DAY SHOW! grab a sweetheart comeon https://t.co/eiPlrV0n
— Shakey Graves (@ShakeyGraves) February 13, 2013
I saw Shakey Graves play for the first time on February 14, 2013 at Bob Schneider’s annual Valentine’s Day concert at the Moody Theater. An unassuming skinny white kid rocking a 50’s era cowboy suit walked up with a suitcase and electric guitar. Before I even decided what to expect, Shakey launched into “Dusty Lion” and immediately won over the crowd. “Bully’s Lament” followed, and the 2-song set was enough to introduce Shakey Graves to Austin at large. In retrospect, it felt like Bob was passing the baton as Austin’s biggest live music draw.
For most of his musical career, the Suitcase Musician has shunned most popular methods of growing his audience. Instead of dumping all of his music on iTunes or Spotify and making it easily accessible, Shakey has purposefully relied on the old-school viral nature of word-of-mouth. Because he grew his base organically, fans had a real sense of discovery when they finally heard him for the first time. Every live show created new converts, and the converted spread the gospel of Shakey Graves with unbridled enthusiasm.
After two consecutive years of playing the Spotify House during SXSW, Shakey has warmed up to the streaming service and you can find his most recent album And the War Came on Spotify. It’s a stark departure from his first few independently released albums. This time he has a full band to back him up. Three of the tracks feature duets with Esmé Patterson, of Paper Birds fame, including bona-fide radio hit “Dearly Departed.”
From playing late night gigs with Conan and David Letterman to taping his own special on the 41st season of KLRU’s Austin City Limits, Shakey is finally getting the national recognition he has worked so hard for. As the rest of the country slowly begins to discover our hometown boy, we’ll always have the hundreds of shows he has played in Austin to reflect on, culminating in his best performance yet on one of music’s grandest stages. Fair warning, attending a live Shakey Graves show can form an addicting habit.
I’ve got a fever, and the only cure is more Shakey Graves.
@Crafty_Ed wants to know:
Where is your favorite place to see a live Shakey Graves show?