Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known by his hallucinogenic-given stagename Shakey Graves, further cemented his status as a harbinger of modern rock and roll with his most recent album, Can’t Wake Up. Any fans of his know well that he can write a song with a heavy groove, the kind of tunes that stutter-step into beauty.
With Can’t Wake Up, he (and the band around him) established a dreamscape, tinging the Americana and blues of his past records with psychedelia and an almost-foreboding atmosphere. Still campfire songs, but inviting ghosts and little terrors.
At the core of his music, though, narratives abound. Coming to The Anthem on tour with Dr. Dog through DC on Sept. 13, Alejandro frequently spoke to the audience — almost confessionally, the micstand near the edge of the stage, two lights flooding his face from underneath like overlarge flashlights — often serious, but most often smiling and laughing.
Alejandro carries himself with a gracious gratefulness, sheepish smiles alighting on his face every time the crowd cheered. Curiously, he barely played songs from Can’t Wake Up, but the sounds that defined it still managed to suffuse the songs live.
He opened the set solo, a man and his guitar and eventually his custom-made suitcase kick-drum, beginning with “Word of Mouth” from West of Calgary (or, more recently, his Live at Levon’s record). He kicked into the 3/4 punchdrunk beauty of “Pansy Waltz” before inviting his band onstage on “Built to Roam” from his first album Roll the Bones. “Built to Roam” is a personal favorite, the first song of his I loved, replete with images of exploration, a sense of home found in the living.
“Cops and Robbers” acted as the only representative for Can’t Wake Up, a cavernous song that exploded wildly and lit the audience as much as Alejandro. The rest of the band set featured songs from Roll the Bones and And the War Came, with the fire and brimstone relationship apocalypse of “The Perfect Parts” being a particular standout.
Stream Can’t Wake Up by Shakey Graves on Spotify:
The show ended with the double punch of “Hard Wired” and “Late July,” Shakey quivering and slick with sweat, his guitar spitting fire. Shakey Graves more than shook the foundations of DC’s Wharf, adding to his growing claim to the rock and roll throne.
Here are some more photos from the show. Below Shakey Graves, there are a few pictures of Dr. Dog and Liz Cooper and the Stampede, who shared the bill at The Anthem. All copyright and courtesy of Matt Ruppert.