Photos by Mandy Pichler
His birth name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia, but his ‘star is born’ name is Shakey Graves. On the heels of the 2014 release of his sophomore album, And The War Came, the Austin, Texas native stopped at Thalia Hall in Chicago for two nights of what can only be described as an aggressive tour throughout three continents (North America, Europe and Australia).
Initially recognized as a one-man band, Rose-Garcia opened his second night in the Windy City in exactly that fashion – solo, in front of curtains, with a new acoustic guitar in-hand and his signature suitcase, kick-drum at feet. “I named her Lady,” Rose-Garcia said of his new guitar. The prior evening he had broken his existing one by ”just touching it.” And rather than launching into his playlist, he continued to establish a rapport with the sold-out crowd, engaging in dialogue with his fans. He graciously declined an offer of a joint from the crowded front of the stage. “I have my own weed,” he said with a mischievous smile.
His personality – playful, welcoming, honest – is just one of the many facets of his superstar quality. Charm only gets one so far in the music industry. The remaining qualities, such as being an exceptional songwriter and more-than-adept musician, he proved to possess as well once the words ended and the songs began. “The Donor Blues” and “The Proper Fence” being two of the tunes he handled on his own.
Then the curtains shot up and, joined on-stage by drummer Chris Booshada and guitarist/bassist Patrick O’Connor, a seismic shift in energy shook Thalia Hall in the best of ways. Shakey Graves rocked the venue, pushing his fusion of rock and roll, blues, country and folk against the precipice of grunge and punk.
Moving seamlessly between acoustic and electric guitars, the trio seductively ravaged through “The Pansy Waltz,” “The Perfect Parts” and “To Cure What Ails.” Rose-Garcia’s biggest hit to date, “Dearly Departed,” is a duet he wrote with Esme Patterson. Not having Patterson on-stage proved to be absolutely zero reason to stay away from this song, with his fans singing Patterson’s lyrics. This turned out to be one of those magic moments that can’t be bought or downloaded or viewed online– it’s why music is worth every cent to experience live.
– Mandy Pichler