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Shakey Graves at the McDonald Theater, Eugene on 12-7-18 Review

By C. FRANCIS O'LEARY // Bringing a new sound to Oregon. (Tuesday's Roseland show is sold out.)


Originally from Austin, TX, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, also known as Shakey Graves, is now touring his album “Can’t Wake Up” with the Tour x9 World Tour. On Friday, December 7, he played in Eugene’s McDonald theater and on Tuesday, December 11, he’ll be in Portland at the Roseland Theater (SOLD OUT). This is the second album Rose-Garcia has released with Dualtone and it brings with it a new evolution in the artist’s sound.

Although he’s been performing music under the name Shakey Graves since 2007, Rose-Garcia’s self-released first album, “Roll the Bones” came out in 2011. It was an austere album, with most songs being performed by him alone without back-up instrumentation or vocals. At the time there were reviews that called the music depressing, perhaps not wrongfully, but the album struck at something among its audience and became a hit. His second album, And The War Came (2014), carried the same feelings as Roll the Bones, but with crisper instrumentals and more energetic vocals. Looking like a character in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”, Rose-Garcia had made a name for himself. Then, in December 2017, the Shakey Graves twitter page tweeted “Next album. New sound. Sell your suspenders.” With a tongue in cheek reference to the look he and his fans shared, Rose-Garcia promised to deliver an evolution of his style in his newest album.

An evolution there was. Released May 4, 2018, Can’t Wake Up has a sound distinct from anything else Shakey Graves has ever made. Rose-Garcia said in an interview that this album was heavily influenced by children’s stories with disturbing content. Can’t Wake Up is said to be a reference to The Wizard of Oz, the song Big Bad Wolf is an obvious reference to Little Red Riding Hood, and in Kids These Days he says “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, what’s the meaning of it all?” The album has a spooky sound, created not only by the lyrics, but by Rose-Garcia’s ghostly delivery. One song that stands out is “My Neighbor”, addressing xenophobia today with lyrics like, “Live forevermore with a lock upon your door, close the windows, draw the shades, never learn your neighbors names.”

The audience at the McDonald Theater reacted positively to the new material. Starting the show alone on stage for the first three songs, Rose-Garcia got the crowd going with a couple of his older songs. After being joined on stage by the rest of the band during the fourth song, they mostly played songs from Can’t Wake Up until the band left again before the last three songs. Having had nine months to familiarize themselves with the lyrics, there was plenty of singing along throughout the 90-minute set, to both old and new songs. The mood was helped by Rose-Garcia’s easy-going stage presence, joking between songs about dealing with friends getting married and having kids and leaving him behind in a matter of speaking, or in another case, taking a break between songs to shout out a friend’s grandmother who lives in Eugene and had come to the show. Before one of his most popular songs, a duet with Esmé Patterson called Dearly Departed, the crowd was invited to sing Esmé’s parts in her absence. Of course, the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs.

New listeners to Shakey Graves can start either with his new album or the back catalogue for two distinct styles. There are times on And The War Came when that the guitar sounds like something out of a Woodie Guthrie song. The album wouldn’t be out of place among the likes of Charlie Parr or The Taxpayers. Can’t Wake Up maintains those sounds with the addition of the psychedelic sounds of alt-J.

Accompanying Shakey Graves on this tour is Kolars, an energetic duo from Los Angeles. Opening the show, the two filled the room with raw energy from their drums, played by the tapdancing drummer Lauren Brown, to their reflective sequined outfits. The duo will be returning to Eugene to play the Wildcraft Cider Works on March 28, 2019.


Nobody’s Fool
Roll the Bones
Built to Roam
The Perfect Parts
Pansy Waltz
Big Bad Wolf
Counting Sheep
Dining Alone
Mansion Door
Cops and Robbers
Once in a While
Family and Genus
Dearly Departed
Hard Wired
Late July


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