Shakey Graves revels in the return to live music on first of two nights at Stubb's
It was a hot and sweaty night. It was jam-packed, especially up front. It was hard to hear the music over the crowd noise at times. The lines at the bar stations often were long. The only bathrooms were porta-potties.
And everybody pretty much loved it.
Shakey Graves made a triumphant return to Stubb's on Thursday, playing the first of a two-night stand at the storied Red River Street venue that holds more than 2,000 in its outdoor amphitheater along Waller Creek. Stubb's shows have always meant forgoing creature comforts for the electric atmosphere of bonding with fellow concertgoers. On this night, those bonds clearly were what mattered.
As Austin returns to something resembling normal life while the coronavirus pandemic steadily recedes, the joyful nature of these communal experiences moves front-and-center. Shakey knew it, too, and reveled in it throughout a nearly two-hour performance. Near the end, he told them as much.
"Austin, Texas, I love you with my entire heart," he said, just before returning for an encore sing-along rendition of "Dearly Departed," his signature tune. "Thank you for allowing me to be who I am. And tonight, I'm Shakey Graves from Austin, Texas."
FROM THE ARCHIVES:Why you need to know who Shakey Graves is
Born here as Alejandro Rose-Garcia in June 1987, Shakey took on his stage name when he began playing solo in clubs such as Hole in the Wall more than a decade ago. He spoke of those days early in the set, which started as a throwback to his one-man-band days, complete with the suitcase kick drum that was his constant companion for years.
Shakey recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his debut album, "Roll The Bones," originally a Bandcamp-only release that he reissued earlier this year. The expanded "Roll the Bones X" reached the top 5 of the Billboard charts, so it was no surprise when he opened Thursday's show with its title track.
Playing the first few songs solo acoustic was a nice intimate touch, even if that intimacy sometimes got lost on the vast expanse of the Stubb's grounds. About half the crowd packed in tightly near the front, with looser but still crowded conditions in the back part of the yard.
After his band joined him onstage a few songs in, Shakey — who began the night dressed in a black button-down short-sleeve shirt and black pants — upped the sartorial ante by donning a sparkly lamé jacket that he joked was like wearing "a beautiful discoball." As the evening progressed, he got rid of the shirt underneath, then the jacket, until finally he emerged for the encore just before 11 p.m. in boxer briefs only.
Mostly, though, he wore a big smile all night. One of Austin's busiest touring acts of the past decade — he sells out large venues such as Colorado's iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre — Shakey joked mid-set that he was at fault for the pandemic because he'd been wishing for a break after spending so much time on the road.
He played an unannounced set Wednesday in Buda to help KUTX and Nine Mile Records launch their new Main Street Music Series, and will be back at Stubb's on Friday night for a sold-out show. He'll spend all of August on an extended tour that will take him to most regions of the country.
Opening the show was Wild Child co-leader Kelsey Wilson's new outfit Sir Woman, which has gathered momentum over the past year and might be morphing into her main project. Her 45-minute set was a highly enjoyable throwback to classic '60s soulful folk-rock, highlighted by her personable vocals and danceable melodic grooves.
Props to Shakey for not minding that her own band was larger than his: Wilson brought eight supporting players onstage with her, including a horn section and backup singers. "I see a lot of familiar faces," Wilson said as she gazed out upon the crowd, reveling in the moment of a packed audience just as Shakey did.
And when she played a new song called "Party City" — just in case anyone wondered, she confirmed that "it's about Austin, Texas!" — the party had already gotten started on this glorious night in the Live Music Capital.