Folks who showed up to see Shakey Graves on Tuesday and expected to see the cowboy-hat-and-t-shirt-wearing folky songwriter on stage at Red Butte might have been a little confused.
They got an entirely different guy. This version wore cuffed black hipster overalls, was more chatty and seemed to be more comfortable in his own skin. More his real self, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, and less the Texas cowboy persona he has relied on.
“Well, hello, everyone,” he greeted the sold-out crowd like he’d bumped into a few thousand people in his living room.
As much as Graves has tried to distance himself from his roots as a street busker once upon a time, it was a focal point of his show, playing nearly an hour by himself, with just a guitar and his suitcase kick-drum in front of a set of lit-up buildings, puffy cotton clouds and several psychedelic televisions — a set Graves later said he made himself in his backyard.
He talked up a storm between songs like “The Waters” and “Roll The Bones” from his first album before bringing out the rest of the band.
The newer songs from Graves are more experimental and melodic, a departure from the Americana-style he had projected for years. His version of “Pansy Waltz” packed the right amount of melancholy and the hit, “Dearly Departed” drew a big response.
Several of the songs came with stories, perhaps the best one about how the band was touring in Australia and they had a shady driver who they took turns trying to coax into sharing his story. Finally, one suggested he could live a life of crime and the driver looked over his shoulder and said, “Oh, crime. That’s a young man’s game,” which became the first line of “Cops and Robbers” off the new album.
He finished the night the way he started, solo with the kick drum, capping the night with “Nobody’s Fool.”
Before Graves even took the stage, Dr. Dog had already sucked the audience in to a grooving, kind of southern-rock set, with the a flair for the songwriter’s turn of phrase that seemed a little like Wilco for a younger set.
It had been years since I’d seen Dr. Dog live and forgotten how good they can be. On Tuesday, they bounced between earlier hits like “The Breeze” and “Lonesome” and newer tracks like “Jim Song” and “Abandoned Mansion.”
And then there was the most surprising find of the night, Caroline Rose, who opened the night with a Go-Gos “We Got The Beat”-style riff and didn’t let up on the retro-1980s-style music. Rose, in a red head band and track shorts, and her cohorts were basically “Stranger Things” in band form, drawing heavily off Talking Heads, Devo, and maybe a little bit of The Runaways. They’re worth checking out when they’re back this way.