Earlier this month I finally managed to get myself in a room with Shakey Graves. Granted, it was a pretty big room (Toronto’s Massey Hall), and I was most certainly not alone with him in that room (the show was sold out), but that didn’t matter. It was about fucking time.
I cultivated an addiction to Shakey Graves through his 2014 release And the War Came. That album and the single, Dearly Departed were on repeat on every music-playing device I owned, from vinyl to mp3. His new album, Can’t Wake Up, had been my latest life soundtrack, and my homework was delving into his back catalog. In the few years I’ve fancied myself in musical love with Alejandro Rose-Garcia (SG’s mortal moniker), even when I was swooning right along with Julie Taylor over his bad boy turn in Friday Night Lights, I somehow never managed to make it to a show. We would miss each other by a day in different cities, or I’d have my head in the clouds and realize he just passed through Toronto without our paths crossing (in a fan/musician capacity). And that was downright tragic, because when I finally got the chance see him live, it was like therapy.
Just over a year ago, I lost the musician that made me love music. When Chris Cornell died, a melancholic part of me wondered if I’d ever feel that bliss, that joy, at again seeing an artist live, because that’s how it felt every time I saw Cornell live. No matter what incarnation I saw, the goosebumps, the tears, the emotional rush always came at those shows. And in that year, I never felt it again, until May 19th, when I saw Shakey Graves. One year and one day after Chris left, in the very same venue where I last saw him perform as a solo artist.
Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it?
One of the best things about being a music reviewer is going to shows alone. As much as I love enjoying music with friends, there’s really nothing like being solely focused on the artist on stage and the music flowing to you in the audience. Between that privacy, that intimacy, and the pure charm and authenticity that Shakey Graves just can’t help but radiate, I found myself feeling a hint of what I felt multiple times in that very theatre; that pure, unadulterated enjoyment of live music. Shakey Graves made music that I’d listened to time and again, that I’d memorized and fallen in love with. And there in all ways, in front of me, the music made fuelled by the same air I was breathing. And I remembered what it was like to be a fan, loving the music filling my ears, putting a smile on my face and warming my heart.
Some of the best shows aren’t the ones when you hear all your favourite songs, or where you meet the love of your life, or dance the night away. They’re the ones that make you feel something you’ve never felt before. Or, in my case, the ones that recapture a feeling that you thought was lost for good. Shakey Graves will never be my Chris Cornell, but he doesn’t have to be. The feeling is different, but the happiness that it’s there is the same; my love of music will grow and change, and there’s more goodness out there to feel.
Thanks for that Alejandro, you’re pretty swell.
*all photos by me.