Over the weekend Lauren and I attended The Bluegrass Situation, a small music festival held downtown at the recently refurbished Ace Hotel Theater. It was a great time in a really beautiful venue.
I love folk/bluegrass/Americana music. I sort of rediscovered that this weekend. I feel like it suits my temperament more than any other genre, and instantly makes me feel cozy and at ease. I think that part of that is that it's a genre without pretense. It's not really trying to be cool. It's not pushing into the future. It's about enjoying the present and, if anything, reflecting on the past. It always makes me want to slow down, live a simpler life and enjoy the things that really make life worth living.
I haven't listened to much of it lately though, partly because I think I listen to it seasonly, more so in the Fall and Winter months (and it doesn't feel anything like fall in LA currently), and partly because I just haven't heard any new artists or albums that really grabbed me. So I was happy when my friend Paul, whom I trust implicitly when it comes to this style of music, found this festival and recommended that I attend. Looking at the lineup, it had just the right mixture of bands that I was already familiar with and loved (Langhorne Slim, Lord Huron, and Josh Ritter) and those that I had either heard of and never listened to or had never even heard of.
Shakey Graves was one such artist. I hadn't heard so much as one note from the guy. A couple days before the event, I texted Paul to let him know that I was, in fact, going to the festival, and he said he wished he could come out and join because the lineup was so good, mentioning specifically Shakey Graves. That of course piqued my interest, and part of me thought to go listen to his album (he only has one currently) as many times as I could before the concert, learning the songs so that I could enjoy them more and possibly even sing along to make me look in the know. I decided to go the other way though, and didn't listen to anything before the show. I wanted to be completely surprised by whatever this guy sounded like, and I was indeed surprised in the best way possible.
It was just him (along with some crazy suitcase kick-drum thingy) and his electric guitar for about half of the show, and the other half he played with a drummer. It seems like the tendency lately has been to bigger bands, epic songs, and more noise lately, but not always to great effect. I was surprised at how captivated I was the whole time I was watching this one (or two)-man band perform. Each song seemed to have a distinctly unique sound from the one prior, in spite of the exact same, limited instrumentation. Even within a song I felt like it would often take off in a different direction than I was expecting. It was thrilling in all of its stripped-down glory. The sound ranged from folk to southern rock to blues, with Shakey Graves' voice morphing slightly from song to song to fit the sound. I loved the whole performance. I loved many of the other performers too, specifically Langhorne Slim, Josh Ritter, and Carolina Chocolate Drops, but Shakey Graves was definitely the one that I walked away from the show wanting to hear more from.
I've been listening to the album over the past couple of days since the concert and I love it too. I don't know if it fully captures the electricity of his show, but it's very good nonetheless. Some personal favorites are "Only Son", "Dearly Departed", and "Family and Genus". Definitely give it a listen and if Shakey Graves ever comes to a venue near you, go check him out. He puts on a great show.