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  • Andrey Psyche

Shakey Graves and Kolars provide a night of intoxicating music

Shakey Graves starting his set at Neptune Theatre. // Photo by Andrey Psyche

With 1,000 people in admittance to the sold-out Shakey Graves show at the Neptune Theatre on December 8th, the main floor and the balcony upstairs both looked like cans of cramped sardines. As I waited for the musicians to take the stage, looking forward to seeing who would open for Graves, I learned that the people all around me traveled hundreds of miles just for this one night: from Vancouver, Victoria, and Portland, to name a few. 

Before the man of the hour took his spot in front of the collective eyes of Seattle, the dessert disco/space blues/glam-a-billy band Kolars took the stage. The husband and wife duo based out of L.A., comprised of Rob Kolar on vocals and guitar and Lauren Brown as a percussion instrument from head to toe, put on a remarkable show that left the audience speechless. Kolar produces, mixes, writes, and sings, and Brown innovated a way to incorporate tap dance into the role of a percussionist, bringing the drums out from the backdrop of a band line up and into the limelight.

Usually, it’s difficult to ignore the lead singer/guitarist, especially when he is wearing a black, sparkly suit, strutting his stuff in a way that would make you think you were watching Elvis in his prime, and commanding the crowd with powerful vocals and expressive body language in between strumming. But, on his left, Brown was equally dressed up, in a shimmering silver dress and ripped stockings, tap dancing on top of a platform made to look like a bass drum while using the movement of her whole body to play a four-piece drum set. It was absolutely intoxicating. You could see the spirit of music flow through her with every strike.

Contorting her body with the beat, striking the drums with thundering force, biting down and springing her jaw back up on every downbeat, allowing her tongue to hang out with striking elegance, sweat dripping from her head, hair flying side to side, Brown laced the whole performance with multiple layers of authenticity and expression that stacked upon one another in a way that no collage could ever capture. Brown’s presence alone put this duo beyond anything I could have ever dreamt of, yet the combination of profound and inspiring lyrics, written and flawlessly delivered by Kolar, really took this band to new levels — not only in the music world, but also in relationship goals.

A few lines from their song, “Beyond the World of Man,” captures the performance in totality: “do you know the feeling / words just can’t describe? / Do you know the feeling / language can’t define? / Do you know that feeling in your mind?”

During the short break, I noticed something beautiful: genuine human interaction.  Most times during set breaks, people jump straight into their phones, and, although that wasn’t absent, it was far and few between. Whether that was due to the crowd that these artists attracted or the breathtaking performance we just experienced, it was beautiful to see people in the midst of a life.

After a short time, out from four blank screens, Alejandro Rose-Garcia emerged. Rose-Garcia, otherwise known as Shakey Graves, started the night with “Nobody’s Fool,” and you could feel the theater shift into a state of euphoria. People were clapping and singing along, and there were a few moments that Graves couldn’t contain the joy, letting it escape as glimmering laughter.

Graves’s stage presence is unparalleled. He carries the playfulness of a child and shares it freely. There wasn’t a single moment that felt alien or unwelcome; it’s as if he was standing in his fuzzy winter slippers in the middle of his own living room, sipping cocoa and looking out into the face of nature. Even from the balcony, you could see a sparkle in his eyes that drew you in closer and closer.

He uninterruptedly floated into his next song, which revealed a malfunctioning tambourine. He tried and tried while moving right along with the song, then, without stopping or making a fuss about it, turned the audience into his tambourine while the tech guy was on his knees, tightening some loose screws. Not only did it show the real resilience and confidence that Graves possesses, but he turned a hiccup into a massive moment of crowd participation which really fueled the fire for the show to come. 

After four solo songs, his band joined him on stage. It started out very energetic and bright, but the momentum of the night slowed as Graves focused more on his emotional songs. He stopped between every other or so, dove into his inspirations, and went on with an immersive journey through the melodies that swept us along. It was in these moments that you could see the power of music and performers to bring positive change to the world, simply by sharing a kernel of love and authentic self-expression.

We took a turn back to more foot-stomping songs near the end of the set to complete our cycle through the spectrum of emotion. While playing with the band, Graves was allowed greater freedom of expression since the melody could be carried by Patrick O’Connor, the lead guitarist. He was able to let his theatrical nature shine through with telling facial expressions and hand gestures. These little moments strengthened the storytelling portion of the act. 

After completing one of his latest songs, “Kids These Days,” the band exited the stage, and Graves finished the night off by playing a couple more acoustic songs, effectively setting us back down on earth after a night of interstellar travel. Graves left the stage, and, after what felt like an eternity of whistles, hollers, claps, and woos, the band returned for an encore performance of “Dearly Departed.” This show definitely had everything a music lover would want to call a night “unforgettable.”

-originally written for Dan's Tunes Seattle


© 2018 Andrey Psyche

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