Words by Jenny Stark
Photos by Carlos J. Matos
On course with Monday evening’s Blood Moon, fangirl syndrome was in full effect when I arrived at a teeny tiny house masquerading as a venue for an exclusive show. I was to survey and report on the sounds of the Max Frost x Shakey Graves release showcase at The Do512 Lounge, all while fighting the urge to hide in Shakey’s drum case, only to pop out three cities later whispering, “I just wanted to be close to you . . . ”
Alas, he didn’t bring the coveted vehicle for my obsession. But he did come bearing singles from his new album, And The War Came, as well as the mansome and extremely talented Max Frost, who was there promoting his own October release, Low High Low. The artists mingled about with brew in one hand, shaking adorning fans’ hands with the other. The Lounge provided the perfect setting for the up-close-and-personal event, complemented by an open atmosphere and an affinity for good vibes. The bar was also very open — in fact, infinite — courtesy of the kind people at Bud Light and Deep Eddy Vodka.
The stone-setting performance began when local gem and gentleman Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, hit the dimly lit stage. Like any true Southern boy, Alejandro showed up dressed to the nines (though I would give him a ten) in a navy blue suit and slender black tie, capped off by the infamous “South Austin Music” hat. After giving every swooning fan looking to be the next ten-gallon-hat girl a twinkle of the eye, Mr. Graves mounted the stage with his trusty Gibson in hand, accompanied by Boo (his rocking companion and co-curator of the new album) on drums. He positioned himself so close to the crowd that I could have licked the generous bullets of sweat dripping just for us right off his stubbled face. He began to strum, plucking his way into our hearts by showing us his softer side, snapping three strings in the process. Shakey kept that boyish charm, cracking well-crafted jokes, chatting with the audience, and playing games like Trip the Drummer– though there was no tripping Boo. Playing renditions of his own “If Not For You,” “Dearly Departed,” “Hard Wired,” “Where a Boy Once Stood,” and “Wild Card” from the new album, Alejandro gave exactly what us Gravediggers wanted — a Shakey performance.
Abandoning his former “burn everything” perception of life, Alejandro evolves in And The War Came with an introspective, duocentric, gentler tone to deal with the matter of growth, selflessness, and the building, destroying and rebuilding of relationships. It shows us a never-before-seen still shot of Shakey. Though soft at the core, the album’s hard edges carry more punch than his last release, Roll the Bones. Still embodying his front porch-swinging, sweet tea-sipping, backwoodsy tumbleweed twang, the new album breaks from the banjo-centric country tone and morphs into an alternative all out rock-out. While Shakey ditched the beloved drum kit for the album, he more than made up for it with the presence of Boo on drums and beautiful Esme as supporting vocalist.
Next up was local Austin staple and stone cold fox Max Frost reminding us that white boys can have some serious freaking soul. Using more than just his baby blues to swoon the audience, Max displayed a vast array of musical talent behind his thunderous vocal ability, combining slow-mo syrupy rhythms with classical instrumental flare. By exploring and including several different genres he is fond of — funk, electro, hip-hop and blues — Max creates moody music with a bitchin’ melody. Strapped with both a classic bass and Fender guitar, and accompanied by a full band, Max kept us hanger-ons hanging on to his every word. Performing a hyped version of fan favorite “Nice and Slow,” an anything but boo-boo remix of Outkast’s “Roses,” and all tracks from the new album– including “White Lies,” his most popular track with over a million listens– Frost shows us that this album, like his other works, is anything but frozen.
Frost’s blues-inspired Low High Low packs one hell of a pop-punch. With lyrics concerning the lows and highs of constantly shifting emotional states of life, it hits the soul like a ton of bricks. The 17-minute 5-track EP does everything to curate vibes on the dancefloor, including the catchy yet personal “White Lies,” and a reverbed version of the highly accredited “Nice and Slow.” Adapting classic old-school flair to modern musical techniques, Max Frost’s juxtaposition of low and hi-fi sounds is at once diverse and cohesive, and the creative combination takes precedence on the dancefloor.
Max says that “a good song is only ninety-five percent of a complete thought.” Though I appreciate the five percent for interpretive flair, I must disagree. After their performances and my full immersion into the new releases, I must say that these new songs and the performers behind them are in no way lacking in percentage. In fact, they’re more than whole — they’re infinite.