Austin’s own less-grumpy Ryan Adams Alejandro Rose-Garcia (a.k.a. Shakey Graves) took to the SXSW Outdoor Stage at Auditorium Shores as to the sun began to set on SXSW Music Friday. In a sleeves-rolled-up red flannel shirt and Meow Wolf baseball cap, the gentleman from Austin is nearly a living, breathing physical manifestation of the town as it aspires to be: a little country/a lot rock, polished and cool but welcoming and warm.
Rose-Garcia and his band opened with new single “Counting Sheep” and followed it with a set of mostly new material from the upcoming album, Can’t Wake Up, due out in May.
Shakey Graves’ new sound skews more barroom-ready blues rock than dusty Americana stompers and just feels bigger. Or maybe it was the setting: Watching Rose-Garcia play the sun down with the downtown Austin skyline behind him felt like an epic moment for the hometown hero.
Halfway through the 45-minute set, Shakey Graves shed the band for just his guitar and signature double-pedalled kick drum/tambourine suitcase contraption (remember: machines will take all our jobs–even yours, percussionists), starting with new song “Kids These Days” and later closing with the muted picking and plucking of pounding hit “Roll the Bones.”
“Y’all be excellent to each other out there in the world,” he said leaving the stage.
Up next was the main event for the evening: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, an eight-member band with a classic, classy sound driven by a horn section and electric organ flourishes to church up the affair. The band’s rowdy, vintage rhythm and blues and soulful revival rock make them a surefire crowd pleaser and tonight’s show didn’t disappoint. Fans danced across Auditorium Shores as far back as the Long Center lawn outside the gated perimeter.
The band took the stage with “Shoe Boot,” the first in a line of non-stop irresistible top-tappers that would include current single ”You Worry Me,” from their just-released album Tearing at the Seams, and previous monster hit “S.O.B.” Familiar or not, each song feels like a greatest hit delivered with Rateliff’s voice never faltering voice, equal parts gruff and honey smooth and never breathless between bouts of celebratory fancy footwork stepping and strutting across the stage.
Rateliff was gracious to Austin fans for their support over the years, including an ACL Fest appearance in 2016. “We wouldn’t be here without you,” he said. “And not just us but our families and friends, we really owe you so much.”