The Outside City Limits Tour came to the Music City recently and made a pit stop at The High Watt; I got tickets as soon I got wind of this, because this girl was on a mission to see Alejandro Rose-Garcia, otherwise known as Shakey Graves. Not only did I (along with two of my unsuspecting friends that I persuaded to join me) accomplish my mission, but I was afforded the opportunity to absorb the sights and sounds of two ensembles previously unfamiliar to these eyes and ears, Marmalakes and Wild Child.
First up, Marmalakes, a folk-pop trio from Austin, Texas (actually, all three acts are from Austin, hence the name “Outside City Limits,” a play on “Austin City Limits”….see what they did there?) comprised of Chase Weinacht (guitar, vocals), Max Colonna (bass, vocals), and Josh Halpern (drums, vocals). Notice that all three members are vocalists, which makes Marmalakes all the more fun to watch. Their music ranges from the subdued and/or whimsical (which is what typically comes to mind when I hear the words “folk music”) to rollicking, beat-driven pop-rock songs, all the while weaving together lyrically interesting storylines. Marmalakes offered a raucous good time; Chase sang, danced, and stomped across the stage with his taped-up acoustic guitar, while Max sang and continually provided understated yet wonderfully executed support on the bass. I personally couldn’t keep my eyes off of Josh Halpern as he owned every inch of his drum kit (and of course, also sang). At one point, he somehow lost a cymbal, but kept right on rocking, never missing a beat. I really can’t say enough how much fun these guys are, not only to listen to, but to watch. The day after the show, I looked up their Bandcamp website so I could relive the fun, and listen some more. The recorded versions of their songs are great, but you really should see them live if you get the chance. Did I mentioned how fun they are?
[Songs to check out: “The Adventures of Jubilant John in Giggle City” from their EP Even Clothed, “Septimus Warren Smith” from their digital album In Arnica (how could you not want to listen to songs with titles like that?) and “White Height” from their two-track album Wait/White.]
Next in line, indie-folk tribe Wild Child…made up of Alexander Beggins (lead vocals, baritone ukulele–I know right?!), Kelsey Wilson (lead vocals, violin–or fiddle, depending on where you live), Evan Magers (keys, vocals), Carey McGraw (drums, vocals), Sadie Wolfe (cello), Chris D’Annunzio (bass), and James Bookert (banjo). Wild Child is quite different than Marmalakes, a kind of laid-back version of Ra Ra Riot, but dazzling in their own right. The addition of the baritone ukulele and the cello here lends a dimension of depth and emotion to the music, along with Kelsey Wilson’s heavenly voice.
The sound of Kelsey’s voice is from a different era; I can imagine it on a crackly recording projecting from the external horn of an old-timey phonograph. She performs with such ease; her voice and the music blend in such a delicious way. Their lyrics consistently caught my attention; for example, “Silly Things” from their Pillow Talk album reminisces on a past relationship, telling us that “a dreamer is still a dreamer ‘til you wake them up, and sit them down, and explain to them, the sky is up and the earth is down,” and the mention of a “coffee pot, we used it a lot, to sit around and talk about everything” ending the song with “darling, come get your coffee pot, ‘cause it hasn’t been used, since I last used you.” Now, just try to forget that…you can’t, can you? We are bound to hear this group on the soundtrack of the next big indie flick…just you wait.
[Song I can’t stop listening to besides “Silly Things” mentioned above: “Bridges Burning” where the singer is pleading with her lover to “wait for me, I need you to wait for me, I need you to wait, I know the bridge is burning fast.” You should go ahead and download it.]
Last, but good Lord, not least, Shakey Graves took the stage. Shakey is a one-man band, armed with a vintage-style guitar and an old-school hardside suitcase of the American Tourister variety (that looks like it was borrowed from the powder blue set my parents had in the 70’s), fitted with a kick drum and a half-moon tambourine. He positions one foot on a bass drum pedal in front of the kick drum and one foot on a bass drum pedal in front of the tambourine, playing them both while standing, wailing, and doing some crazy fingerpicking, churning out the grittiest, dirtiest, most mesmerizing music I might’ve ever heard.
I was transfixed. Shakey is amazing, not to mention amazingly coordinated. He instantly had rapport with the crowd; he stated that it blew his mind that people had driven from other states to see this show, because he’s from Texas, and it’s almost impossible to drive from another state into Texas (as a former Texas resident, I can vouch for the fact that you can drive for days and never cross a border). Shakey shared with us the inspiration for most, if not all, of the songs he performed, one standout being “Georgia Moon” from his album Roll the Bones, a lullaby inspired by moonshine containing the verse “Tennessee keeps warnin’ me if I booze it I might lose it,” a familiar road sign slogan around these parts I call home, but Shakey isn’t fazed as he sings “shine on Georgia Moon, shine on.” The title track, “Roll the Bones,” reminds me of a hypnotic New Orleans voodoo conjure, while “Business Lunch” gives voice to rambling roamers who invite us to “come skin your knees with us, life’s too short for a business lunch.” Shakey’s performance was outstanding; he entertained us until his amp died, literally. I really didn’t want it to end. I marched right over to the merch table after the show and bought his CD. And a t-shirt.
[Songs I am addicted to: Which ones aren’t I addicted to at this point? I love the whole album. I also looked at his Bandcamp website, where I was rewarded with the chance to download his EP Donor Blues, of which the title track is my favorite. The recordings are wonderful, I honestly can’t stop listening to them, but you really have to see him perform live. I would suggest going here to get a sample.]