Charlottesville digs it
Shovels and Rope, opener Shakey Graves, impress Jefferson crowd
Charlottesville residents and University students alike filed into the Jefferson Theater to see Shovels and Rope perform last week in the mid-sized, but still personal venue. If you’ve never been to a show at the Jefferson, I would suggest making it a point to do so before you graduate. It’s a beautiful space, large enough to allow for a lively audience and small enough for the artist to really connect with the crowd — and connect is exactly what Shovels and Rope did.
Both Shovels and Rope and the opening act, Shakey Graves, excelled on stage. Shakey Graves, a one-man band out of Austin, Texas, entertained the crowd for a little less than an hour. Armed with his guitar and a suitcase rigged as a bass drum and tambourine combo, he let loose a barrage of relentless folk rock. This instrumental setup combined with his raucous vocals got the crowd moving almost instantly, dancing around and working up a sweat by the second song. Shakey played exclusively his own material, ending with “Late July,” a track he has stated in interviews to be his personal favorite.
The energy from Shakey Graves’ show carried into Shovels and Ropes’ performance. Shovels and Rope consists of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, a husband-wife duo from Charleston, S.C. Though their onstage chemistry is fantastic, they kept things professional, ending their set with a handshake before departing the stage. The duo made the audience visibly happy, setting them bouncing around for a few songs before slowing it down with a love song Hearst deemed dedicated to “all the people traveling around in rock bands.”
They followed that up with a calmer folk tune, “When I….” The change in pace wasn’t entirely an artistic decision by Shovels and Rope — it was caused in part by the breaking of a snare drum. The temporary mood change didn’t last long, however, as a new drum was brought out and they were right back at it with house-shaking renditions of “Hail, Hail” and “Birmingham,” both songs off their hit album “O’ Be Joyful.”
One of the most impressive things about Shovels and Rope, aside from their abundance of energy on the stage, is their musical talent. They both sing, and although Trent started on the drums, accompanying Hearst on the guitar, that soon changed. The couple switched up instrumentation several times throughout the show. The possibilities were seemingly endless as they danced around stage, wiping the sweat off their faces after each song after hopping from one instrument to another.
Shovels and Rope were well received and will surely be back in Charlottesville, though not before finishing their tour along the East Coast. Shakey Graves already has a second date set for the Jefferson, as an opener for bluegrass group The Devil Makes Three on Nov. 17.