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Prepare for a night of fireworks, local spirits and live Americana music as the band Shakey Graves headlines Spoleto Festival USA’s Wells Fargo Festival Finale June 12 at Firefly Distillery in North Charleston.

The Sunday night show will be the first finale since 2019. In 2020, the festival was canceled, and last year, Spoleto returned with a mix of live and virtual performances, but no finale.

Spoleto Festival USA’s Director of Artistic Planning and Operations Nicole Taney says she has wanted to book Shakey Graves at the festival for years.

“I started programming (in 2015), and I brought St. Paul & Broken Bones, and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats,” said Taney. “Shakey Graves has always been on my mind. I’m like, yes, it’d be great if he performs.”

Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia, debuted in 2011 with Roll the Bones. 

The band, which got its name from a campfire experience (watch the full story on YouTube), started after Texas native Rose-Garcia decided to jump into music full-time. 

He had been playing music since middle school, but before considering it as a career, he was an actor for a while. As a teenager, Rose-Garcia had a role in ‘Spy-Kid 3D’ — he was one of the programmers — and later on, he was in four episodes of TV show Friday Night Lights as ‘The Swede.’

“My mom is a playwright, theater director and actress, and my dad is a house builder and then he did weird dance performances and set design… so I have just always seen the world through a creative lens,” said Rose-Garcia. “I always loved acting and adored movies and theater ever since I was small.”

At age 16, he dropped out of school and moved to Los Angeles to audition for movies and television shows, but was met with rejection. And then, around 2007, his plans changed.

“I was out there auditioning all the time and living in LA, and getting my ass handed to me. And it was so fun and scary,” he said. “ The thing I would do for myself was write music.”

He soon realized music was what he wanted to do.

“[There’s nothing] like sitting down and having no idea what’s going to happen and at the end of the day, you have a whole song,” he said. “It feels like witchcraft, honestly. And you can just do it by yourself.”

And he did, at first. 

Rose-Garcia created a one-man band, now known as Shakey Graves, where he would sing and play guitar with a kick drum under him.

“If you listen to ‘Roll the Bones’, all of that is me playing the parts,” he said. “It was just to try and get the most out of the least that I had.”

Rose-Garcia now has a full band for live sets: percussionist, bass player, keyboardist and two guitar players who help with vocals.

“But I always play a good percentage of the show solo,” he said. “Solo acoustic to ‘one-man band electric,’ to ‘big-rock show’, to ‘quiet band show’.”

Rose-Garcia said the Spoleto show will feature songs old and new. 

“It’s probably like a 50/50 split between old stuff and current stuff, with some unheard things thrown in there,” he said. “It’s kind of wherever the wind blows me that day and how many oysters I eat leading up to it.”

He has performed in Charleston before, and says he loves the area.

“It’s quite dynamic and it has a lot of disparity to it. And a lot of fuzziness and then a lot of heart.” Rose-Garcia said. “I’ve seen all the different sides of it and I think it’s just a magical, very strange swamp place.” 

Shakey Graves has released three studio albums since 2011, winning Best Emerging Artist award at the Americana Music Awards and performing on Conan, the Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Spoleto’s Taney thinks it’s the guitar that makes the music so compelling.

“You feel it in your body,” she said. “His lyrics, his voice, the band sound – everything.”

The Spoleto Festival finale will feature unannounced openers and will end with fireworks.

Gabriel Veiga is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.

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