By SARAH STEVENS
Wake the Dead is just one of the many places in San Marcos where those seeking live music gather on Saturday nights.
Those seeking the scintillating strains of live acoustics were not disappointed last weekend when Dakota Smith, under his pseudonym Sharxks, took the stage in the brightly lit backroom of the lively little coffee shop.
Performances by solo acoustic artists vary as much as the individuals themselves, and Smith’s show was decidedly unique. Something about the simple guitar-playing story-teller onstage alone with his guitar plucks the heartstrings of any avid music-lover. Smith would not be out of place opening for Arlo Guthrie in the 1960s. He peppered his set with bits of back-story on his songs by way of intro, some thoughts on life, and while his songs are decidedly more folk inspired, his voice reminds one of Beck’s early work.
“Under the name of Sharxks,” Smith said. “I’ve been playing for about a year. I play in a band called Peel up in Austin, and we’ve played like 128 shows. We’re on Deep Blue Records. I’ve been playing music now for about 17 years or so.”
Smith said he plays Wake the Dead on the last Saturday of every month. He said he was raised on music. His father played in a Western Swing band. One weekend, his father took him to play bingo at a VFW hall when he was 11 or 12. He won $150, so he bought his first guitar.
Growing up in Corpus Christi, Smith said, he stayed inside to protect his fair skin from the sun. So, he practiced guitar a lot. He dropped out of high school band to start a punk band.
“I really like Jonathan Richman of the Modern Lovers, and his solo stuff afterwards,” Smith said. “I also like Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening, I really like the Pacific Northwest do-it-yourself attitude. I like a lot of old Country like Ernest Tubb and Ray Price. There’s a lot of bands in Austin that are our contemporaries that I really like, The Black is one of them. In San Antonio, there’s a group, Two Tons Of Steel. The guitar player from that band, Dennis Fallon, has been a real help and inspiration to me.”
Like most San Marcos musical veterans, Smith named the Triple Crown as his favorite place to play. In Austin, he named a few more.
” I like playing at Club Deville and The Parish,” he said. ” All the clubs up there are really fun to play for their own reasons. It’s less the clubs I like to play than the nights I like to play. I’ve got, like so many people, something that I’ve got to hold down during the day and sometimes the weeknight shows suffer.”
Smith‘s stripped-down and intimate sound was perfect both for the place he was playing at and the gathering of fans who came to enjoy it at Wake the Dead.
“It’s always fun to play the new songs, because you’re still figuring out how you’re going to communicate what that song was written for,” he said. “On the other hand, following the logic of how many shows the other band has played, I must have played some of these songs a hundred times or so. It’s neat when you have a song that you can play in front of people, and even though for you it might be rote, it might be something you’ve done before, you have to present it in such a way that it can engage people who are hearing it for the first time.”
Though Smith has no albums of his solo work available to date, he has made some mp3s available on his website at Sharxks.com.
“I’ve put out some stuff, but no formal releases,” he said. “I’m working up towards that. It’s either pay someone to use their studio or save up enough money to buy your own stuff, and I’m going the second way. It lets you do it at a much slower pace than if you have to throw some money down for just eight hours, then you’ve got to be done in eight hours. I’ve got a slower cycle to how I work than that.”
About his goals, Smith said, “It’s really hard to make any goals outside of the more metaphysical aspects of what music is. I think by pursuing those I’ll find myself in situations where other goals will make themselves known. I’ll have an opportunity to put out a CD, so putting out a CD becomes a goal. I’m really just shooting for the sort of environment that allows me to keep working at music. I never want to finish music. I always want to be finding something or learning something.”
Dakota Smith, or Sharxks, can be seen playing monthly at Wake the Dead, and his music is available online at Sharxks.com.