The second annual Shaky Knees festival expanded to three days, Friday-to-Sunday, May 9th to 11th, with awesome headliners every day. Last year’s event was a rained out, muddy mess, so this year’s event shook things up by moving to the pavement at Atlantic Station. It rained two days on and off, but the last day was sunny and hot, and each day out-rocked the last.
I had to battle my way to the front to see this three-piece alt-rock band from Athens, GA, and it was totally worth it. The Whigs played a wide variety of songs, both old and new. I did notice a large amount of Braves shirts in their crowd. Even the bassist was wearing one. At one point he got the entire audience doing the tomahawk chop. They had a problem with feedback in an amp about halfway through, but all in all they definitely rock live.
Band of Skulls
It was great to finally get to see this group live. Band of Skulls were all focused on such a tight performance. The female bassist was jamming down, the hairy drummer was going in hard, and the vocal echoes put everyone into a trance. With amazing fretwork hitting it home, the masses howled between each song. They even treated us to an amazing drum solo towards the end of the set. Recommended if you like Queens of the Stone Age.
This huge eight-piece Irish rock act from Boston had a massive wall of sound, including bagpipes and an accordion. By the third song most of the people at the festival were at the stage. Hands clapped, feet stomped, and many raised a beer as the bar fight punk energy sent waves of dancing people crashing through the crowd for Dropkick Murphys.
Foals took the stage with lots of smoke and lights and a huge instrumental intro. They started off slow but soon began to drop killer beats and excellent guitar work. This multi-piece, multi-talented experimental club band with a metal edge played a kaleidoscope of tripped out grooves. Unfortunately, their set was totally rained out but many watched or listened from the sidelines as well as in front of the stage.
Cage the Elephant
This vibe-y, almost grungy freak out Cage the Elephant played in the pouring rain to a poncho-clad crowd. Despite the relentless downpour, many stayed to watch and soon the heavy grooves made us all forget about the weather. This was a seriously intense set and by the end most people were dancing shirtless in the rain.
The Gaslight Anthem
The rain stopped about ten minutes before this show and we were ready to get busy. The Gaslight Anthem took to serving up the rock right away and the soaking wet crowd went nuts. The sound carried far with the help of a few extra amps, and steam rose as we all got more active to the tasty jams. When they played a cover of “House of the Rising Sun”, the crowd surfing started. There was major enthusiastic energy both on and off the stage the whole time.
At this point, the crowd had mostly dried out and joined in a huge party while The National assaulted us with smoke, lasers, amazing video projection, great music, and deep lyrics that glowed in the night. The immense light show added to the musical trip that we were all witnessing. The joy galloped through the mass of people and off into the stars.
Tokyo Police Club
This was a nice, cool, mellow start to the day with some ‘90s alternative throwback hyper-rock. After having seen Tokyo Police Club at a packed in-store performance at Criminal Records in Atlanta previously, it was no surprise that the crowd grew and grew as they played. Plenty of Bonnaroo and Wakarusa shirts peppered the crowd who swayed to the music. The band basically played straight through the set without stopping, finishing just as it started raining again.
At this point in the day, everyone needed a break from the heat. So there was a minimal group of people in attendance, but they were all getting funky to the soothing tunes of PHOX. The six-piece band playing smooth jiving downtown jams, fronted with a siren-like female vocalist was almost like a new age Nina Simone. Although they did sound different live than on their album, I still enjoyed it very much. Recommended if you like Bjork or Beach House.
Portugal. The Man
I have seen these amazing artists live more times than I can count, and they always deliver both mellow tunes with falsetto or conjuring soul rock fit for any setting. A cool breeze was blowing as Portugal. The Man played to an exuberant crowd. They performed classic hits of multiple varieties as we all got up, and down, to their experimental jams. Always original, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing them live.
Having only heard his other project Bright Eyes (QRO live review), I was pleasantly surprised to find that this guy could really rock the stage live. Conor Oberst played, backed by the band Dawes, to a slightly moist audience of mostly females after a thirty-minute sprinkle of rain had passed. The hipsters were also around in small patches as maniacal lyrics and fearless fretting erupted off the stage. He belted out beautiful vocals, plucking and stroking the guitar like a lover. Definitely a good show.
Cupid shot an arrow into the enormous crowd for this awesome reunion of rock. The older crowd went nuts and the new generation joined in the madness for The ‘Mats. These old school heroes have truly come full circle, playing jukebox rock at its best, barreling through all the classics like a sonic freight train. Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day (QRO album review) helped the band out on guitar again, as he had the second weekend of Coachella. This was definitely the best set of the day.
Iron & Wine
It was really incredible to witness this modern storyteller work his craft with a full band, performing explosive versions of all his best melodic pop that poured off the stage. It was a Molotov of musical genius from Sam Beam, a.k.a. Iron & Wine. The audience was flowing and growing, and sounding off when necessary.
The Hold Steady
These guys are top notch new school punk delving into uncharted territory. The heat was still intense but the majority of us still got seriously crazy. It was hard not to with the amount of enthusiasm The Hold Steady delivered. A great show of poetry and instrument mastery, I couldn’t stop dancing.
This was the cherry of the day. As the Violent Femmes opened with “Blister In the Sun” and continued to play pretty much the whole 1983 self-titled album, along with a few more fan favorites, it seemed as if everyone was there, and knew all the words to most of the songs. Multiple generations gathered and went near implosion with dancing as the sun beautifully set over Atlanta.
words: Tim Stanback
photos: Gail Fountain