This weekend the 6th annual Shaky Knees Music Festival descended once again on Atlanta’s Central Park. Over the course of three mostly gorgeous days (aside from a small rain shower Saturday evening), it was a celebration of many different forms of rock music, encompassing everything from straight ahead rock n roll to more danceable types to great parodies of the rock order. At times, certain rules, like bag sizes and behaviors of security got to people (I myself was kicked out for vaping nicotine, but that got cleared up fast once I got in touch with organizers). Overall it was another excellently produced event with a flavor for nearly everyone to enjoy. Here are some of the highlights and best moments.
10. *REPEAT REPEAT, FRIDAY, CRIMINAL RECORDS STAGE
Being one of the very first bands of any large-scale event can be difficult. Most people are slowly trickling in, getting themselves used to the surroundings and placement of things, but anyone who got to check out *Repeat Repeat’s performance at noon on Friday certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. The Nashville foursome led by Jared and Krystin plowed through most of the songs on their excellent debut “Floral Canyon” and even threw in a cover of the Rage classic “Sleep now in the Fire,” which got the crowd even more energized as they roared through their set. These guys have a lot of things going for them, and if you dig the album make sure to check them out if they come to your neck of the woods. I also interviewed them and you’ll be able to read all about their thoughts on various topics soon!
9. ALVVAYS, SUNDAY, PEACHTREE STAGE
One of the more subdued and lovely bands, Alvvays delivered a gorgeously layered set mid-day on Sunday, presenting the bigger than expected crowd with cuts from their recent album “Antisocialites,” with a sing-along courtesy of the modern classic that is “Dreams Tonite.” Truth be told the bands sound would have gone better at dusk, but with the layout and structure of the fest and bigger bands getting those more noticeable spots, you understand why or how they ended up there. Either way, it was a beautifully relaxing set that had this reviewer and a large crowd ensnared for the duration.
8. ANDREW W.K., SATURDAY, PONCE DE LEON STAGE
Another great interview I got to conduct during the weekend was with this incomparable man. Having said that, I wasn’t sure how his time slot and appeal would interact with the crowd, but thankfully I was way off. He’s always amazing and full of inspiration and energy, and the massive crowd that huddled into the only tent on the grounds enjoyed every minute of his sixty-minute set. He blasted through all the big hits including “She is Beautiful” and the closing number “Party Hard,” which was introduced with a literal countdown from 90 all the way down to one. I thought it was a joke at first, but no they went all the way, with the crowd joining in for every number. It was great, to say the least, and a true testament to his enduring positivity.
7. THE WAR ON DRUGS, SATURDAY, PEACHTREE STAGE
Dealing with rain delays are always a frustrating thing, but with that slight delay came a shimmeringly beautiful sky that perfectly complimented the bands dense, authentic sound. It was my first time seeing them, and based on what I saw, these guys will continue doing well for themselves. The sound was damn near perfect on the main stage all weekend, save for Courtney Barnett’s unfortunate sound issues, and with that kind of power, TWOD was able to display the kind of depth of craft they’ve become known for on their well-produced records. Definitely a band I’m excited to see again, and certainly a band you should see when you get the chance.
6. TENACIOUS D, SUNDAY, PIEDMONT STAGE
I turned to some attendee during the enthralling hilarious set and mentioned how “This is great but it’s so stupid.” He didn’t like that at all and took much offense, but after talking with multiple others, they all agreed that it was indeed stupid, but never in a bad way. It’s basically one of the intentions of the duo of Jack Black and Kyle Glass. Many of the songs elicited laughter from the audience and the stage banter between the two was nothing short of perfect. The whole idea of the “D” is to throw the course of modern rock music off its axis and they do it with ease. I’m not sure if I’d go see them at their own show, but the show presented as the fest gradually came to a close was outstanding all around, they deliver with much gusto and hilarity.
5. THE BLACK ANGELS, FRIDAY, PONCE DE LEON STAGE
After seeing them a few weeks ago, I was sure I’d be getting another taste of the Austin psyche gods. The Nola show was overall better in terms of stage production utilization and length, but they sounded just as crisp as they did at the Civic. I’ve now seen them four times or so and every time it’s mind-bendingly good, dark and eerie all at the same time. They know what they’re doing, especially at a festival when it means potentially bringing in new fans who may not be aware of their mystic soundscapes and deep, off the beaten path lyrics and vocal style.
4. DAVID BYRNE, FRIDAY, PEACHTREE STAGE
Definitely one of the strangest, but also thoroughly engaging of the entire festival. With a veritable marching band behind him, Byrne dominated the crowd and stage for the whole set, mixing in newer tracks and reworkings of classic “Talking Heads” that everyone seemed to devour in joy. He’s a true king of his craft and the ability to pull in a crowd that seems to be flawlessly easy, it was easily the most imaginative display, and a stark contrast to every other set of the weekend. It may not have been this reviewers best set, but I feel sorry for you if you attended and happened to miss this show. No one does music shows like this, especially when it comes to the rock genre.
3. PARQUET COURTS, SATURDAY, PIEDMONT STAGE
In all honesty, this set was barely even on my radar going into the fest, but over the course of their allotted hour, they surprised this reviewer, and judging by the big crowd that stuck around the entire time, most people seemed to really dig it. I’m not super familiar with them, but when you’re that blown away by a bands set, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I’ll for sure be checking out their back catalog and getting to know the bands work better and I’m thoroughly looking forward to being able to see them again when I’m better acquainted. Well done sirs, y’all killed it!
2. THE NATIONAL, SUNDAY, PEACHTREE
When you’re poised to see the Ohio stalwarts, you shouldn’t be anticipating an upbeat, happy set. It’s just not what they do. Having said that, the bands festival-closing set provided a ton of valid reasons why you should care about this insanely talented group of individuals. Covering mostly new material early on in the set, Matt Berninger and the brothers Dessner and Devendorf eventually found their way into more marquee songs like the anthemic “Mr. November,” the unsettling reality that has become “Fake Empire,” and crowd favorite “Terrible Love.” The purely joyous moment for this reviewer though was finally getting to see “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” which was done acoustically but still managed to grab the audience's attention as the festival came to an emotional climax.
1. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, SATURDAY, PEACHTREE
After putting the California purveyors of desert rock at the number one spot of anticipated acts, I wasn’t sure if it would be redundant to put them as the best set of the weekend but to say they didn’t earn it would be ridiculous. More than anything they exemplified the entire spirit of the festival, in music and attitude alike. They came out swinging with an elaborate stage show and tunes that hit in nearly every one of their albums. The massive crowd also seemed enthralled from start to finish, and the minimal stage chatter between songs played perfectly in terms of keeping the energy up for the 90-minute set. There’s a reason they’ve been able to continually do so well over the course of their career, and the strength and perfection of the set is a reminder that they aren’t just the Kings of modern hard rock, but at Shaky Knees, they stood a cut above the rest of the lineup.