Shaky Knees 2014: Review + Photo Gallery
First and foremost, we have to give credit where credit is due: a shout-out to Shaky Knees’ staff (volunteers, stage crews, security, parking attendants & more) and the Atlanta Police. You scurried around sizzling hot concrete for multiple 12-hour shifts, directed traffic in hammering rain for a sea of cars, setup, broke down and loaded out 60+ bands, and much more behind-the-scenes. Rarely do you see such a massive production go off without a hitch, and even more rarely are you thanked for making it all happen.
Sadly, Shaky Knees has come and gone. With so much anticipation built up throughout the winter, the second annual definitely delivered — the new location, additional day, and far superior weather only helped add to the hype of its weighty lineup. As my headache and Sunday sunburn still hang on, I begin to piece together my weekend highlights. This year’s lineup was a rare beast. A lineup where you could work down from the well-known headliners or work your way up from the very bottom of the bill, and it’s just as talented. Here are a handful of sleepers and standards in my daily Top 5:
Not having spent much time over in Atlantic Station’s neck of the woods, I was pleasantly surprised by its easy accessibility — simple to get to the festival grounds from really anywhere in ATL, and simple once inside with its multi-stage setup. The ability to come and go as you pleased, the ungodly amount of parking, and ability to bounce between stages, all benefitted the festival’s new home first impressions.
I started Day 1 off with UK’s Blood Red Shoes as they celebrated their US festival debut. I love watching bands play American debuts. They put on a performance of a lifetime because they have to and they want to. The garage rock/White Stripes duo described their experience on tour in the States as “bloody cool”, toasting the crowd with “it’s not too early for whiskey, right?!” They were deafening (in a good way) as they played hits off their most recent album, Blood Red Shoes. Check these Brits out, a lot of noise being made out of very little.
Quickly hopping over to the smaller Boulevard Stage, it was evident that Sleeper Agent was an early crowd favorite. The Kentucky-based six piece band, led by the Alex Kandel, have been working their way up the Alt charts the past couple years with notable performances at Coachella, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and opening for Weezer, Young the Giant, and more. They were also named #2 “Best New Band” in Rolling Stones annual Reader’s Poll. “Waves” off their second album About Last Night released in March 2014 is helping them ride a tsunami of momentum.
It was only fitting The Whigs took stage to the Braves Tomahawk Chop. The Athenians put on one hellova show on the Ponce De Leon Stage, breaking out recent hits “Modern Creation”, “The Particular” and “Hit Me” from their new album, Modern Creation. I was hoping they’d take stage in their polyester suits from their new music video, but we’ll have to wait till next time. After the show, I sat down with lead singer Parker, check out the interview here.
White Denim, a personal weekend favorite, continue to blow my mind. These guys are completely underrated. They look like a mix between the Trailer Park Boys and a couple coworkers who just got off work (but in cowboy boots), and then they absolutely wail on their instruments. The proper use of the loop pedal adds to their unique intertwining sounds. Highlights included “Pretty Green” and “At Night in Dreams” off Corsicana Lemonade and “At The Farm” off D, one of my favorite rock instrumentals.
He’s been called the Victim of Love. The Doctor of Love. The Preacher of Love. The Cassanova of Love. The Screaming Eagle of Love. But most know him as Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaries. Feeding off the crowds excitement, he proclaimed “you put me on stage and I’m here to give you a show!” “How Long” from his popular 2011 re-issue No Time for Dreaming, and “Crying in the Chapel” from 2013 Victim of Love album brought all the brothers and sisters together for a funky time.
Friday’s lineup was the perfect way to ease into a long weekend. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But I wanted to sprint. I continued the night into a packed house for The Black Cadillacs with Man Man at East Atlanta’s The Earl. The Black Cadillacs are true southern gentlemen, thanking the crowd for welcoming them to The Earl for their very first time. The guys played a handful of never-before-played songs including a favorite, “Fracture”. Man Man closed out Day 1 with a wild cloak-wearing dance party. Things got weird.
Hayes Carll is a poet, a cowboy and unbeknownst to me, a really funny dude. In between each song he’d share a short story with the crowd. He had the crowd laughing out loud with his “Redneck Life of Pi” story about a lion he stumbles upon in one of his songs. He closed with “Stomp and Holler” from KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories), the perfect description of a day in the life at Shaky Knees.
Every time I listen to Lord Huron, I have an inner body cinematic experience. I’m usually on horseback, in the middle of nowhere. It’s weird, I know. But their sound is powerful and mysterious and “Time To Run” only intensifies the need to saddle up and ride into the unknown.
It was my first time seeing The Lone Bellow perform live. Honestly, I got tired of their songs being played over and over everywhere I went, and thought seeing them live would give me the same Mumford-like shrug. But I eat my comments. They perform the hell out of a stage. Actually hearing the electric guitar shredding of Brian Elmquist blew me away. They’ve recently been in an 18th century church making a new record, which made it only fitting they closed out with a beautiful cover of “Angel from Montgomery”.
Dawes are another one of those bands that I wouldn’t necessarily drive throughout the night listening to, but there wasn’t a single sleepy second during their Peachtree Stage performance. They pulled a double, playing an upbeat set and then playing as Conor Oberst’s backup band. The crowd was loving “Little Bit of Everything” and a new tune, “Right on Time”.
Portugal. The Man made my list of “Best Albums of 2013”, and for good reason. It’s one of those you play from start to finish, uninterrupted. With live performances of “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and “Modern Jesus”, the surrounding parking lot concrete was resonating rock.
You never know what you’re going to get when you see Deer Tick, and that’s a good thing. Pure rock n’ roll, heavy on the on-stage drinking, dudes wearing dresses and masks, debuting new songs called “Shitty Music Festival”. What’s not to love? Vanessa Carlton took stage with her hubby John and they dedicated “In Our Time” to “all the mothers out there.” John closed by saying “we’re not afraid to dress like idiots or have a good time, but we are afraid of ghosts.” Insert John McCauley smirk [here].
Blitzen Trapper is taking the summer off to allow a band member to spend time with his newborn baby, little did we know we’d be so lucky to see them before a short hiatus. I’ve always dug their sound. A nice mixture of country, bluegrass, and rock, overlaid with heavy keys. The crowd was loving “Shine On” from their new albumVII, and finished in true rock fashion with the Zeppelin cover, “Ramble On”.
Another one of my favorite performances from the weekend were the LA indie rockers, Local Natives. They’ve been making a lot of buzz lately, gaining spots in the top tier of everyone’s “Best Albums of 2013.” Just listen to “Breakers” (the music video is also spectacular) and you’ll know why. So catchy, dramatic, and powerful, you’ll want to start wearing skinny jeans. I’m wearing them right now. Other highlights included a unique Johnny Cash cover “Out Among the Stars” and dedicating “Colombia” to mom on Mother’s Day.
Everything about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was entertaining. They even entertained a young couple’s marriage proposal directly on stage. We all secretly want to be part of Alex’s cult.
And… then there were the Alabama Shakes, truly the icing on the cake. What better way to close out the second annual than an upbeat show backed by the super powerful pipes of Brittany Howard. After being zapped by the sun all day (not complaining), this was the perfect pick-me-up. Hearing all their songs a million times over since Boys & Girls debuted in 2012, they perform like they were released just the other day, and the crowd was happily packed elbow-to-elbow. Look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.
Shaky Knees, you were too good to us. I’m not sure how you’ll top it next year, but I’m hoping you do. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.