- by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date: Label:
Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta is a great one to kick off the Summer festival season for us East Coasters. This year they offered up a stacked lineup with the Friday opening slate being particularly strong. With four stages and two of them firing at all times, it makes for a fast-paced day zigzagging Atlanta’s Central Park to take it all in.
First up at Shaky Knee’s only covered stage was up and coming singer-songwriter Taylor Janzen. We covered one of her earlier EPs Interpersonal last year, but this day she was celebrating the release of her new one, Shouting Matches. Still playing confessional stripped-down tunes ala Julien Baker, she brought a fuller sound fleshed out with guitar, bass, and drums. She played ‘Waiting Room’ from her prior release, but sounded even more confident with her newer material. Newer songs like ‘Prodigal Son’ evidenced a vocal power that easily held its own with the band in overdrive. While ‘New Mercies’ showed a folkier side on a song that got brisker as it went.
Directly across from where Janzen played, Austin five-piece Duncan Fellows were also celebrating the announcement of new music on its way. Fronted by Colin Harmon
Next up and one to get your pulse firing for the rest of the day was Low Cut Connie. Adam Weiner’s Philly based band is named for a waitress and Weiner’s piano
Having to criss-cross for the next two sets we weren’t able to stay too long at Atlanta’s own Curtis Harding, but he brought a hard soul sound to our first trip to the main stage. In addition to the standard line-up, Harding had a sax/keyboard player on hand to deepen his sound. Harding started with the earlier song ‘The Drive’ and whipped up a wall of sound right from the start. The wah-wah shimmer of ‘Go As You Are’ stood out as an early highlight and its one you’d be just as happy to carry on for minutes on end. We needed to move along, but Harding was working it out to the sax flavored ‘On And On’ as we left.
Making our way back to the smaller stages, Soundblab’s #1 festival pick, IDLES, did not disappoint with their quick 45-minute slot. The crowd was already packed in well in advance of the set as the band did their own soundcheck with plenty of guttural grunts to make sure everything was in its high fidelity best state (bassist Adam Devonshire’s
Being a bit adrenaline-addled after IDLES' pummeling is probably not the best frame of mind and body to take in Sharon Van Etten’s set. If IDLES were rock and roll at its rawest, Van Etten is calm, cool, and collected if not with a bit of an edge. Pulling heavily from her outstanding Remind Me Tomorrow from earlier this year, the set started with a big, glitchy boom before settling into the atmospheric ‘Jupiter 4’. Other songs from that album included the synth-heavy ‘Comeback Kid’, a vibe-y take on ‘You Shadow’, and the cool sheen of ‘Seventeen’. From her folkier back catalog she played engaging takes on ‘One Day’ and ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’. Van Etten writes great emotive songs and sounded just fine, but the tone of her set would have carried much better in the cooler after dark than in the blazing mid-day.
Across the field, Liz Phair put on a dynamic set and looked like she was having the time of her life (maybe she was). She
Next up were back to back sets from St. Louis emo band Foxing (right) and a nostalgic set from Tears for Fears (left). I’d seen Foxing open for Manchester Orchestra and were
To cap off an exhausting and in our opinion best day’s lineup, Beck was the headliner. I’ve always been a big fan and not sure how his live show has eluded me for decades. Still a little trippy, hippy awkward, nonetheless he puts on a hell of a show. He opened strong with a blues-ed out version of ‘Devil’s Haircut’ and went straight into a muscled up ‘Loser’. Playing with a six-piece backing band and backdrops of constant colors and effects it was a non-stop party atmosphere. He played five songs from Guero, including an inspired ‘Que Onda Guero’ and ‘E-Pro’ sounded great as well. A solo acoustic take on ‘Debra’ was surprisingly effective and Beck subbed out J.C. Penney for the home town retail juggernaut of Home Depot in the song's intro. ‘Lost Cause’ and ‘Blue Moon’ were also played acoustically, but with backing from three of his band members. The encore consisted of an extended take on ‘Where It’s At’ that worked in snippets of ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Miss You’, and ‘Once in a Lifetime’ along with others. A consummate, if not a bit quirky, showman, Beck knows how to keep you engaged and on your feet twelve hours into the day. Great pick by Shaky Knees to close out Day One. Whew!
All photos: Christa Joyner Moody (except for Beck Gig Review cover page photo provided by Shaky Knees Festival/Roger Ho)