Shaky Knees Festival 2019 - Day 3, Atlanta - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Shaky Knees Festival 2019 - Day 3, Atlanta

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:
Shaky Knees Festival 2019 - Day 3, Atlanta
Shaky Knees Festival 2019 - Day 3, Atlanta

If you felt the Earth tilt on its axis last Sunday around 4:30pm it may be because the largest daytime crowd ever assembled (short of Trump’s Photoshopped Inauguration crowd) was standing in one spot waiting for Grouplove to take the stage.  I didn’t even know this band existed any longer, but I seemed to be in the minority on that count.  This is normally the time of day people are waiting in line for a jalapeño corndog in order to power through to the headliners. 

After a couple of grueling days that were respectively hot and rainy, we got our latest start on a much cooler and sunnier day.  Our theme somehow turned out to be to startmg 5093 each day with a singer/songwriter.  Sunday’s pick of Lucy Dacus was destined to be a surefire success.  I probably saw the greatest number of artists out amongst their fans at this festival during their sets, but Dacus doesn’t need to stage dive to drop the barrier between artist and fan.  She played one of the most vulnerable sets I’ve seen at a festival to a rapt and large early day crowd.  She started with three from last year’s Historian album in ‘Addictions’, ‘The Shell', and ‘Nonbeliever’ - all with delicate starts that built in momentum.  Dacus is on a bit of a mission this year to release some holiday-themed songs and here presented an indie-fied version of ‘La Vie En Rose’ and a particularly exposed ‘My Mother and I’ accompanying herself with effects pedal knobs (perhaps a trick picked up from fellow boygenius member Julien Baker).  Not to neglect the rest of the family, she played ‘Historian’ in honor of her father, who was in the crowd and whose mother the song was written for.  She closed with an extended run through ‘Night Shift’ with the audience singing along as loudly as she was.  Dacus’ songs and their impact transcend entertainment, but it was an entertaining set nonetheless.  We were also lucky to catch her full set in Tampa a few days later, which will be covered in a future review.

At the risk of destroying whatever shred of credibility I might still have, I had to check out Grouplove’s set along with the masses.  I’d seen them on a small indoor side stage mg 5684at a hometown festival many years ago, so was stunned by the crowd they drew.  Their stock in trade is singing off-kilter (and intermittently out of tune) pop songs that are quick to get stuck in your head - they reeled off ‘Prime Time’, ‘Itching On a Photograph’, and ‘Shark Attack’ within the first four songs.  The lead duo was also spotted later filming a video of themselves weaving through the pre-Tame Impala crowd, though it hardly seems they need the publicity.  And that shred of credibility I was clutching had to melt away entirely when I made sure to catch Finn Wolfhard’s (aka Mike from Stranger Things) band Calpurnia and their opening song.  The throng of screaming teenage girls had to rival a Beatles’ concert and in a nod to that, they also covered ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ (second band to cover at Shaky Knees and third going back to the last festival I was at). 

Even though Deerhunter was on my must-see list and one of the few acts I was on the rail for, I was not expecting the mg 5875maelstrom of sound that the band hurled our way.  This was primarily at the hands of their keyboard player, whose canvases the rest of the band splashed about on.  The Bradford Cox led group worked up a wall of noise for two minutes straight before launching into an inspired ‘Cryptograms‘.  Whether songs were new off of this year’s Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? or older ones, they all sounded fantastic with this iteration of the band.  Cox seemed to be really enjoying the moment and interacted with both the crowd and a horde of side stage family and friends.  Whatever you may think of their latest work, both ‘Death In Midsummer’ and ‘What Happens To People’ revealed themselves as sturdy songs.  The group found a solid backbone in the former and the latter played out exceedingly hard.  Fuzzed up versions of ‘Revival’ and ‘Desire Lines’ were a rush to hear played live with Cox deferring lead vocal duties on ‘Desire Lines’, which played to a furious close.  An amazingly tight band that plays with a calm fury I haven’t seen since The Walkmen disbanded.  If not my favorite set of the festival, it was definitely the one that exceeded what were already high expectations.  Not quite sure I understand why they were playing the smallest stage in their hometown, but for the good size crowd there it was the best possible setting you could see them in. 

Likely the most off-topic performer since companion country festival Shaky Boots folded, Kentucky’s Tyler Childers brought his brand of mg 6299hyper-narrative songwriting to the stage.  There were enough of us willing to forego Maggie Roger’s competing set to have a respectable and apparently rabid group of fans on hand.  Our photographer was one of four on hand for this set compared to the fifty that would have been over at Roger’s.  I’m always looking for a replacement for the mysteriously M.I.A. Sturgill Simpson (plenty of his shirts were on hand for this set) and Childers is a pretty good substitute.  If his band isn’t quite as fiery as Simpson’s, they are still fully legit and their bass player was wearing a coon skin hat!  Simpson didn’t have the festival’s only fiddle player, but likely the only pedal steel to complement his hard-bitten lyrics.  Similar to Dacus’ fanbase, everyone on hand seemed to know every word to every song even if they were all new to me.  Country music could certainly use a good kick in the pants with more of these firebrand performers. 

My thoughts on Tame Impala’s festival-closing set I’m sure are things that have all been said before.  Kevin Parker and whoever he might have had on hand pretty well mimic his recorded work in a live setting.  There’s not a whole lot of difference compared to listening in your living room except for the fact that you are listening over a mg 6402massive P.A. system that sounds fantastic with 50,000 of your closest friends.  Add to that the entrancing light and laser show (if you are into those things) and it’s definitely a spectacle worth seeing in a large scale festival setting.  If you spread the cost of your three-day ticket over the 20 or so acts we saw, the Tame Impala experience is certainly worth more than eight bucks.  Parker opened with an extended ‘Let It Happen’ complete with a massive confetti/glitter cannon firing towards the end of the song (pictured above).  And for those that haven’t liked his work since Lonerism, the version of ‘Elephant’ was particularly throaty and heavy.  Not sure if it was live or recorded, but headlight beams came out from Parker’s eyes and scanned all over the crowd to add an element of dread to the moment.  All in all, it was a perfectly fine way to close out a weekend of great music and if you look at it on a per performance investment, Shaky Knees and just about all of the festivals are a steal. 

My second year to attend, some things about Shaky Knees stand out.  It’s still early enough in the year not to be brutally hot, but of course, that can vary day to day.  There is a vendor offering $75 intravenous fluids if you really push yourself (they are free in the medical tent if you actually pass out first).  Every set we saw started on time and you can easily get from one stage to another across the park in five minutes or less.  It’s also been kind of cool that the last two years have coincided with the Kentucky Derby, Cinco de Mayo, and even Star Wars day - which all make for some creative fan costumes.  Lots of great vendors too with not so crazy lines.  The park is less than a mile from downtown Atlanta, where there are plenty of moderately priced hotels.  You could even walk it if you weren’t dead tired at the end of the day.  Even the Uber pickup worked smoother than the prior year, though we should have known that a 4.6 rated driver that went by the handle Peachfuschish (aka Courtney) was going to drop our ride.  And boo hiss to the dude on his adjacent apartment balcony that played his electric guitar and disco light on the way out every night.  He looked a bit like Lindsey Buckingham to me.

All photos:  Christa Joyner Moody      

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