Shaky Knees began five years ago at the Masquerade Music Park in Old Fourth Ward; one of the highlights that year was Jim James of My Morning Jacket, which so happens that’s where Shaky Knees got its name — from a My Morning Jacket song. Since then it’s taken on many different shapes and sizes, this year taking place for the second year in a row at Centennial Olympic Park. The festival feels at home here with its three stages, food vendors, and art close together in proximity. It flows together from start to finish, unlike other festivals where you feel bounced around all over the place. There were promising acts (Cage The Elephant, LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix), surprising acts (Pinegrove, Lewis Del Mar, POND), and acts in-between full of high energy and festival fashion galore.
Friday, Day 1
The summer-like weather of the first day didn’t stop the masses from standing in the hot sun, sweating and dancing to their favorite bands (the few who did found solace in the shade). It was a highly anticipated beginning to a fabulous weekend ahead. Here are nine memorable acts we saw while making the rounds:
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
All five of Rainbow Kitten Surprise members hail from Boone, North Carolina; resembling a northern mountainous version of Nashville’s Kings of Leon. They attract not only the girls who swoon over them for their looks, but the fans of true gritty rock ‘n’ roll. Chilling harmonies, dynamic instrumentation, and a powerful stage presence make seeing this band live well worth it.
We will have more on the English 4 piece, psychedelic rock band Temples in our Day 2 report on their rousing late night set at The EARL, but the band kicked it into gear early on Friday’s first day with a daytime set that their Aussie psych rock brethren Tame Impala would be more than proud of. Behind their recently released sophomore album Volcano, the band rocked the SK big stage while getting the crowds grooving and dancing to their harmonious sounds.
Car Seat Headrest
A significantly loud intricate loop (that continued for about three to five minutes) saying “reach out your hands” kicked off their set, accumulating old fans and bringing attention to new. Andrew Katz, drummer, took presence first on stage playing to the loop. The rest of the band followed on stage as the audience’s anticipation grew, including frontman Will Toledo, and they exploded into Vincent. The energy stayed hot throughout Car Seat Headrest‘s set as they played a sample from their catalog, including songs “Fill in the Blank”, “Maud Gone”, and a DEVO cover, “Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’).”
“Los Growlers,” as they’re sometimes referred to, are anything but ordinary. This California-bred band took the phrase “Beach Goth” as a descriptor of their music — they have a heavy reverb of surf guitar mixed with lead singer Brooks Neilson’s crooning vocals. Their studio work translates well, but seeing them live is transfixing. The way they play together along with Neilson’s signature sways creates a 1970’s gypsy folk and psychedelic sea atmosphere. The majority of The Growlers’ set consisted of songs off their latest album City Club, but also included works from previous albums like “Naked Kids” and “Big Toe”.
Montclair, New Jersey’s Pinegrove has earned quite the buzz lately behind their critically acclaimed sophomore album. 2016’s Cardinal. The band’s early evening set on the Criminal Records Ponce de Leon stage, the smallest of the three stages, was by far the most packed out the tiny amphitheater like area got all weekend as people packed in tight to get a hold of this band. The band takes an interesting approach to it’s modern rock ‘n’ roll, mixing elements of emo, grunge and Americana to offer something that stands out from the pack. The buzz was clearly already there for Pinegrove with the Shaky Knees attendees, and the band not only lived up to the hype, but surpassed expectations. Not only was the band’s stage demeanor of having a great time playing the festival a highlight, even leading “the wave” around the circular area, but their heartfelt lyrics brought many singalongs throughout their set as frontman Evan Stephens Hall delivered a rousing and passionate performance. The Americana portion of Pinegrove’s music really shined through in their live set at Shaky Knees, backed with a strong modern day rock ‘n’ roll edge that many in the genre can’t match.
Chicago’s Twin Peaks filled the smallest of the three stages at Shaky Knees well past its envisioned capacity on Friday afternoon; the rowdy, rambunctious set was led by the young band’s dual front men in Cadien Lake James and Clay Frankel. The energy was as electric as any band could ever hope for a daytime, side stage festival performance, As long as Twin Peaks continues to put on shows like they did at Shaky Knees, it won’t be long until their sloppy, working-class anthems are burning up the mainstage.
Portugal. The Man
Storm clouds gathered in the air, producing tiny droplets of rain and high wind as the crowd waited for Portugal. The Man to take the stage. Many pulled out ponchos as they discussed the weather situation and whether it would delay the band’s set, but lo and behold the storms held off, just turning the sky momentarily gray. The band took the stage wearing what looked like space-gear, blasting off with “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” from 2013’s Evil Friends. Portugal’s set was one for the memory books; they got funky with their single “Feel It Still” (off Woodstock, out on June 16), created a daunting atmosphere with heavy green smoke, and ended with a dark riff of The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.
Cage The Elephant
Matt Shultz, Cage’s leadsinger, is never one to disappoint. People attend Cage The Elephant shows knowing they’re in for a treat, from the innovative music to the showmanship and riot-like atmosphere. The band’s set at Shaky Knees took place around sunset; the sky changing from light to dark as they played from start to finish.
“Mess Around” moved the energy into high gear, Shultz prancing around on stage like Mick Jagger just took over his body. “In One Ear” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” provided the classic and original sounds of Cage’s 11-year existence, devout fans shouting along with him as he ran through the audience, giving a security guard a playful smooch on his way back to the stage. They were a force to reckon with throughout the entirety, only slowing down (if you could even call it that) towards the end with “Come a Little Closer.”
When LCD Soundsystem took the stage to close the opening day at Shaky Knees, they did so as almost forefathers to the electro-psych movement that surrounded them on smaller stages throughout the festival. LCD Soundsystem shirts were all over the venue on Friday, worn by young and old alike, in hopes that they might close the night by dancing themselves clean. The band has a cult following (as evidenced by the t-shirt army) in the same manner that David Byrne, or Rocky Horror Picture Show do. The people who get it, really get it. And Atlanta gets it, on some level. It was clear that the first day at Shaky Knees was a day building in anticipation of an LCD Soundsystem show. The band led with “Us v. Them”, from 2007’s Sound of Silver. They returned to the album for “Someone Great” mid set, and again with “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” The band also played their two new tracks for 2017 — “Call the Police” and “American Dream” — consecutively, before closing their set with their biggest hit (by about 27 million streams) “Dance Yrself Clean.”