Day one of Shaky Knees was hectic — filled to the brim with excitement, anticipation, and energy. It left festival goers in awe, and at the end quite possibly a little exhausted. Day two served as a breather, aside from the brash rainstorm; there was more confidence in the flow of navigating the festival and a slew of new artists and bands to see. Whether at the Peachtree stage, Piedmont stage or the Ponce de Leon stage, the talent was on the rise for Saturday.
Here are ten memorable acts we saw while making the rounds throughout Shaky Knees second day, plus a full photo gallery below:
LA-based, London-born artist Bishop Briggs, who’s stage name comes from her family’s hometown of Bishopbriggs, Scotland, is new to the scene, having released her self-titled debut EP earlier this year; but the fanfare she’s gained in that short time propelled her into one of the most buzzed-about early sets of the weekend throughout the media area. Bishop Briggs brings a dark, sinister brand of pop to the stage with her cool, calm, exuberant, and powerful demeanor. Not only is Sarah Grace McLaughlin all of those things on stage as Bishop Briggs, but she inspires that confidence, that power deep into her audience. Mixing everything from trip-hop, to acoustic guitar, to electronic beats, Sarah Grace lays the pop down heavy and almost gothic at times, but it’s her soulful and big booming vocals that soar throughout the festival grounds, making festival-goers stop in their tracks. Then to look onstage as Bishop Briggs’ plays their hit “River”, controlling the audience into a heavy sing along with fists in the air, it was hard not to be enamored with the next big pop star, realizing they won’t be playing too many early sets for long.
New Orleans rooted and rock driven, this seven-piece band has accumulated countless miles on the road since forming in 2007. Show-stopping pedal works began the show with “It Was A Sin”, a song off their 2015 album Men Amongst Mountains; the majority of the songs they played came from this album, including “Bulletproof”, “Fade Away”, and their hit “Wish I Knew You”. They ended with a cover of The Beatles’s “Hey Jude”, which had the crowd singing along with each other and holding lighters up in the air as a salute to true rock’n’roll. The Revivalists instrumental virtuosity and charismatic vocal magnetism pulled in one of the biggest afternoon crowds at Shaky Knees.
After an earlier rainstorm, the sun was back out and beaming down as beach balls were tossed across people’s heads, creating a late-afternoon Americana vibe for Dr. Dog’s set. The Pennsylvanian indie band is a staple for music festivals year after year, not only because of their classic hits, but because they continue to release new music; their 10th record was released last fall. Dr. Dog made it seem like being a rocker was easy breezy as they played songs “Shadow People”, “The Beach”, and “These Days.” Howling vocals and contagious beats brought the crowd’s energy out and also brought out nearby onlookers, equipped with binoculars as they viewed from the Glenn’s Hotel rooftop.
When singing live, most pop radio stars fall flat from their autotuned tracks. However, this is not the case for Sylvan Esso. This electro-indie folk band is a collaboration between Amelia Meath and Nicholas Sanborn, and when performing live they sound incredible. They played a plethora of hits including “Radio” and “H.S.K.T.”, but it was Meath’s jazzy vocals in “Coffee” that really hypnotized the crowd against the synth-driven beats.
Lewis Del Mar
For fans of Alt-J and Raury, Lewis Del Mar is a soundscape treat — making for one of the most interesting sets at Shaky Knees. As the sun was going down, the energy at the Ponce de Leon stage was going up. The band played soulful grooves with high intensity, shouting into the audience and running around the stage. They presented humility and passion all the way to end with a “thank you for supporting our music.”
Nick Murphy may have shed his previous persona Chet Faker, but his R&B/electronic style remains the same, just with a little more confidence. His set was unexpected and quite the adrenaline rush; it felt like it could have been a soundtrack to a blockbuster drama. He began his performance with “Your Time,” which left the audience gushing, and followed with favorites “Gold”, “Fearless”, and “1998.” When Murphy hits his stride, not only the first few rows of people are jamming, the whole entire crowd is — including security and vendors.
Family and Friends
Tucked away in the back of the park at the smallest of the three stages just as the last light of the day faded away, the Ponce stage almost felt like a different festival as Family and Friends took to the stage with X Ambassadors on the Piedmont Stage and troves of people waiting on The xx. The seven-piece Athens/Atlanta-based folk rock band still had plenty of hometown love with a strong crowd that was way more than just family and friends. The band, who has released 2 EPs since 2014 and recently returned from LA where they were working on their debut full length, has built their reputation through their hugely energetic live shows, playing plenty of small festivals and many shows throughout the last few years. But what they proved on the Ponce stage is that their spot on this lineup was more than just throwing a bone to what was the only local area band during the weekend. Playing a mix of songs we’ve heard from their two EPs and some new songs hopefully from the debut to come, the band made themselves plenty of new fans with their big dual drums, group harmonies, singalongs, and a lot of love. None of that seems to be going away with the new songs, yet while the band has always incorporated a little post-punk, a little grunge, and more into their folk rock, the new songs they played at Shaky Knees seemed to bring another element that slightly veered away from what you’d consider basic folk, into more expansive rock songs. Family and Friends left no doubt, they are ready to take the next step into their upward trajectory that they’ve already been building upon, and there is no stage that they can’t handle.
The xx is back with a beefed-up sound and beautifully accomplished stage show, fully deserving of their Saturday night headlining spot at Shaky Knees. The stage was composed of rotating mirrored panels and a sunset-pink glow; it made watching the xx feel like you were watching an indie band in another dimension. As the audience grew, spilling onto the walkways, the band covered songs from their debut in 2009 to their latest (and third) album I See You. The synths were powerful throughout but extra powerful in “Crystalised,” a crowd favorite. The defining characteristics of their voices are helplessness and vulnerability, a constant war between how the world sees them and how they feel inside, creating a delicate narrative from one song to the next.
Saturday Late Night Show: Lo Moon & Temples at The EARL
The EARL is one of Atlanta’s most treasured music venues. It’s served as the start for many bands, including Deerhunter, and continues to host a wide variety of rockin’ bands and artists. Some of the Shaky Knees late night shows took place here; Saturday night brought Lo Moon and Temples front and center.
Lo Moon is an L.A. electronic trio that’s a bit of a mystery; they seemingly came out of nowhere, still managing to secure a spot on Shaky Knee’s lineup. Members Matt Lowell, Crisanta Baker, and Sam Stewart (Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics son) create music that’s clean and atmospheric. Their “Loveless” demo has made the rounds of the internet (2 million streams on various platforms), creating an awful lot of buzz along the way. So far nothing else is planned to be released until their debut record later this year. Their set was exceptionally cool and for being a young band on the scene, they performed like a well-oiled machine. Lo Moon was a band I had never heard of but after seeing them at the Earl, they will be one I’ll never forget.
English four-piece Temples has been bringing psychedelic rock to the masses since 2012; their debut album Sun Structures was released in 2014 and with it brought lots of attention. They climbed the charts and performed at some of the world’s top music festivals, including Lollapalooza, Glastonbury and Bonnaroo. With what seemed like an eternity of waiting, their second album Volcano dropped this year, securing more festival dates and a headlining tour. Shaky Knees welcomed the Brits with open arms — not only did they perform at the festival, but they also played a more intimate late night gig at the Earl. They exploded the small stage with top of the line production lights, Beatle’s inspired hair-cuts, and a heavy rocking sound. James Bagshaw’s sultry vocals echoed throughout, carrying along with bassist Tom Walmsey’s deep cuts. They played a variety of songs including “Sun Structures”, “Strange or Be Forgotten,” and their latest hit “Certainty.” Temples set was magical, they heaped spoonfuls of psychedelic sugar — leaving a desire for more of the synth-driven band.