Shaky Knees Festival 2019 –
So, the time is upon us. The seventh run of Atlanta’s alternative rock fest occurs in Central Park this weekend. Stay glued here – I’ll try to post pics and such.
We made it! Nearly missed our flight but the vending machine says it all..
Low Cut Connie
I heard of Low Cut Connie heading into the festival. I know WFUV in New York has been playing them non-stop and that is the station which I normally tune to while driving. So, I had an inkling of how good they would be, but wow – Did these guys really knock my socks off – They put on a hell of a show.
Their singer is a genuine delight to watch. He wiggles and, jives and climbs all over the drum kit. Now, tell me, who doesn’t like a good, unhinged lead singer in the band they’re watching? Derangement makes for a hell of a show and Low Cut Connie mixes that perfectly with their catchy, bop-worthy tunes.
It seems as though the Band wanted to carve out an extra special performance for Atlanta, with the Singer proclaiming his love for the city as he thanked them for all their support while they were still complete nobodies. Not to say Low Cut Connie is this huge band that everyone knows every word to every song for but they do put on a hell of a show.
Beck’s live performance is everything you could hope for from this eclectic and eccentric genius. He brought with him an earth-shattering light show that raised his enigmatic status even higher. He stuck mostly to the hits, which is totally cool in my book. Beck rolled in like a shot to the arm to headline night one. He was even better than I could have imagined.
One thing I really appreciated from him was the fact that he really made this a performance. He played it loose on the banter between songs and was actually rather funny. He had little vignettes prepared and lyrical changes which suited the night/festival. In the end, I feel as though he played the strongest set amongst the three headliners and I cannot wait to see him again at Forest Hills Stadium come the Summer.
So let’s discuss day one while I have a moment before heading over for day 2:
I saw a news article stating that Incubus ‘slayed’ on the first Eve of the fest and I have no qualms in saying emphatically that they are WRONG. I was a large Incubus fan… Fifteen years ago. From note one, it became apparent that there was no real soul, energy or power behind what they were doing. They were certainly trying. This is no statement on their musicianship. It just wreaked of a band trying to remain culturally relevant after disappearing (when their sound was fresh 2 decades ago). Apologies for not grabbing any pictures of their set. I was afraid I might vomit on my phone.
Beyond a Notable Mention
Tash Sultana –
Tash was a very welcome surprise at Shaky Knees festival 2019. Unfortunately, I could not grab pics of her set due to distance, but damn did this solo artist tear it up. Where did this wonderful musician come from, and how is she only crossing my radar now? Witnessing as much passion, fire and relentlessly fiddling fingers is a rare site but Tash seemed to do this with ease. It wasn’t only guitar that she ripped on. I recall her switching to mandolin and some other stringed instrument I wasn’t familiar with. Each time the transitions from instrument to instrument were seamless.
A Chill Set to Beat the Heat
On top of her dexterous fingering abilities, Tash constructed the backing of her songs with various pads and triggers. It was fascinating watching her start from scratch, slowly group the melodies together, work in whatever stringed instruments melody and ultimately bring the vocals into the fold. For such a damn hot day, it made for some very relaxing music to just hang out to. It brought me back down to Earth, rather than my head getting lost in the clouds thanks to the heat.
Genuine attention was probably given to her more than any other act, in all actuality. I really wanted to see how she was manifesting these tunes by herself. I got a general idea, but I would love to watch her again to get closer and really see. In a nutshell, don’t sell Tash short or have anything but the highest expectations for her. She will undoubtedly oblige and you’ll find yourself taken in by her catchy melodies and ferocious instrumentality. Definitely a must-see act.
Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees, DO NOT GET ME WRONG, put on an aggressively stunning set. So stunning, in fact, they pulled a Catch-22 I’m yet to experience in all my years of concert going. They forced me to pose two thoughts: 1-Wow, this is a badass set and these guys really know what they’re doing. 2-Wow, I completely do not like who you are as a band. Again, don’t get me wrong. I find this band to be extremely talented and more than capable at what they do. I just simultaneously discovered, as I watched, that these guys simply weren’t for me. It was like watching Rush. Mathematical, methodical, progressive rock. Not exactly my cup of tea, but more power to you guys. Keep on keepin on. I will not be present.
I’d waited months to catch Fidlar, so nothing was stopping me from seeing them this time around. I’d failed in seeing them the last time they played Shaky Knees 2 years prior. I’ve been quite hooked on their new album, Almost Free, for a minute now. Suffice it to say I was just a tad bit excited for their performance. I grew even more stoked upon learning they were playing on the Piedmont stage (Piedmont is Shaky Knees’ second-most lofty stage to play on). This band had come a long way since I’d heard of them in 2017 and I couldn’t wait to see the lunacy from the studio brought to life.
Fidlar certainly did not fail at bringing out the lunacy this balmy Georgian Saturday. To start, Lead Singer Zac Carper entered from stage left in full medical scrubs. Along with his long-ass hair it was a rather humorous sight. Why did he do this? I still don’t really know. Before ’40 Oz. on Repeat’, Carper went on a hunt for a man in a panda suit he’d seen in the crowd and invited him alongside the band to dance for everyone’s amusement. Long story short, they didn’t skimp on the crazy.
They played a varying smattering of tunes. They looked like they were trying to cover as much ground as possible before the rain came. Their set was ultimately shortened but I was having such a blast I cannot say I even noticed much. Neither did the rest of the crowd, who appeared to be having just as much fun. Everyone was hopping up and down, singing, moshing, dancing, and crowd surfing. I was in my element once more.
Sooooooo, how was it?
I feel very fortunate to have caught Fidlar at this stage in their career because I see nothing but an upwards trajectory for them. They also appear to be shifting stylistically, showing their range as a band. Almost Free is still what I’d consider a ‘punk’ album, but it’s nearly a polar opposite to their previous releases. So, it’s good to get in a live taste early in their career. It will show you what they have the potential to become. In this case we have a band who, if you ever have the opportunity, should certainly see live.
Cage the Elephant
2 Catch 22’s in the same festival? ? ? That’s too many 2’s in one sentence . .
Okay, now this is just getting downright weird – Remember how I talked about the Oh Sees before? How I watched what I knew was an incredible performance, while simultaneously realizing that I did not enjoy the music coming from the stage? Lightning struck twice within the same festival for me. I found myself falling further and further out of love with Cage the Elephant as the night progressed. The thing is, though, with Thee Oh Sees I didn’t know their material and my confusion was part of the reason for my lack of enjoyment. Cage, though, I know pretty well. I wasn’t going into their set blind at least. The problem with myself and Cage the Elephant is that despite years of listening and seeing them inadvertently on several occasions, I’m still not sure if I like them.
It’s nothing against the Cage the Elephant. They were and are a fantastic band. They have all the elements I usually look for in a Band – Crazy singer who dances like a maniac and reminds me of Mick Jagger, lyrics on various nutty topics with clever and flowery language, and they even had fire! You can never go wrong with fire.
But something odd always eats at me when I listen to Cage the elephant. I get all wishy-washy. Enjoy it. To don’t like it. Then shift over to loving it. All of sudden again, I hate it. Then it’s awesome. Then it’s lame. I just can’t seem to win nor make up my mind with this band. My own indecision messed up this set for me, not the band. And, still, I cannot peg down what my beef is with them. My wife enjoyed the set immensely, though, so that’s all that matters in the end.
The Nude Party
The Nude Party was a perfect band to begin the final day of this year’s festival. They are upbeat, chill and Stony. All of these elements added together made up a perfect storm of sounds which served as my hangover aid from the previous night. I had the pleasure of knowing The Nude Party a little bit coming into their performance. I had previously seen them open for Jack White and they were very enjoyable. They were an act I knew I needed to catch while in Atlanta.
The Nude Party certainly did not disappoint. Going on at 12:30 is not the easiest thing for a band to do in a festival setting and you’re most likely forgotten about quickly. For this reason, it is always refreshing to see an act who brings it no matter what time of day it is, or whoever they’re playing with. Definitely another must-see act for whenever they may roll through your neck of the woods.
Tame Impala’s performance was stellar at Shaky Knees Festival 2019. Despite the crazy light show they had, this was as intimate of an atmosphere as I believe you’d be able to catch Kevin Parker and Co. in these days. The stage setup was much less intense then their recent Coachella gig.There was no giant spaceship 🙁 (oh no, first word problems). Who really cares, though, right? Light shows are all well and good but I didn’t go to Atlanta from New York for the sake of seeing a Pink Floyd laser light show. Cool stage lighting is a garnish. Nice to have, but by no means necessary.
What is necessary is being tight, together and performing as a group. These are all things Tame Impala does masterfully. Their timing as a group is reminiscent of the Vulcan Mind Meld from Star Trek. Some sort of telepathy is occurring between all of the band members, I’m sure of it. It’s the only explanation for how in sync they are with one another.
The Band’s Catapault into the Stratosphere of Pop Culture
I was actually in attendance for Tame Impala’s first NYC gig (back in 2013 I think?) at the Bowery Ballroom. I was there for the opener, Stardeth and White Dwarves, but as I prepped for the show I got listening to Tame Impala only to be bowled over by the awesomeness that is Innerspeaker. Right off the bat I could tell I was watching a band that was going to explode. I tried to see them as many times as possible while they were still relatively new to the States because the writing was on the wall; You will be watching these guys in a Stadium one day. Lo and behold, they are playing the Garden this Summer.
Anyway, to summarize –
Tame Impala closed out the festival with enough lights to offset the green efforts of all the wind farms in all of Holland. They played together so effortlessly and in a spot-on fashion, I am now convinced they are not from this Planet. When (notice I did not say if, but when) Tame Impala rolls through your town next do yourself the favor and just go. Yes, the tickets will be pricey. Will you care after the show? I’m going to bet not.
I know I know, you’re probably saying to yourself, “How can you be thinking about next year already?” Well, this is kind of my annual vacation at this point. Don’t you want to know what you’ll be doing on vacation? I know I prefer to. So, I’m going to list off a few bands along with a few reasons as to why I think they should be part of the awesomeness that is this festival.
In the three years that I’ve gone it surprised me each time to see that legendary alt rockers, Spoon, were not on the bill. I will never pass on an opportunity to see these Texas dandies, so it would be great to see them at Shaky Knees.
Portugal. The Man (again)?
Portugal. The Man played in 2017 and blew the proverbial roof off the house with both their festival and late night sets. It’s one of my all-time favorite couple of Shaky Knees sets I’ve seen. Period. Keep in mind, in ‘17 Portugal was gearing up for the release of Woodstock and Feel it Still was just starting to blow up. Since then, the band has grown, evolved and significantly increased their fanbase. If Cage the Elephant was a lofty enough group to stick atop that bill for ‘19, Portugal. The Man deserves their own headlining slot at the 2020 Shaky Knees.
Conor Oberst strikes me as an excellent candidate for 2020 as well. I feel as though the country twang he has added to his repertoire of sounds over the many, many years of his career suits Shaky Knees’ targeted audience and Conor is always a blast to see live. Something tells me he’d get a little too wasted in the South and we’d worry about him falling off the stage the whole time, but isn’t Oberst kind of at his best when in that mode?
Long Shot Selection: Autolux?
Last, let’s not forget my biggest long shot for the followup to Shaky Knees Festival 2019 – California based Noise-Rock trio, Autolux. If you know Autolux at all you’re keenly aware that their tour dates are few and far between. In fact, you are probably turning your nose up at me now saying pshaw to the notion that Autolux would even be touring in May of ’20. I don’t blame you. This is why I think it is my biggest long shot.
Same token, it’s not far from the realm of possibility. If you follow the Band at all, they’ve been much more active on social media of late then they ever are. The messages are cryptic, just like they always are when the Band is recording or on a press junket of some sort. I think it won’t be too long until we get confirmation that Autolux is recording and, if so, I bet Tim Sweetwood could convince them to trek to Georgia for a couple days in May next year.
Top 5 Acts Seen at Shaky Knees Festival 2019:
5. – The Nude Party
4. – Tame Impala
3. – Grouplove
2. – Beck
1. – FIDLAR
Low point of the Shaky Knees festival 2019 (that wasn’t related to Incubus) – I was sitting down a moment, heat struck and needing a break. Tears for Fears happened to be going on. I’m by no stretch a fan but have seen Donnie Darko enough times that I know a couple of their songs. I figured what the hell, I’m sitting down anyway. I might as well listen to what they’re doing. People like them, so maybe it would be a good performance.
How … Dare … You …
I kept the faith until I heard an extremely familiar chord progression coming from the stage. It was not a Tears for Fears song. It was Creep! These guys were trying to cover Radiohead tune … Seriously? You have not been socially relevant since I was born (and I’m getting up there in years), so you hop on an easy bandwagon in the hopes of drawing in a younger crowd? Despicable. That one word truly says it all.
Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.
Before I was even aware I was vocalizing my opinion my subconscious took over for me. I was on the ground repeating, “No…. Why?…,” until my wife told me to cut it out. I don’t blame her. I was getting some dirty looks and I didn’t want to mess up anyone else’s enjoyment so I shut up. However, I cringed until the very last note. It felt desperate, almost like a cry for help. Tears for Fears was grasping at straws and the truly shameful part is that they knew it.
.. And just as quick as it came ..
…It was gone. Kaput. Donezo. We were in an Uber headed back to Atlanta Airport. Shaky Knees festival 2019 was over. A general malaise overtook the vehicle, as we knew we were NY bound. Obviously, since we were in Georgia we had to get some Bojangle’s. NomNomNomNom.
Every pro has a con
Shaky knees festival 2019 – I find myself walking away this year with more regrets about stage decisions than any other visit I’ve made. In a way, this is a good thing. It means the lineup was stacked. I missed Deerhunter and the Dandy Warhols due to conflicting set times with other bands I wished to see. Due to the distance between stages it made more sense to miss Gary Clark Jr. in favor of who was following him on a separate one (Sorry Gary!). I can’t say I even remember why I missed the Black Lips, but alas, I did. That’s the trade-off though, right? I guess regret is the wrong word here, as I regret nothing in the decisions I made and who I saw. I guess I just wish the festival was maybe a day longer to allow for less crammed together set-times.
This year was really and truly an awesome Shaky Knees festival 2019. If you weren’t there, you really missed out. I would rate this year as my favorite, if not for the fact that I got to see LCD SoundSystem headline night one my first visit. Otherwise, this was a top-notch festival. Just as big and bad as all the others out there and only growing stronger in popularity and notoriety. Get your butt down to Atlanta next May, or you will be reading an article very similar to this one, kicking yourself in the ass saying, “Why didn’t I go?” – Either way, Don’t forget to keep a-rockin’ and a-rollin’