Words // Garrett Smith – Photos // Ellie Alonzo & Garrett Smith
We hope you’re rested and ready for a great weekend ahead – both the weekends in your own lives, and the one we’re about to relive at Shaky Knees 2018.
Yesterday was amazing, but let’s move past it, okay? We’ve got so much ahead and nary a spare moment to tarry on the past. You don’t have to let it linger, y’all.
Anyways, we’re on to the hump day of the 2018 edition of Shaky Knees, but it’s nothing to try and get over so quickly; it’s definitely a day worth remembering, and in this instance, returning to once again in memory.
Let’s get right into the thick of the crowd.
// Day 2
Our second day on the Shaky Knees scene led us to Sun Seeker, a Nashville based trio following perfectly in last night’s final footsteps, albeit with a folk rock twang and a little more small-town spirit. The band throws a dash of cosmic dust into their otherwise country lite vibe.
From there we checked out both Stop Light Observations and Torres. The former was a group of freewheeling alt rockers hellbent on an arena-like performance. Like a contemporary Mother Love Bone, the voice was classic hair metal pipes, but the sound was defiant of any one genre. Torres, on the other hand, leaned more into the realm of dream pop, with a sound fit for a Sub Pop act like Beach House or other such ghostly ambiances.
A formidable set of bands to kick off the day, to be sure.
Two alliteratively named bands followed next in our festival experience – Bully and Broncho. Both were punk-fueled sluggers; fast, hard, and kept tightly under control all the same. Bully tends more towards the grungy and in-your-face, while Broncho retains that indie surfer streak that keeps them a little more mellow by comparison.
Beyond being featured on Rihanna’s 2013 hit, “Stay”, Mikky Ekko has got a persona all his own, sounding at times like the latest chart-topping radio-friendly singer-songwriter, and at others, coming out with more of a pop-punk vibe, growling lyrics and demanding emotional intimacy. He is both writer and producer – a set of credits that many in Hollywood still aspire to.
Teenage Wrist is the alt-option veggie burger with all of the fixin’s. A band styled as simply “alternative”, they find foothold in similar veins to bands like Switchfoot, while still retaining their own veritable style and, thankfully, being sure not to delve too deep into charted territory. They’ve got all the daring charisma of a glam metal band, with the fuzz of shoegaze kings like My Bloody Valentine, and the pop of the latest teen phenom.
It’s a dangerous cocktail; one that we’ll seek out the next chance we get.
Whether mistaken for a great Led Zeppelin cover band or the impossible reincarnation of the (still living) Robert Plant and Jimmy Page – Greta Van Fleet has made it clear that they are a formidable force regardless of how you view them – or whether or not you can serve them a drink. These talented ephebes have come meteorically onto the scene from humble Frankenmuth, Michigan; however, one would find that hard to believe, given frontman Josh Kizka’s frequent lapses into pseudo-English accent. But who can blame the 22 year old for milking the cock-rocking persona just a little bit?
Their stage presence harkens right back to rock’s golden era, feeling lifted straight from 1970s Madison Square Garden performances. The sound is tight but wild as a stallion, with soaring vocals and wanton bravado that will have you wondering if a new Zeppelin song just came out of the vaults, if Robert Plant has a new single out – or if you’re really, truly watching a bunch of 20 year olds rock as hard and loud as the bands that your parents conceived you to.
We say: who cares
While they would hardly appreciate being put into the same article as the above – much less the same bill – Parquet Courts nonetheless bring a desperate heaviness to this rocking lineup. Seasoned punks playing in a band that feels fresh but is nevertheless nearly a decade old is a recipe for desire. They’ve got a youthful energy expressed in monotone anger through classic punk and surf vocals; guitars are fittingly straightforward. The band is not afraid to push genre boundaries, injecting plenty southern twang, blues, pop and lounge into their litany of songs.
Overall, it’s a show you get your feelings out to – whether singing along, dancing, or throwing ‘bows in a mosh pit.
“Gimme those dusty hips. Dance for me, baby”
This was just a sample of the banter we got from Circa Survive’s darling poster-child Anthony Green, but it perfectly sums up the giddy energy and childlike innoncence of the show. It felt like Green’s first show in a long time, despite evidence to the contrary – from his cheek stretching grin, to his cheerful energy and his looks of genuine surprise and appreciation at the wild outpouring of love from the audience. As if, maybe, it was the first time he had been met with such overwhelming outpouring in a while, since the band’s mid 00s heyday.
There’s was nostalgia mixed with the new feelings and appreciations that growing up brings to old music; a veritable barrage of emotion released in the dancing of those dusty hips.
The Distillers followed in a similarly heavy vein, bringing with them unbridled punk malaise that drove their set through to the end. The group returns from a 12 year hiatus but, alas, it seems that neither bones have stiffened nor desire stemmed from this wily four-piece.
Now, of the next two that we caught back to back, Andrew W.K. follows most fittingly in The Distillers footsteps, with his party-anthem rock and no-holds-barred optimism that we have delightedly caught on many occasions. He’s a guy you can’t help but love, the kind of which is a huge teddy bear masquerading as a brutish frat-daddy. It’s an endearing combination, and the only one that can play the perfect combination of thrash and poppy punk.
The other act, however – Manchester Orchestra – provide much-needed melancholic counterpoint to the day’s frequent bright, uplifting tones. That’s not to say that Manhedter Orchestra never produces such positivity; rather, they are the point guards of the happy-to-be-sad crowd, reveling in life’s duality between joy and despair. They’re representative of what all music is truly meant to do: make us feel better about, and feel okay to live with, all of the tragedies and absurdities that befall us. I think for many people – ourselves and several friends and loved ones included – this band has done just that:
Made it okay.
After a pounding of different emotions, it was time to relax, chill, and enjoy the last vestiges of daytime with sweet ascendant licks from dream-pop rockers The War on Drugs. However, the clouds keeping the sun at bay had a mind to move from distant benefactor into ever present nuisance, and it began to rain. We hid in tents or under collective crowdsourced tarps and blankets, held aloft by a melange of hands.
Alas, the rain subsided and, delay or not, The War on Drugs delivered. If there’s such a thing as a perfect post-rain set, this was it. Laidback, poppy psychedelia tailor-made for a stony day spent lying in petrichor bliss.
Wake up – we’ve still got a couple more for you to round out the day.
Cake brought their rebellious, genre-and-popularity defying brand of music to the festival, with that blasé California speak-singing, Baja style horns, and a devil-may-cry attitude aged for years in the oaky barrels of aging’s malaise. The Smug Rebellion, with all its non-Anglo inspirations and wanton dismissal of nearly every other attempt at small-sound, anti-pop music, is still in full swing, and these subversive NorCal boys may be rich and famous, but they’re still clinging to dinky sounds and “one hit wonder” labels.
Now, again, we come to the end of the night; unlike most nights, however, everyone is excited to come to the final act. It’s Queens of the Stone Age – and with such a band of galavanting bravado, it’s hard not to reflect their energy when they come on the stage. They make you want to swing and shout – and swing fists, and shout obscenities. Undoubtedly, this is why Josh Homme always maintains a series of self-balancing light poles on stage – for use as cathartic punching bags that he can hit as opposed to, you know,
hardworking journalists and their expensive equipment.
The band kicked things off with “If I Had A Tale”, mixing in plenty of classics like “No One Knows” with other …Like Clockwork hits “If I Had a Tail”, or new singles like “The Way You Used To Do”. It’s a charged set overall, with a sense of cocaine-like desperation and overinflated machismo that makes for, honestly, a helluva performance. There’s truly no better way to put it – Josh Homme is a consummate performer, a now elder statesman of the grunge and punk eras, leading still a charge that too many have abandoned.
Now, we’ve got one more bit of post-fest coverage that occurred Saturday night – an impromptu show with a pretty big name – but that’s a story for another day.
Are you tired? We’re tired. But we’ve got another day to go, and we all know that it’s going to be a grand finale here at Shaky Knees.
Get some rest, and join us again tomorrow for the final day in the ATL and Shaky Knees.