Here was something new at the 2016 edition of Shaky Knees Music Festival – beautiful weather!
Now in its fourth year, the ever-growing event has (fingers crossed) broken its weather jinx (rain, mud, rain, blistering heat) and will carry on through the weekend unscathed.
Also new this year, the overpass already dubbed the Shaky Bridge.
With its move to Centennial Olympic Park, the festival had to spread into International Plaza (three stages are in the park and two – conveniently side by side and no, bands don’t play on them simultaneously – in the plaza area). The only way for patrons to cross over without closing the road or clogging it to the point of playing a live version of Frogger was to construct a staircase and overhead walkway.
Great idea in theory, but considering the volume of people trying to get from the park to the plaza, the lines often resembled TSA queues at the airport. That’s the bad news. The good news is that even the longest line moved fairly quickly (hey people, put down the phones for 45 seconds and walk, OK?).
Logistical irritations aside, the first of the three-day festival offered a plethora of solid performances from acts including Cold War Kids, Savages, The Struts, The Kills, Jane’s Addiction and The 1975.
Tickets are still available for the rest of the weekend. The Saturday docket offers a mix highlighted by Huey Lewis & The News, Silversun Pickups, Deer Tick, Noah Gunderson, The Decemberists, Foals, My Morning Jacket and Walk the Moon.
Here is a recap of some of Friday’s performances:
Cold War Kids
The California quintet commanded the massive headlining stage late Friday afternoon with a nearly hour-long set that spanned their decade-long career. From 2007’s “Hang Me Out to Dry” to 2014’s “All This Could Be Yours,” the band engaged fans with their soul-tinged indie rock. Chiming guitars colored “First,” one of Cold War Kids’ most recent songs, while “Hospital Beds,” from the band’s 2006 debut, “Robbers and Cowards,” found singer Nathan Willett returning to his upright piano. His unfortunate mustache aside, Willett nonetheless performed his frontman duties energetically, particularly on set-closer “Something is Not Right with Me,” which was filled with hand claps to complement the song’s stomping beat.
- Melissa Ruggieri
If you miss The Darkness, this is your band. With their scarves, leather pants and fringed jackets, the British glam rock quartet – singer Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies – absolutely owned the stage. Spiller is a charismatic young ringleader who struts like Mick Jagger and yowls like Slade’s Noddy Holder. There is nothing complicated about their gloriously anthemic rock. Songs such as “Let’s Make This Happen Tonight” and “Put Your Money on Me” owe their lyrical debt to that time-honored inspiration for rock lyrics – sex – and their razor-sharp guitars and sweet harmonies inject their material with zest. The band’s debut, “Everybody Wants,” arrived in 2014 in the U.K. and was re-released in America earlier this year. Expect to hear a lot more of them.
Is there a frontwoman in rock right now more with more of a commanding stage presence than Jhenny Beth? The lead singer of the London-based group prowled the length of the stage like a panther, all black clothes and sinew, as she and the rest of the band — guitarist Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan on bass and Fay Milton on drums — growled through post-punk rockers including “I Am Here” and “The Answer” from their two albums, 2013’s “Silence Yourself” and the recently-released “Adore Life”. They created a wall of sound worthy of extra-strength ear plugs for the sensitive-eared. “Do you want it louder and faster?” Beth asked the audience at one point, after launching herself into the audience during the brooding “Hit Me,” performing much of the song while being propped up by the crowd. And just when you didn’t think they could possibly amp up the volume or the speed — they did.
- Yvonne Zusel
Between the incense clouding the stage and the eerie musical strains that welcomed the members of Ghost to the stage, it would be immediately clear – before seeing their masked faces – that the Swedish band is high on drama. Though they’re more “Phantom of the Opera” than GWAR, their musical mix of heavy metal guitars and pop choruses complements their ghoulish appearance. The band shrouds itself in mystery. The musicians in silver masks with no mouth openings are referred to only as Nameless Ghouls, while the band’s theatrical singer is called Papa Emeritus. How much you buy into Ghost’s shtick is debatable, but songs such as “Stand By Him,” “Year Zero” and “Cirice” (which beat Atlanta’s Mastodon for a Best Metal Performance Grammy this year) are crunchy rockers augmented by driving beats and heavy synthesizers. Other songs, such as “Absolution,” focus on the more traditional guitar-chord-chugging of doom metal. The band maintained its creepy/mysterious air through the end, as they exited the stage to the church organ-filled “Monstrance Clock.”
Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince have been cranking out their potent garage rock for more than 15 years, and on June 3, their first new album in five years, “Ash & Ice,” will arrive. Fans who thrilled to the first notes of “No Wow” and “URA Fever” appeared equally as enamored more than an hour later when the duo – backed by a drummer and multi-instrumentalist – closed out the rough-edged party with “Sour Cherry.” In between, Mosshart tossed her flaxen locks so vigorously that she lost a handful of it in Hince’s guitar strings. Her voice routinely vacillated between a snarl and a croon as she stormed through “Kissy Kissy” and “Black Balloon.” Hince frequently shared vocals along with playing effective guitar that produced a major sound. From the intentionally muddy “Tape Song” to the poppy “Siberian Nights, The Kills proved that they’re back in a big way.
British rockers Bloc Party have undergone some lineup changes of late — founding members Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes left the band in the past few years — but you wouldn’t know it by listening to them play live. Tighter than ever — though their sound was sometimes swallowed up by the large Peachtree Stage — frontman singer Kele Okereke (wearing a shirt suitable for the coolest of tropical vacations) led his group through more than a decade’s worth of songs, including the hard-driving “Helicopter” and the sultry “Only He Can Heal Me” from their 2016 album “Hymns”. Okereke’s lovely vocals shone even over the futuristic bleeps and bloops of “Hunting for Witches,” and drummer Louise Bartle kept an impressive beat on the sometimes-complicated rhythms of the band’s songs. “Atlanta, pace yourselves, because we are just starting to start,” Okereke told the crowd a few songs into the set, and by the end of the set delivered on the promise.
Musical reunions are always a little iffy — can a band that hasn’t played together much in years manage to recapture whatever magic they had that put them on the map in the first place? In the case of British shoegazers, who split in 1995 before reuniting for a few shows in 2014 and kicking off a tour in 2015, we need not have worried. The group — helmed by vocalist Rachel Goswell, whose vocals are as dreamy and ethereal as ever — melded nicely on the atmospheric cacophony of “Souvlaki Space Station” and the mournful “Dagger.” The band recently announced their plans to record their first new album in 20 years — we can’t wait to see what they do next.
It’s been more than 25 years since Jane’s Addiction released their seminal 1990 album, “Ritual de lo Habitual,” but when they played it in its entirety during the first half of their headlining Shaky Knees set, it was hard to believe any time had passed at all. For one thing, vocalist Perry Farrell and ever-shirtless guitarist Dave Navarro, who flaunted his impressive tattoo — and six-pack — collection, look like they’ve collected nary a wrinkle since their heyday. But more importantly, they — along with drummer Stephen Perkins and current bassist Chris Chaney — ran through “Ritual” with a level of energy and enthusiasm that we might have expected to wane over the years. The illusion of youth was further compounded by two lingerie-clad dancers — one of whom was Farrell’s wife Etty — writhing around onstage and, at times, draping themselves on Navarro and Farrell during the first half of the performance.
From the familiar “Here we go!” on the jittery “Stop!” to the banger “Obvious,” Farrell prowled the stage with a smile, clearly enjoying playing songs that so many years later still resonated with the crowd. Navarro in particular didn’t miss a step, shredding throughout the set.
So what if Farrell’s vocals weren’t always on point, especially on “Ain’t No Right,” which never quite got its footing, or later, on “Ocean Size,” which sounded a bit fuzzy. What he sometimes lacked in vocal heft he made up for in stage presence, at one point grinding with his wife while shaking a pair of maracas, at another running across the stage to get fresh with an amp.
Always a bit kooky, Ferrell talked — apropos of apparently little else other than that he was in the South — about his love for Gregg Allman and peach iced tea with tequila. He also rambled on a bit about how live music “soothes the savage beast in me” while discussing how Prince’s death “sucked.” He’s the kind of rock front man who you know will deliver some interesting moments and quotable lines in between performing his heart out on songs he clearly loves. At the end of a long day of music, can we ask for much else?
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for the young quartet from England. There is the new album, the hugely ambitious (and hugely titled), “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It,” the high-profile magazine covers, the stint on “Saturday Night Live.” It’s definitely a bigger universe than the one they inhabited when they performed at the Buckhead Theatre and The Tabernacle in 2014.
Playing on a sleek, beautiful stage with clean lighting, the band incited screams last heard at a One Direction show circa 2013 as soon as they bounded on stage. Well, some of them bounded. Singer Matthew Healy glided on, shimming around during “Love Me,” shoving his mop of curls out of his heavy-lidded eyes during “UGH!” and “Heart Out” and losing himself in the band’s liquid grooves.
“We like it here in Atlanta,” he told the enthralled crowd. Four of the first five songs of The 1975’s set came from that new album, including the languid ballad “A Change of Heart,” which gave Healy an opportunity to twirl around the stage with a cigarette in one hand and the mic in the other, and the disco-swinging “She’s American.”
What’s always been instantly appealing about The 1975 is their ambitious melding of New Wave, soul, Britpop and Top 40 gloss. Early songs such as “Chocolate” and “Girls” are stocked with memorable melodies and the band has demonstrated with their new album that they’re in this game to stay.