The Festival Beat: Know Your Lineup
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No one is shocked that we have basically the same thing to say about the logistics of Shaky Knees that we did after Shaky Beats the weekend before. Allowing for re-entry at least 3x a day, Shaky Knees is an easy foot traffic festival. There were two entrances, neither of which were too close to a stage so lines were never long to get in or out. You can prob walk to your hotel if you’re staying downtown, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can even walk to the late-night sets at the Masquerade.
At Shaky Beats we wondered if the sound issues we were experiencing was because we were listening to EDM on speakers that were designed for rock and roll. We are sad to report that isn’t the case, they just suck. If anything, the sound was worse at Shaky Knees. There were multiple performances that were delayed because the sound at the Piedmont stage just did not work. Based on the turn out these two weekends Shaky can afford some new equipment, get on that will ya?
Again, the highlight in the logistics category was the concessions. We found a new food truck love called Nectar. Because they know their audience, many of the water stations from Shaky Beats were transformed into bars so the lines still stayed incredibly reasonable.
Pro Tip: Car Seat Headrest. Their late-night set was better than anything that we called the best set on any day. Stop what you’re doing and find tickets to see them. Then come back and finish reading out Shaky Knees experience.
Pixies. We went into this set a little nervous. Not to say that we doubted Pixies’ greatness, we just couldn’t be sure we weren’t about to watch the washed-up shell of an old punk group. Thank god this was not the case. What we witness was a band that had been honing their craft for almost 30 years. They got right down the business of rocking out, leaving no space for banter with the crowd, not one word between songs throughout the whole set. This seemed to create space for the crowd to connect, we felt like were all in this together, strangers and friends alike. We sand the haunting falsetto of “Where is My Mind.” We grunted the famous quote of the man to the lady in “Hey.” We enjoyed and respected this opportunity to see the experts of punk live.
Zipper Club. We cannot imagine what weird schedule logistics landed this band on the main stage. Their performance wasn’t the worst thing, but their desperate attempts to be catchy were reminiscent of your younger sibling trying to get your friends to think they were cool. Zipper Club’s idea of lyrics was throwing random words and well known phrases together- and not in a cool “Smells Like Team Spirit” kinda way. Their idea of a hook seems to be repeating those lyrics over and over. All their melody lines had dizzying slides that attempted cute and quirky; but just resulted in being kind of annoying.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise. These 5 guys don’t look like they should have anything to do with each other, but they come together seamlessly to create great music. The lead singer looks like our local hipster bartender. He has that same ability to engage the people who’ve come out to see him like a true rock-star. We were on the edge of our seats from their mid-song time changes and little live improvisations. Rainbow kitten Surprise’s rhythmic indie rock was catchy enough to dance to. Clearly influenced by Modest Mouse, they still managed to create their own space and sound. Their show stayed with us for the rest of the day as we continually saw the band chilling in the back just outside of the Ponce De Leon stage where we could stop and say “thanks” and “we’ll see you at Bonnaroo.”
The Revivalists. Walking to the Piedmont stage for one of the more anticipated sets of day 2, the clouds rolled in, covering the mostly open air Centennial Park with the promise of rain. The band danced out to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble”, took their places, and immediately got us moving with “It Was A Sin.” While David Shaw belted out the chorus, it was the clouds’ que to release the rain upon the hot and thankful crowd. The rain did prove problematic for a steel guitar that seemed to have issues for the first third of the set. To the dismay of the lead singer, the rain finished as the band moved into trio of their biggest hits It started with usual closer “Fade Away”, into a sprawling 7:45 rendition of Billboard’s current Alternative Rock #1 “Wish I Knew You,” and finishing with a rousing “Criminal.” As long time followers of the Revivalists we can say this is the strongest and largest reaction we’ve ever seen a crowd give them. Opting to close with a cover of the Beatles “Hey Jude” they had us all singing as we went along with the rest of the day. We were happy and fulfilled, even if it was only a 9-song set. Goes to show what a seasoned band can do with only a limited amount of time and set-list.
The XX. This electro-indie trio has landed themselves in a precarious situation. This set would have been lovely at sunset, or at 3AM when everything is winding down. But now they are too big for that. They have to headline. If there was an artist version of First World problems, that’s what they have. The XX hasn’t quite figured out how to make their brilliantly understated sound really pop when they play live. On the darkened lawn, wrapping up the festival’s second day, they were giving it their all. And we were falling asleep. The moment that gave us hope came about 40 min in when Jamie took the reins and they performed “Loud Places” off his solo album. There were glimpses of energy, but they couldn’t sustain it and the ended their set early. Enough yawns at 10PM from the kids who are trying to go all night could kill their reputation.
Run River North. We walked up late to the Ponce De Leon stage, looking to kill some time before our next set, and wound up finding one of the best sets of the weekend by mistake. Run River Norther has a folk-rock sound but they’re pleasantly versatile, and funny. The Korean-American lead singer of the fully Korean-American band addressed the crowd right as we found our spot “Hi I’m Steve Aoki and this is my side project.” We giggled and they went into one of their grittier songs and as they finished he addressed the crowd again “Hi I’m that Asian dude from The Walking Dead and this is my band.” We laughed out loud as they went into a softer, prettier sound that featured all 6 members of the band singing in harmony. He had more jokes for us “Hi I’m the guy who plays the cello in The Avett Brothers and this is my side project.” We were officially in love and they wrapped up with a dancier tune that was so catchy even the band members who didn’t have singing parts were singing along.
Bleachers. The sun was setting on the final day and we were pressing into a crowd of others who had committed to get to the Piedmont stage early for this set. And in great Shaky Fashion, the sound system did not work. (get it together- this happened at the same stage when Shaky Graves played here in 2016!) We could see the little neuroses of the lead singer in response to this. He was pacing and apologizing, as though he somehow thought we would somehow stop liking his music over technical difficulties, poor guy. In the distance Third Eye Blind was playing “Jumper”. As though we planned it, the whole crowd started singing along repeating the refrain “I would understand!” The saxophonist came to the front of the stage and played along with us. Our unplugged karaoke session ended and a similar version of “Like a River Runs” followed. Bleachers used only the instruments that could get sound, the result was a beautiful minimalist rendition where the crowd continued to sing along. When it was over we had goose bumps, and the stage had power! The band cranked out what must have been their full set-list of anathematic pop songs in the time they had left. The lead signer was transformed. No longer timid- he reminded us of Jason Lee’s quote in Almost Famous. He was purposefully making eye contact with each of us, making sure we got off during this set. It was an electric performance.
Third Eye Blind. Full disclosure, we love almost every song off Third Eye Blind’s first 3 albums. They did a great job performing them as well. We also knew what we were in for. The problem wasn’t the band; the problem was Stephen Jenkins. Shaky Knees will occasionally book a throw-back band that is only a good addition to the lineup because they’re an ironic choice (see Hughy Lewis and the News in 2016.) No one told the lead singer of Third Eye Blind that they are the retro band and that he isn’t still a rock god. He continually stopped the music to tell us how lucky we were that he had come back from his surfing trip in Tahiti to play this one festivals, or spouting some inauthentic dripple about how this show was all about bringing us all together. The one good thing he did while on stage was play Motorcycle Drive By early enough in the set that we could leave and get a good spot for Bleachers.
Cloud Nothings. Perfectly nerdy and humble, Cloud Nothings took to the stage and made it ok for us to like pop-punk and garage-grunge again. They managed to straddle between a Pearl Jam sort of influence and melody lines that easily could have been transformed into Jimmy Eat World songs. We had just enough company at the Peachtree stage to cover the plastic the lay down to protect the grass, but enough room to dance. Clearly others had gotten the memo that this was going to be a good show. Cloud Nothings didn’t interact with the crowd much, so don’t feel like we got to know them very well. Maybe they were as tired as we were from the late-night Car Seat Headrest show. Maybe they were just nervous, though their performance would suggest otherwise. This set was super early on a morning that we were worn out. We lost our voices. We regret nothing.