Shaky Knees (2016): A look back.

This year’s Shaky Knees Music Festival kicked off Thursday night with a blast at Terminal West. Thanks to the maximum Rock & Roll provided by one of the best bands around in my opinion, J. Roddy Walston & The Business (JRWATB) with special guest singer songwriter Craig Finn (of The Hold Steady fame). This particular show was very special to me because this was my 5th time seeing JRWATB as they were one of my first concert reviews for Concerthopper when I first started. Personally, this night felt more like a musical homecoming of sorts with some very close friends who joined me for the night’s festivities.

JRWATB started off their set with no mercy at all. They went straight into rocking and kept on rolling on the entire night. The boys hailing from Richmond, Virginia, gave the crowd at Terminal West what they wanted with hit after hit. We were even treated with two new songs that had never been performed live until that night. They performed their usual encore by starting off with their song, “Boys Can Never Tell” but this time with a major twist. J. Roddy and Logan Davis (bass) snuck out into the crowd and climbed on top of the side bar to perform this track. The best part was when someone in the crowd let out a Chewbacca call during one of the songs pauses. Check out the video link I provided at 1:10 for Chewie’s arrival to the party. Even J. Roddy and Logan thought it was rather funny and enjoyed a laugh or two. The night ended with their crowd pleasing track, “Heavy Bells” and really was a great kick off to this Shaky Knees weekend.

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J. Roddy Walston & The Business performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival Official Kick-off Party at Terminal West.

This weekend was already stocked full of music by a ton of great artists/bands that would feature; My Morning Jacket, Jane’s Addiction, At The Drive-In, Deftones, Eagles of Death Metal, Explosions in the Sky, Huey Lewis and The News, and Savages to name a select few. For the review of each day, I want to touch on the major highlights of each day but I also want to give you a list of:

  1. My surprise (band/artist) of the day.
  2. Best performance of the day.
  3. Do Not Miss band.
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Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

Friday (Day 1) started off for me with a performance from Saintseneca, a folk/alternative band from Columbus, Ohio. We arrived to the grounds around 1 pm for Friday the 13th at Shaky Knees and all I could think about was Baroness, The Sword, Savages, and Ghost. Although, I did manage to catch thirteen (13) acts on this unluckiest of days. Said day turned out very lucky for me as I had the time of my life bouncing around the grounds catching each act. For Friday my surprise band of the day came from Ghost. I know you may be thinking to yourself that this dude loves the heavy stuff so why is this a surprise? Well for starters, I am not a fan of make-up/mask themed bands. Most people who like the heavier stuff really enjoy bands like Slipknot and etc., but it is not my cup of tea.

Ghost (74)
Pictured left to right: Papa Emeritus III (vocals) and Nameless Ghoul Wind (keyboards) of the band Ghost performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

With that being said, Ghost really impressed me first and foremost as a band. The band members, minus the lead vocalist, wear a mask and proudly refer to themselves as The Nameless Ghouls. This may look comical if not evil, however they can really put on a great show and that goes a long way with me. Let me also clear something up, Ghost is not a metal band per se. Despite winning a Grammy (2016) for Best Metal Performance for “Circie”, their sound best is described as a metal band that came from the 1970’s. And compared to this era of metal, we need to categorize them as Hard Rock plain and simple. Make-up and masks do not make a band metal.

My best band performance of Friday is a tie. Baroness and Savages were both simply incredible and so full of energy that the crowd really felt their vibe from the stage. Baroness has been a metal/rock (sludge) band that I have admired for many years. It is nice to see them play festivals that I attend and see them gather such a large crowd. The entire band has enough energy while performing that if one could harness this energy we could solve some energy crisis over in a Third World nation. Talk about a visible love for performing and a devoted admiration for their fans… that is a description of Baroness to the tee. Savages are a bad ass all female quartet from London, England that specializes in post-punk/indie rock. These ladies were already on my list to check out prior to the beginning of the festival. Once again, my intuition proved correct in assuming this would be the spot on Friday over The Struts and Alex G.

Baroness (269)
Pictured left to right: Sebastian Thomson (drums) and John Dyer Baizley of Baroness performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

My Friday the 13th Do Not Miss band at Shaky Knees goes to a neo-psychedelic, blues rock band who hails from Nashville, Tennessee called All Them Witches (ATW). This quartet has been on my radar for quite some time and this was my first chance to see them live. Words cannot do these guys justice by trying to describe the incredible jam session that took place during their time slot. You need to see them to understand how the band gets down on stage. Although the Buford Hwy. Stage is a side stage near the main area, ATW still packed out their spot despite going up against both Slowdive and The Kills.

All Them Witches (21)
Pictured left to right: Ben McLeod (guitarist), Robby Staebler (drums), and Charles Michael Parks, Jr. (vocals/bass) of the band All Them Witches performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

Saturday (Day 2) began like any other day but this day was very special because we would be treated with a little band from Louisville named My Morning Jacket as a co-headliner. They would be the last band playing opposite of Walk The Moon but we still had plenty of music to keep us occupied until then. I managed to catch fourteen (14) bands/artists on Day 2 plus conduct an interview with the band, The Hip Abduction. I have published separately this chat with the boys from Florida about life on the road, their band, and who stayed to see their 2014 set at Wanee. Well in order to know their responses and more, you have to read this interview available only at Concerthopper.com. Back to the daytime shenanigans, my surprise band came from an alt-country/folk rock band featuring three sisters from Sweden named Baskery. Greta (guitar/banjo/drums/harmonica/vocals), Stella (double bass/vocals), and Sunniva Bondesson (acoustic/electric guitars/cello/vocals) who play what some call “mud-country” or “banjo punk”, but no matter what term they apply to their sound it still sounds amazing.

Baskery (3)
Pictured left to right: Greta Bondesson (banjo and drums) and Sunniva Bondesson (vocals/guitar) of the band Baskery performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

Now I want to talk about the Best Show of the day (maybe even the entire weekend!) coming from a five-piece rock band that knows how to jam known as My Morning Jacket (MMJ). The previous day I noticed quite a few people wearing MMJ tank tops or tees, so in my thought process this means a ton of their fans were in attendance. By the way the schedule fell, MMJ would play the main stage one hour and fifteen minutes after Huey Lewis and the News which would give me plenty of time to see some of Foals, Silvershun Pickups and/or The Decemberists. So after Huey Lewis ended no one really left the area in front of the Peachtree Stage. In fact it got packed as soon as the set was complete from Mr. Lewis and his News. I had a spot really close to the front up against a side rail which was next to the V.I.P. area. A major festival decision was made in mere seconds as I decided to stay and hold my ground for what I expected to be an amazing set by MMJ. Do I have any regrets? Not one to be honest. I would do it again for MMJ in a second.

One major highlight of this epic two hour plus set was to witness the cover of “Purple Rain” as an ode to the late and great Purple one. Pure magic happened that night on the Peachtree Stage with MMJ. For those devoted MMJ fans who are reading this article, you already understand why I placed this performance as the best of Saturday and quite possibly all weekend. Now for those casual or newer MMJ fans, this set started off with a few of my favorite tracks: Victory Dance, Off the Record, and Evil Urges. MMJ was on point the entire night creating so much energy on-stage that I have to say this was one of the best MMJ performances that I have witnessed. Jim James and the boys were simply incredible as they went through a strong, seventeen (17) song set list full of tracks from their seven (7) LP discography. If you have not had the chance to see MMJ live yet, then this is one band you must see in order to understand the message I am trying to convey.

My Morning Jacket (158)
Pictured left to right: Bo Koster (keyboards) and Jim James (vocals and guitar) of My Morning Jacket performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

Who would make my Do Not Miss from Day 2 of Shaky Knees? Well not only than a band I actually missed while waiting for MMJ to start named Foals. Are you confused on how I could name a band that I actually missed as someone not to miss? Well thanks to social media I got to see clips of their performance, plus, my squad ditched me while I waited for MMJ. Therefore, I had some good eye witness accounts of what Foals was throwing down that evening. I have been interested in watching Yannis Philippakis and the crew perform live for sometime now but have struck out at the few festivals that they have played at recently. As a treat, I have added some links to some of their performance at this year’s Shaky Knees Music Festival, so do not forget to check them out. So by missing Foals this go round they have to be a do not miss next time.

Now let’s dive into the Shaky Knees Late Night shows that I attended this year: Baroness, The Sword, Youth Code, Purson, and From Beyond all playing in two different rooms at Center Stage- The Loft- Vinyl starting around 11:30 PM with no overlapping sets. I had hoped I was prepared for this extended night because the day was so long already and we still had Sunday to contend with as well. I know, I know, First World problem at its very best! Granted both Baroness and The Sword played on Friday, this gave their current tour supporting acts the chance to showcase their talents to those attending the festival this weekend. And let’s be honest, I would never miss Baroness nor The Sword playing a gig in Atlanta while I was in town and breathing.

The Sword (54)
Pictured left to right: Kyle Shutt (guitar) and J.D. Cronise (vocals/guitar) of the band The Sword performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

By the time we arrived after a short detour we missed From Beyond and Purson. The Sword had just started and we enjoyed every minute that we could of the boys from Austin, Texas. They actually played one of my favorite tracks off their LP, Age of Winters, entitled “Freya”. It had been a while since I had seen them play this track live and was well worth being exhausted from the entire day’s festivities. Since the night consisted of five bands, each set was trimmed down to properly fit them all in a strict time slot. Sadly, The Sword’s set was over within 45/50 minutes but at least I knew that Baroness would be coming on the same stage within 30/40 minutes. I pretty much stayed at my spot at the front of the stage for Baroness and decided not to wander after The Sword’s conclusion.

Baroness came out to a sold out crowd and basically rocked the entire building for a good, solid hour. As many times as I have seen these guys play, each time it becomes an event that I cannot forget. Still one of my favorite live bands to witness, Baroness came out and slayed their set with a mixture of newer tracks of their latest release, Purple, but also treated the crowd to some gems found off of their first two LPs, Red and the Blue album. It is also great to see them play the tracks Isak and The Gnashing anytime they play live. Check out this video uploaded from the show that night from Terri Dactyl. Thank you Terri for helping us recall all these fond memories from Baroness’ performance at Center Stage.

Parquet Courts (9)
Austin Brown (co-vocals and guitar) of the band Parquet Courts performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

Sunday (Day 3) got a late start thanks in partly to that wild and very long night at Center Stage- The Loft- Vinyl. Of course, it was well worth it. I managed to arrive to the festival in time to check out Frightened Rabbit over at the Peachtree Stage, so that is not too bad making it there by 2 PM. My surprise set of Day 3 has to go to the New York City indie/garage rock band Parquet Courts, who has also recorded under the name Parkay Quartz. I named them as one of must see bands back in April and made sure to catch their set on Day 3. I had heard a few of their tracks being played on XM radio over the last year or so. What songs I heard on the radio were not bad and this made me really curious to check them out when they played next. Besides a good stage presence and very energetic throughout the set, Parquet Courts played their hearts out to the crowd that gathered before them during Sunday. I could tell that many in the crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves as Parquet Courts played through their a good, solid mix of their tracks.

Hands down the best performance during the final day of the Shaky Knees Music Festival goes to At The Drive-In (ATDI), a band that has not played since their two festival gigs in 2012 playing at both Coachella and Lollapalooza. Back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s era, this band came out hard and very strong with their debut LP, Acrobatic Tenement (1996), and their swansong LP, Relationship of Command (2000). Granted, this post-hardcore/experimental/noise rock band was not really my thing back when they came out; however, I still realized that these guys had some skill in what they were producing. After their first break-up in 2001, I casually listened to the side bands that were formed in the ashes: The Mars Volta and Sparta to name a couple. Great music was made from all these side bands but nothing compared to the sound that was created from At The Drive-In in my humble opinion.

At The Drive In (227)
Pictured left and right: Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals) and Omar Rodriquez (guitar and vocals) of the band At The Drive-In performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

The crowd for this show basically lingered around all day after the earlier sets from the Deftones and Eagles of Death Metal, so I knew that the energy and crowd participation would be pretty intense as soon as ATDI started. This was also one the final performances of the entire weekend as they played opposite of Florence + The Machine. I managed to maintain the front rail during this performance since I stayed at this particular stage after the Deftones and Eagles of Death Metal sets. During their last song for the night, One Armed Scissor, you can see me holding my ground at the very front thanks to this video uploaded by Joe Ryan.

Now onto my Do Not Miss band from Day 3 of the Shaky Knees Music Festival. This award goes to a band that has been a favorite of mine for some time now. This band was formed by Josh Homme and Jesse Hughes in Palm Desert, California back in 1998. The only reason I had any prior knowledge of this band was because of founding member Josh, who was a former guitarist with the legendary desert rock band, Kyuss, and currently of the band, Queens of the Stone Age. You all know this band by the name, Eagles of Death Metal, and they did not disappoint the crowd one bit with their performance during Day 3. Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll mixed with some major ‘groovage’ thrown in for some dancing and a whole lot of shaking throughout the crowd. What more could one ask for from a rock band? Jesse Hughes (lead vocals/guitar) has a very charismatic way to work the crowd as he interacts with members of the audience and is not afraid to dance on stage. Although, Josh is no longer touring with the band, they have a solid line-up consisting of some great musicians: Matt McJunkins (bass/vocals), Dave Catching (guitar/vocals), Eden Galindo (guitar/vocals), and Jorma Vik (drums).

Eagles of Death Metal (283)
Jesse Hughes of the band Eagles of Death Metal performing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival (2016).

This was truly one of the best festival weekends in 2016 since it was filled with some great music from many incredible and talented artists/bands, tons of wonderful food from across the Southeastern region, and friends old and new enjoying life to its fullest. I sure hope Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q continues to cater at the festival because that is some of the best Bar-B-Q known to mankind. Also, having the festival this year at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta was one of the best ideas they could have made regarding the Shaky Knees Music Festival due to the wonderful views surrounding the downtown area. Also, all of us here at Concerthopper.com want to give out a huge ‘Thank you!’ to Mason Jar Media for allowing us to cover this amazing festival for the second year in a row!

Check out my Shaky Knees Music Festival photo albums (Day 1-3) available online at Concerthopper.com’s Facebook page. Everyone at Concerthopper would like to thank the entire staff that helped bring another successful Shaky Knees Music Fest to the city of Atlanta. Stay tuned to Concerthopper on all of our social media pages: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (username: Concerthopper), and Twitter for all your live updates and recaps of anything music related. And stay informed on my personal concert and festival hopping via Instagram. Thank you all for your continued support and we hope to see you all out at the next concert or festival! Stay tuned for my Shaky Beats Music Festival (Day 1-3) recap at Concerthopper.com and check out my photo albums for this festival as well available now at our Facebook page.

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