BY MELISSA RUGGIERI and ZACHARY HANSEN
By the final day of this year’s Shaky Knees Music Festival, attendees were tired of worrying about the weather (it was pleasant, extremely sunny and not a giant drop of rain to be felt) and merely wanted to concentrate on the lineup to round out their three days of music listening.
While the crowd was thinner than the previous two days – perhaps Mother’s Day plans interfered with the logistics of rocking out with Ryan Adams – the festival offered another solid lineup of indie rockers (Warpaint, The Shins), ’80s throwbacks (Bleachers), the requisite heritage act (Third Eye Blind) and a dreamy headliner (Phoenix).
Organizers also seemed to have mitigated the sound bleed issue between the Peachtree and Piedmont stages, as the overlap wasn’t quite as distracting as the first two days.
Here is a recap of some of Sunday’s performances:
The indie pop band from Los Angeles brought some sunshine and bubbly pop songs to the main Peachtree stage during their performance. In promotion of the group’s 2016 album “saintmotelevision,” there were four analog TV sets marked “Saint Motel” center stage below front man AJ Jackson’s keyboard (three were pitch black, while oddly, only one featured static). The band showed that album plenty of love during their set, including the infectious “Sweet Talk” and the wispy “Born Again.” Jackson’s attitude on stage matched the playful sounds of the music. While talking on stage, he showed a childlike appreciation for a large balloon (featuring two tiny balloons attached to it) labeled with the hashtag #ShakyBalloon. He said, “Love the triple balloons by the way … oh no they’re gone!” he yelled in anguish until it hit him. “Oh wait, they’re on a very long string. Phew!” The crowd likely won’t forget that interaction, and the same goes many of the band’s instantly recognizable hooks, few greater than the horn melody on the energetic “My Type.”
- Zachary Hansen
J. Roddy Walston & The Business
Mr. Walston, the namesake of his band, is surrounded by a pack of solid musicians in The Business (Billy Gordon on guitar, Logan Davis on bass and Steve Colmus on drums). But it’s difficult to look elsewhere besides the wild-maned frontman when the band is onstage. This is the second Shaky Knees appearance for the Maryland rockers – they participated in the festival’s debut in 2013 – and their current set was memorably invigorating, with Walston hopping from guitar to piano on songs including “Brave Man’s Death” and a couple of new tunes that maintain the band’s slow-burn intensity.
- Melissa Ruggieri
The all-female indie rockers from Los Angeles presented an eclectic mix of somber melodies and electronically tinged rock at the peak of the heat today — it definitely didn’t feel 82 degrees in the center of the crowd of people. “What up Atlanta?” lead vocalist Emily Kokal asked the audience after the flowing “Undertow,” only for guitarist Theresa Wayman to say, “You mean Hotlanta?” The interplay between Wayman and Kokal carried multiple tracks, including the opener “Heads Up,” which leaned heavily on the vocal harmonies between the two. Both vocalists were slathered in reverb and layering effects, especially during the aforementioned spacious “Undertow.” That track, as well as the closer “Bees,” come from the band’s 2010 debut album “The Fool.” But they played a solid mix of tracks from all three albums, including the popular, off-kilter and melodically dissonant “Love is to Die.”
Third Eye Blind
The 1990’s alt-rock giants from San Francisco have had anything but a smooth career — five albums in 20 years should speak for itself. Stephan Jenkins is the original vocalist in the band, and he carried the energy throughout the show. In tracks such as the opener “Narcolepsy” and “Graduate,” he screamed his lungs out along with the crowd, and he brought the energy down on slower fare such as “Motorcycle Drive By.” The other members got their time to solo and riff, especially guitarist Kryz Reid and drummer Brad Hargreaves (also an original member), but Jenkins was in the spotlight 95 percent of the time.
He also talked quite a bit to the audience, especially about the band’s studio recording and upcoming “Summer Gods Tour,” which marks the band’s 20th anniversary. He mentioned that Shaky Knees is the only music festival the band is participating in this year, and added that, “The day before yesterday, I was surfing in Fiji, so I flew half the way around the world to be at this motherf**ker.”
It wouldn’t be a Third Eye Blind concert without the arena-packing hits, and the band sprinkled them throughout the show. The second song was the upbeat and contagious “Never Let You Go” — even those that don’t know the chorus by heart at least sang along to the melody. The band’s biggest hit “Semi-Charmed Life” was saved for last, and it received a lengthy amount of chorus repeats before the band walked off stage.
God bless Jack Antonoff and his respect for music of the ’70s and ’80s. In addition to the fine work he’s crafted with Taylor Swift, Sara Bareilles, Lorde and many others and his notable work in fun., Antonoff has spearheaded this side project since 2013. His band, including the multi-talented Evan Smith on sax and keyboards, Mikey Hart on guitar and keyboards, and a pair of drummers, gracefully endured a sound issue that delayed the start of their set (amusingly, the band started playing along with Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” which could be heard emanating from the main stage) before rolling into their own “Shadow” and “Hate That You Know Me.”
Antonoff remained in constant fidgety motion, adjusting his ball cap between verses and whirling around during guitar solos. Through it all, he steered the band through “Wake Me,” a midtempo chugger with a sheen that would have made it the perfect backdrop to a montage during a John Hughes movie, and a solid cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.”
Antonoff’s voice is chameleonic, capable of shifting from low and raspy to glistening, as on the pop singalong, “Rollercoaster.” This Jersey boy is also shrewd enough to pay homage to his roots in song – the “whoa-oh-oh”s in “You’re Still a Mystery” – not to mention Smith’s sax solo – is straight out of the Springsteen playbook. And that’s a very good thing.
It’s hard to believe the indie pop-rockers based in Oregon have been around for 20 years – especially since their current album, “Heartworms,” released in March, is only the fifth of their career. For their Shaky set, the sextet draped the stage is colorful flowers – it almost looked like a Day of the Dead celebration – and singer James Mercer unleashed “Caring is Creepy” and “Name for You.” Keyboardist Patti King added tambourine to the mellifluous “Australia,” while the band painted other songs, such as “Mine’s Not a High Horse,” with ’60s-era harmonies. Given The Shins’ veteran status among the indie rock crowd, it was pleasant to hear some of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” along with their “Sleeping Lessons.”
The perennially shaggy roots rocker brought some of his favorite stage accoutrements with him – a cardboard cat cutout observing from atop a massive Fender speaker, a stuffed tiger and a wooden coat rack among the clutter – and also stocked his surprisingly lightly attended set with many fan favorites. The assembled faithful sang along with “Do You Still Love Me?” and “Gimme Something Good,” as Adams raked his Flying-V guitar.
“If this were a Kix show, it would be, like, the 12th song,” he said with a smile before the ballad, “Two.” While Adams’ voice was slightly craggy when it needed to be, it also soared appealingly on his slower material, such as “When the Stars Go Blue” (accompanied by, yes, blue lighting on stage, as well as a steady snare clap). A highlight, as usual, was his still beautifully vivid melodic stomper, “New York, New York.”
Coming all the way from Australia, the psych-rock quintet turned up the volume at the final show at the Ponce de Leon stage this Shaky Knees. The highlight, and one of the most entertaining presences of the weekend, was singer and guitarist Nick Allbrook, who bounced maniacally around the stage in a pair of overalls (and only overalls). The man can wail, and his voice cut through the hazy mix during opener “30000 Megatons” and the following “Elvis’ Flaming Star.” After the band’s rendition of the slow and sludgy “Paint Me Silver,” he slowly said, “Thanks ya’ll” to the audience, as if he were tasting every syllable for the first time. He explained moments later: “I actually read that in a brochure at the hotel. It said that’s how you refer to groups of people down here.” Well, bless his heart.
The sludgy and fuzzy guitar, mostly provided by Joe Ryan and Jay Watson, was on point the entire set as well. Off of the group’s 2017 album “The Weather,” the track “Sweep Me Off My Feet” had all cylinders firing from Allbrook’s vocal delivery to the tandem guitar work of Ryan and Watson. The best example of guitar work came from “Great Tortoise,” which has a great, gravelly guitar lick that hits the balance perfectly between rebellious energy and melodic flavor.
Fans had to wait an extra 30 minutes for Phoenix’s complicated new set to be erected (it was apparently only the second time it’s been used on this new tour to support upcoming album, “Ti Amo”). But when the French band hit the stage in a whirl of colored lights reflected on the mirrored surface above the stage, the restless crowd quickly forgot about the delay.
Not only was the final performance of Shaky Knees 2017 a visual feast, but a highly pleasing musical experience. Opening songs “Ti Amo” and “Lasso” were guided effectively by singer Thomas Mars’ mellifluous vocals,” while hardworking drummer Thomas Hedlund pounded the percussive intro to another new song, “J-Boy,” which is filled with jangly guitar lines and weaving synthesizers.
The production of Phoenix’s set was dazzling, indeed, but it never distracted from their sophisticated New Wave-inflected pop. As a fish-eye lens video of the band filled the screens flanking the stage and Phoenix’s name popped in carnival lights, the six musicians rollicked through the synth-heavy “Trying to Be Cool.”
Whether it was the organ-dusted gracefulness of “Drakkar Noir” or the or the fuzzy dreaminess of “Rome,” Phoenix mesmerized.
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