TVD Live: Shaky Knees Festival 2016, 5/13–5/15

Last weekend, we headed South to Atlanta for some sun and the 2016 edition of the Shaky Knees Music Festival. The festival, which ran for three days, was jam-packed with talent. This is the best of what we saw.

DAY ONE | Friday was a solid array of awesome.

“I hope today is the start of the best day of your life,” said Beach Slang lead singer James Alex as they kicked off the festival on the Piedmont stage. In spite of those recent break up rumors, the band seemed happy and raring to go. Their audience was young, and maybe had never heard of The Replacements, but with the band’s big guitar hooks and songs, it’s obvious the band loves them, right down to their shared ethos.

“We’re such a fucking mess but that’s part of our charm,” said Alex. And, much like Replacements lead singer Paul Westerberg, a whole article could be written using Alex’s stage quips alone; stand-outs included “I suppose we are forever the sloppy punks invited to the sweet party,” and “I usually wind up with my pants off and my belt as a headband, but we’ve only got 30 minutes.” This millennial version of the Replacements needs to stay around, so keep those fingers crossed those breakup rumors were only rumors.

A great new find was the band July Talk. Out of Toronto, the band is fronted by two lead singers, one whose voice sounds like he gargled with gravel, Peter Dreimanis, and one who sounds like the angelic counterpart, Leah Fay.

The sound, and the chemistry between Dreimanis and Fay is infectious; Tom Waits fronting a post punk dance band never sounded so good.

Another great set came in the form of four guys from Derbyshire, England called The Struts. Reinventing glam for the new century, it’s obvious Queen and Slade played a big role in their influences.

Lead singer Luke Spiller managed two costume changes in the space of a 45 minute set with a huge voice that never missed, and led the audience on a call and response sing-along. Preening like peacocks onstage is only believable if the music backs it up, and The Struts do just that.

Swedish heavy metal isn’t for everyone but the Nameless Ghouls and lead singer, Papa Emeritus, who make up the band Ghost, were accessible because their costumes and quips made it impossible to look away.

In spite of it being a rather hot day, Papa’s makeup somehow never ran, and the Ghouls somehow managed to breathe through masks with no mouths. The best part was the looks of shock on the faces of the young girls who were lined up at the rail to see the night’s headliner, The 1975, when Ghost came out.

DAY TWO | Saturday was a little lighter but one set was worth the price of the flight.

Silversun Pickups’ first record in three years came out in September, but the hiatus did nothing to dampen their live show. Their signature fuzzy sound still rings true, and the sonic freakout during the 60 minute set was a joy to watch, off stage and on, especially the dramatic drumming of Christopher Guanlao.

When SSPUs got to their set closing song, “Lazy Eye,” people literally ran toward the stage to witness that slow-burn-into-explosion of the song up close and personal.

DAY THREE | Sunday, start to finish, was a day full of favorites.

Murder by Death wrapped up their two-month tour on Sunday in Atlanta, and as usual their music live was a thing of beauty. If you’ve only seen them in clubs it was slightly odd to hear their somber songs in bright sunlight at 1:30 in the afternoon, but great songs and songwriting remain great no matter the time of day.

A highlight was their “Bowie block.” “It’s been a tough year for rock and roll,” said lead singer Adam Turla, “so we’re going to do a Bowie Block, one song that was inspired by Bowie, and one cover,” “I Shot an Arrow” and “Moonage Daydream” respectively. You wouldn’t necessarily think a band whose repertoire tends to sound like music from the ’30s could pull off one by the Glam King, but nail it they did, and it was moving and glorious.

It was so wonderful to see Eagles of Death Metal still kicking ass and taking names after the incident in Paris—a lesser band may have caved, but not EoDM. EoDM’s lead singer Jesse Hughes said he was especially excited to play Shaky Knees as he originates from nearby South Carolina and had lots of family and friends in the audience. And the family and audience were just as excited to see him and EoDM.

Tracks like “Cherry Cola,” “I Want You So Hard,” and “Love You All the Time,” met with serious excitement, and as usual Hughes was full of love and humor toward the audience and his band. Introducing guitarist Dave Catching, he raved about his guitar prowess and joked, “He’s disease free and ready to mingle. We’re going to auction David off later at the Eagles of Death Metal ‘Sadie Hawkins Dance.'” Their cover of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer” was lovely, and dedicated to fellow Angelenos, The Deftones, who were the next band to play.

A great highlight of Sunday for me was finally getting to see the Deftones live. Lead singer Chino Moreno was just as active as the band’s sound, with jumps off of stage gear and a dive into the crowd from the barricade at one point. And that incredible rock and roll yell of his sounded even better up close.

The Deftones have been around awhile but there’s nothing about them that isn’t continually inspiring. They remain a unique beacon of rock and roll light.

AGAINST ME

BRIAN FALLON

CRAIG FINN

FOALS

FOXING

JANE’S ADDICTION

THE KILLS

For photos from individual set on all days, check out the following links:

Shaky Knees Festival 2016-Day 1: Beach Slang, Foxing, Craig Finn, Brian Fallon, July Talk, Against Me!, The Struts, Ghost, The Kills, Jane’s Addiction
Shaky Knees Festival 2016-Day 2: Hop Along, Day Wave, Deer Tick, Phosphorescent, Huey Lewis & the News, Silversun Pickups, Foals
Shaky Knees Festival 2016-Day 3: Murder by Death, The Orwells, Eagles of Death Metal, Deftones, Explosions in the Sky, At the Drive-In

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