TVD Live: Shaky Knees Music Festival, 5/4–5/6

With all of the schizophrenic weather in Washington, DC the last few weeks, three days in Atlanta, GA was just the ticket. Add the great music festival Shaky Knees, and it was a can’t miss.

Shaky Knees is a nomad, never in the same location, and this year Central Park in the Old Fourth Ward was its home. Here’s what we saw this year at Shaky Knees 2018.

FRIDAY, May 4 | Best way to start off a festival: Courtney Barnett
The first day was kicked off with the guitar queen stylings of Courtney Barnett. I knew her name but not her music, and boy was she impressive. Barnett has a Joan Jett voice, so while her songs could fall into the “urban folk” column like one of her influences, another Aussie named Darren Hanlon, Barnett’s songs came with a swagger all their own.

Band whose lead singer had the best high jumps: Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand lead singer Alex Kapranos jumped so hard at one point, his glasses came off.

Artist who brought everyone together like a family: David Byrne
There was a wonderful unified feeling during David Byrne’s set. There were people in the audience who wouldn’t be born for another 20 years when the Talking Heads were around, and those older than when the band started, but everyone seemed genuinely excited to see this American Treasure. The set was as quirky as you’d imagine—he started by sitting at a table with a human brain replica, and one by one, a collective of backup singers and a bunch of people carrying snare drums, cymbals, guitars, and other mashed up instruments joined him onstage. All wearing grey suits. All barefoot. “We don’t deserve David Byrne,” was a quote from a friend.

Loudest noise made by just two people: Japandroids
And what a glorious fucking noise it was. So glad this rocking duo are back in action, their live show is pretty bombastic. And just two people. Eat your heart out Black Keys!

SATURDAY, May 5 | Band who proved one should always download the festival app: Broncho
Hot festival tip: Always download the festival app. Due to a stage change provided only on the phone app, we watched some emo band being earnest and awful, instead of the mighty Broncho who is decidedly not emo nor awful. But after a good sprint in spite of all the camera gear, we can say Broncho’s last song, full of their usual twitchy sound, was pretty good.

Band who inspired the most dropped jaws in the audience: Greta Van Fleet
A four piece that consists of 22-year-old twins, and their younger brother and drummer who are all of 19 make up the band Greta Van Fleet. Anyone who didn’t know them before their 4 PM set, certainly knew them afterward because as soon as they started to play, jaws dropped everywhere—that sound was just not what you expected. Do they kind of look like ’70s Led Zeppelin and sound like them too? Well yeah, but so what? These kids can really play and I think you could hear the lead singer’s Robert Plant-like voice in space, it had such power. Seemed to be a big hit with young ladies too, given the amount of crying seen (and a few bras thrown on stage). Even Central Park’s Wikipedia page claims it is now owned by the band.

Band who had the unfortunate set after Greta Van Fleet: Parquet Courts
And I like Parquet Courts. But very few could have followed that Greta Van Fleet set.

Best gravely voice: The Distillers
Lead singer Brody Dalle, whose huge voice sounds like she gargled with razor blades and vodka, fronts this LA punk band who haven’t played live since 2005. Mr. Brody Dalle, Josh Homme and one their kids with the reddest of red hair, was spotted watching her set side stage.

Band who created the happiest party: Andrew W.K.
It’s no surprise that Andrew W.K. is a motivational speaker. Andrew and his band have an incredible energy live and his crowds are energetic and fun. His set was like that of David Byrne in how genuinely gleeful and happy he and his band made the crowd. “Stockpile the memories now, our soul will bear the party scars even when we can’t,” said W.K. Motivational AND a thinker, who knew? We thought Andrew W.K. just liked to partypartyparty and work out.

Band who stopped the rain: War On Drugs
War on Drugs’ set was delayed a little with 20 minutes of rain, the only bad weather all weekend. But Andrew Ganduciel and company made sure their soaring melodies and hypnotically soothing light show made up for it all once they got going.

Band with the most non-sequitur stage banter: CAKE
CAKE lead singer John McCrea talked about embracing the dissonance, how his guitar tends to do whatever it wants, and how fireflies bring magic to a childhood. He also spent about 10 minutes unsuccessfully trying to get the two sides of the crowd to split the chorus during “Sick of You.” But it was fine, CAKE’s quirky songs still sounded so good, and we got to see someone playing a vibraslap live, so win win.

Best dressed bassist in a rock band: QOTSA
Queens of the Stone Age bassist Mikey Shoes is always well dressed, but Saturday night he was sporting a suit with full on brocade, like some 17th century badass visiting the future. He and the band, as always, tore up this Day 2 headlining spot.

SUNDAY, May 6 | Best Canadian export: Alvvays
The lilting sounds of the dream band Alvvays from was just the way to kick off the last day. These Toronto shoe gazers sounded as sparkly and dreamy as summer twilight.

Band you’d least expect to see perform before dark: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
“Damn, fucking sun is still fucking up,” said Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s lead singer Peter Hayes. I think everyone, including the band, was genuinely surprised to see them playing before sundown, as the lighting for their show is usually darker than black. Regardless, their 10-song set of sludge-filled guitar grind and various takes on the topic of love did its usual job, energizing one’s nervous system in all the best ways.

Band who pogoed the best: The Menzingers
So much fun. I usually think of The Office when I think of Scranton, PA, where The Menzingers formed, but now that I’ve witnessed their live show, full of pogo and post punk aggression and heart, I’ll now immediately think of both.

Band with the best bromance: Tenacious D
Trying to get through the throngs during the Tenacious D set was a little tricky as the crowd was at maximum capacity. And they seemed to be oddly …hostile… to anyone who tried to cross their path, an oddity given the walls of pot smoke that enveloped the audience. But based on the roar that went up when Kyle Gass and Jack Black hit the stage, perhaps it was just no one wanted to miss a second of the show that is the bromance of Gass and Black. If Weird Al played metal, you would have Tenacious D.

Best way to wind up a aestival: The National
The performance was a little flat on Sunday, but The National’s songs are so good, you just went with it. A lovely way to end a lovely weekend for sure.

Thanks Shaky Knees, we’ll see you next year!

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