The final day of Shaky Knees was chock full of up-and-comers, legends and everything in between. From a blistering early set from Cloud Nothings to the final note of Phoenix’s encore, Sunday solidified Shaky Knees 2017 as one attendees will not soon forget. Here are some of our favorites.
Cloud Nothings – The first act we caught on Sunday afternoon was Cloud Nothings on the main stage. Led by Jason Gerycz’s blistering pace on the drums, the band flew through its set, playing such mainstays as “Stay Useless” and “Modern Act” and finally ending with the 10-minute crescendo of “Wasted Days.” Of note: This performance featured the biggest mosh pit of the weekend.
Great Peacock – Great Peacock brought a marked change of pace to the festival’s final day, illuminating our favorite stage of the weekend (Ponce de Leon) with bright country music. Their soft twang created the perfect backdrop for escaping the sun’s rays and chilling in the shade. After playing the kids’ jam earlier in the afternoon, My Morning Jacket’s Tom Blankenship was brought out midway through the set in what turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
Whitney – The first big crowd of Sunday saw Whitney bring their melodic indie rock to the park. Straying only once for a cover of NRBQ’s “Magnet,” the band drew mainly from their latest effort for the majority of their set. Said set was accompanied with horns and keys, which made a sun-soaked Centennial Park seem even brighter on Sunday. Whitney ended the set with standout track “No Woman,” which had the crowd dancing enthusiastically.
Saint Motel – One of the most pop-oriented sets of the weekend, Saint Motel brought their high-energy music to the mid-afternoon masses. A/J Jackson was the maestro leading the charge with Jim James-esque vocals and slick piano solos. They might’ve been having more fun than any other band of the weekend, and the crowd was very receptive from the get-go.
Hamilton Leithauser – Since The Walkmen went on hiatus, Leithauser, that band’s frontman, has remained busy, releasing three solo albums to date to critical acclaim. His distinct voice is always at the forefront of his beautifully crafted songs, and his Sunday-afternoon set would prove no different. Dressed the part as ever in spite of the heat, it was hard to distinguish Leithauser from a big-band leader/crooner/indie-rock icon, but any form was just fine with us, as he was able to switch from ballads to rockers so effortlessly.
The Arkells – The Arkells have been hitting the festival circuit hard and heavy this spring, as evidenced by their scorching Coachella set last month. This month brought the Canadian five-piece to Shaky Knees for a third-day performance that absolutely killed. Playing on the aforementioned Ponce de Leon stage, the group proved its mettle, coming into their own with fine and constant showmanship. Keeping the crowd engaged throughout, they even brought an audience member on stage to play the E and G chords on “Leather Jacket.” The recognition of and buzz around the band is already there; it’s only a matter of time before these rockers chart in the U.S.
J Roddy Walston & The Business – Local boys (Cleveland, Tennessee) done good hit the stage on Sunday afternoon, much to the delight of the crowd. You always know what you’re going to get with the J Roddy experience – high-energy soul-rock – and, as always, they delivered. Playing amid relatively disruptive sound bleed from an adjacent stage didn’t hurt their performance, either – a luxury some bands were not afforded this weekend. The obvious highlight was a cover of Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” delivered with a southern twist. Well played, J Roddy. Well played.
Warpaint – All journalistic bias aside, I love this band. Warpaint is a rare breed whose musical style could fit into any era from 1980 on. After kicking things off with an up-tempo version of “Heads Up,” Jenny Lee Lindberg commented that it was nice to finally see the crowd after playing so many late-night shows in dark clubs. From there they blasted into “Krimson” and “Undertow.” Warpaint ended their set with songs off of last year’s excellent “Heads Up,” including “New Song” and “Dre,” which made for a fantastic late-afternoon set.
Pond – Arguably the most anticipated act of those in the know at Shaky Knees was the Tame Impala offshoot Pond. Packing the Ponce stage as the table setter for Phoenix, the Aussies ripped through their set in what seemed like the blink of an eye. With a sound understandably heavily influenced by Tame Impala, the band won over those gathered at the festival’s smallest stage, no small feat considering the quality of acts that were booked there all weekend. One theme coming out of this year’s Shaky Knees was that bands like Pond and Temples are at the forefront of a psych revival movement in rock ‘n’ roll. We were just lucky we were there to catch them at the top of their game on this weekend.
Phoenix – Last but certainly not least were the French rockers to close out the fifth installment of Shaky Knees. With the band presenting a new stage show for only the second time on this tour and the first time at a festival, the crowd were made to endure a 30-minute delay. The wait proved worthwhile, though, as Phoenix kicked off the proceedings with “Ti Amo” before going right into “Lasso,” an obvious fan favorite. From there, Phoenix flawlessly blended new material from their forthcoming June release with the standard material. It was so refreshing to see Phoenix back on top of the music world on this night, as all the critics had no choice but to take notice of the complete command the band had on this night. The standout new track had to be “Jangle,” which maintained a slower tempo but held great sustenance. When all the handshakes with the crowd and victory laps were finished, we were left with memories of an 18-song masterpiece of a set and the first show I’ve attended in many years where I continually kept getting goosebumps. Bravo, Phoenix.
Best of Shaky Knees 2017
John Flannagan’s top shows:
1) LCD Soundsystem – Flawless set and new tunes are instant classics.
2) Growlers – Had me at William Onyeabor’s “Good Name.”
3) Phoenix – As complete a set as anything I’ve seen in years and nice touch with new songs.
4) Temples – While I missed their festival set on Friday, I managed to see them at The Earl for one of the many official late-night aftershows. They stuck around an extra day to deliver one hell of a performance until the wee hours of the morning.
5) Preoccupations – The band is getting better and stronger with each performance and album release. Name change aside, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Honorable Mention: Pond
Rusty Odom’s top shows:
1) LCD Soundsystem – No one puts on a better live show.
2) Pond – I can’t wait to listen to their entire catalogue.
3) Phoenix – They’re back in a big way and the new production is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
4) Mondo Cozmo – They have a wide appeal to crowds with an infectious sing-a-long filled set.
5) Temples (late night) – These youngsters have a world of potential. They’re already big across the pond, if they gain traction in the US, look out.
Honorable Mention: Family & Friends
Roti Rolls Food Truck – Hands down the best food truck in the court – and that’s saying something considering all the delicious options that were out there – these Charleston-based food specialists dished out some incredible eats. The smoked chicken and kimchi rice bowl was to die for and had me going back each day. And that’s not even what the truck is known for.
Ponce de Leon – If you couldn’t already tell we loved it, here’s more kudos for Ponce. This stage hosted the most diverse and up-and-coming acts on the bill, ranging from Fantastic Negrito to Pond and everything in between. The abundant shade and amphitheater seating didn’t hurt, either.
100% chance of rain – This is actually a Shaky Knees shirt, which makes it even better. Although in actuality it didn’t rain much, that’s always the running joke this weekend in Atlanta (and in general at springtime festivals in the South).
Knoxville – East Tennessee was very well represented at Shaky Knees. In attendance were Justin Helton and Nathan Johnson from Status Serigraph, who designed the official poster for Shaky Knees. Garret Thompson from Dogwood Arts and Kent Oglesby from Knoxville Music Warehouse were also present. It was great to see so many familiar faces from our local music industry in the A. Hopefully next year, we’ll see even more.