By John Flannagan and Rusty Odom
Saturday was a bit of a throwback for Shaky Knees. In fact, almost the entire festival has been through its first two days.
There have been a few shows with heavy use of synth, but for the most part, it’s been a straightforward weekend of guitar rock. From the youthful exuberance in the front row at Greta Van Fleet to the mosh pit at The Distillers to the headbanging at Queens of the Stone Age, rock ‘n’ roll music is alive and well – at least during this weekend in Atlanta.
Below are a few of our highlights from day two. Also, check out the top and the bottom of this page for links to BLANK’s day one recap, as well as to an interview with that day’s darlings, *repeat repeat. (You could just click here for the latter article.) – Rusty Odom
Greta Van Fleet
As mentioned in our day one post, a smattering of the bands booked for Shaky Knees this year pay homage to 1960s and ’70s rock. Friday started with Amasa Hines, which started a run of shows at the festival’s second-largest stage (Piedmont) that featured Welles and Rival Sons. It was an excellent beginning, and it proved to be a sign of things to come. Any of these acts would have fit nicely on a bill three or four decades ago, but they also make it at least a bit of a challenge in terms of describing their respective sounds. That’s not the case with Greta Van Fleet, however, the youthful family band with a spaceship tied to their collective backs. (It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen an act rise as quickly as this Frankenmuth, Michigan, four-piece.) Their talent is undeniable, each member has a great skill-set and they seem to be taking the craft seriously. Lead singer Josh Kiszka belts, his brother Jake is a virtuoso on lead guitar and Sam holds the band together on bass. While he might not get as much credit as his other brothers, Sam is equally as talented. Then there’s the rub: These fellas sound exactly like Led Zeppelin, and the parallel might be one of the most obvious in modern musical history. Whether or not they can sustain their growth in light of this comparison remains to be seen, but at their current trajectory, Greta Van Fleet will be headlining festivals like this one in the near future. – RO
Parquet Courts might have been a top-three show we have witnessed thus far this weekend. Playing a career-spanning calalogue of songs, the quintet from New York City pulled no punches as they flawlessly worked through their set. The group set a tone beginning with their second track, “Dust” – an appropriate selection due to all the particulates in the air that had been kicked up from the baseball fields of Central Park – before pouring through “Almost Had to Start a Fight,” “Freebird 2” and “Water Gets Too High,” the latter of which included a little Casio-style keytar providing a unique 8-bit sound. As they finished up their set, frontman A. Savage wished us a happy Kentucky Derby day and hoped that we won lots of money. We already were winners for having witnessed this raucous set. – John Flannagan
The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs came out with”Holding On” – precisely what we had to do to see the band perform after waiting out a 15-minute rain delay. As they kicked into gear, however, the sun began to shine down on the Shaky Knees faithful and setting a gorgeous scene for the twilight hours. The War on Drugs are one of rock’s most important groups of this generation, as they continue to craft beautiful tunes that appeal to audiences of all ages and genre affinities. This particular nine-song set included all the staples devotees have come to expect from a live show, such as the close of “Red Eyes” transforming into a jammed-out version of “Under the Pressure,” the result of which was nothing short of magical. – JF
Gifted rocker and thinker Andrew W.K. played to an enormous crowd under the tented Ponce De Leon stage at 6:30 Saturday evening. Taco guitars, party anthems and crowd surfing all were present during his hour on stage, and the set also hosted one of those perfect festival moments as the sky opened up with rain as he sang “I Get Wet.” – RO
Cake still have it, as evidenced by their large crowd on Saturday night before Queens of the Stone Age. Cake consistently have been a festival favorite going on a quarter of a century now, and the band performed a set which saw adults and kids alike jumping for joy to this year’s “retro” act on the bill. “Make up your mind on who you really are; that is the real decision that people need to make,” shouted charismatic lead singer John McCrea midway through the set. The singalong of “I’m so sick of you/I’m so sick of me/I don’t want to be with you” brought down the house. Lastly, McCrea told the crowd, “There’s winners and losers in this world, people that work hard and people that watch other people work hard.” Truer words have never been spoken, but if we’re being honest, we may have been on the easygoing side of the fence on this evening. – JF
Queens of the Stone Age
As day two headliners, Queens of the Stone Age held the distinction of starting their set perfectly on time and getting the evening’s party started. Immediately setting a tone with “If I Had a Tail” and “In My Head,” the desert rockers had the audience dancing and grooving from the onset. The crowd was extremely receptive to material from the group’s latest album, “Villains,” too, dancing in delight to “Feet Don’t Fail Me” and “Domesticated Animals.” During their 16-song set, members would step to the front of the stage, swapping licks and oozing rock stardom through every pore. Drummer Jon Theodore even hammered out a minute-and-a-half-long solo on the skins during “No One Knows” that would’ve made Keith Moon proud. Josh Homme briefly touched upon the incident in December in which he kicked a photographer during a show, saying, “The past is in the past, and all we have is this moment and the now, so let’s enjoy each other. There was no doubt that everyone was enjoying themselves – including the band members themselves, who played a no-nonsense set to a packed main stage. Queens of the Stone Age are a legitimate headliner and another great get for the Shaky Knees team. – JF