By John Flannagan, Rusty Odom and TJ Reynolds
From the raucous to the ridiculous, the final day of Shaky Knees 2018 offered a little something for everyone. Once again, the Criminal Records and Ponce De Leon stages provided ample shade for those looking to escape the heat that always seems to be a little less tolerable on day three of the festival.
From Mt. Joy and The Wild Reeds kicking off the two main stages to the weekend’s biggest afternoon party (Parcels) to the absurd and wildly entertaining Tenacious D, Sunday was excellent heading into its finale. Then The National took the stage to close down the weekend. I’ve hated this band for years. Couldn’t stand them. I guess I have been wrong all along, though, because I loved this set and thought it was the perfect sunset for what was an incredible weekend.
Many of the bands on the bill released records during the weekend, while others performed one of their first big shows ever. The headliners will continue with their respective tours, and we’ll cover our next festival in just a few weeks. The show goes on for everyone.
Festivals are great because, for a few days, most everyone in attendance is on the same page. Folks who don’t normally congregate together share laughs and exchange pleasantries without expecting anything in return. Hopefully, once again, the people of Shaky Knees can take a little bit of that sentiment with them. Here are our favorites from day three. Be sure to check out our interview with *repeat repeat, as well. – Rusty Odom
Mt. Joy opened day three of Shaky Knees with a strong folk-rock performance on a picturesque spring morning in Atlanta. It was a mellow yet relaxed atmosphere early on a Sunday where everyone was recovering from the madness of the first two days, but Mt. Joy certainly did not disappoint, easing minds and spirits with a smooth, atmospheric sound that was well-received by many with whom I talked throughout the day.
The lead singer even brought his two friends Kyle and Jess on stage, which was followed by an accepted marriage proposal. I joked with the folks next to me, saying, “Man, that really would have killed the vibe of this beautiful morning if Jess had said no.” Regardless, the Philadelphia-based band’s energy and precision were just what the doctor ordered. A highlight was “Astrovan,” a song in which the lead singer suggests that Jesus drives that particular make of automobile. A bold yet interesting choice of tracks to perform on a Sunday morning in heart of the Bible Belt. – TJ Reynolds
The Los Angeles-based band played an inspirational early afternoon set at the Piedmont Stage at which point the Atlanta sun was at its hottest. In addition, a brisk wind was kicking up dust, and the air felt thick. The resulting scene somewhat resembled the Dust Bowl era; looking like they were about to herd cattle, festivalgoers held bandanas over their faces in attempts to block the harsh elements. Such worries were quickly forgotten, however, when the band took to the stage. Perhaps still reeling a bit from the previous night’s whirlwind run of The War on Drugs/Cake/Queens of the Stone Age, the crowd seemed to become energized by the upbeat electronic rock.
Lead singer Landon Jacobs told a touching story in between songs about how he was grieving for his mother who died from a brain tumor last year. He explained that he had arrived in Atlanta via a red-eye flight Sunday morning after having attended his brother’s wedding in Seattle the night before. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, he expressed how much he and his brother missed their mom the day before. But Jacobs also said that his friends and family always ask how he deals with constant touring and travel, and that he responds by saying that the drive that keeps him going is the thousands of fans – just like those sweating on this day under the hot Atlanta sun – that show up to see them no matter what, making the endeavor worth it. It was refreshing to hear the humanity behind the artist; everyone – fan and artist alike – makes sacrifices to get to a festival like Shaky Knees, and we all are more alike and human than we care to admit. – TJR
For me, day three started out with the biggest dance party of the weekend courtesy of Parcels. The midday sun did little to quell the fever of said party, as the Australian youngsters played their first-ever festival gig on Sunday, which led lead singer Jules Crommelin to joke, “This may be our first-ever daytime performance.” Channeling their inner Chic, Parcels had people moving rhythmically who normally don’t do such things (in public at least). The music even prompted a certain newspaper publisher to bite off slightly more than he could chew when he challenged a fellow attendee to a dance-off. But much like his publication, his effort was there even if there wasn’t much substance behind it. As for the band, we’ll be hearing more of Parcels in the future, as they provided the most fun we’ve had at a show in quite some time. – John Flannagan
Basement and The Menzingers closed out the Sunday action on the Criminal Records Stage with back-to-back punk-rock performances. Shaky Knees has been consistent in recent years with the booking of punk bands such as Slightly Stoopid and the like, and it was refreshing to see that style of music still thriving in a live environment after 30 years. Basement, hailing from the U.K., gave a blistering performance that provided a jarring yet welcome change of pace following the epic Parcels set. The Brits’ American counterparts equaled their fervor, and both performances gave great exposure to the respective bands. Plus, several youngsters in the audience were digging the music, proving that punk isn’t dead and that it still is relevant as ever in this day and age. – JF
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
BRMC gave the type of performance that we knew they’d bring despite it being the first time that any of the BLANK crew had seen them live, a somewhat astonishing fact considering the cumulative number of festivals the collective has attended over the years. Drawing through its expansive catalogue, they didn’t waste any time with crowd banter; instead, the group’s members kept their heads down and blazed through the material. (This businesslike approach was adopted by several other artists throughout the weekend, as well.) Their straightforward style rocked the Ponce De Leon Stage in the closing hours of the festival and set the table in fine fashion for the few remaining acts on Sunday’s bill. – JF
Tenacious D played their only U.S. date scheduled for the year at the second-largest stage at Shaky Knees to what must have been one of the top-three-largest crowds of the weekend regardless of venue. Very much on top of their game, Jack Black and Kyle Gass put on a hilarious performance that ran the gamut of all the tunes we’ve come to love by the duo. “Roadie” was especially funny and fitting considering the gig. Closing out their set, Tenacious D performed “Tribute” – including a snippet of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” naturally – and finished with “Double Team” and the crowd-pleaser “F*** Her Gently,” which absolutely brought down the house. This was a unique get for Shaky Knees, and it proved to be a home-run booking. – JF
The National came out promptly at 8:30 just as the sun was setting for the final time on this year’s installment of Shaky Knees Music Festival. A perfect festival-ender in that the subdued nature of the band’s music was sure to mellow out the crowd for the journey home. As several couples embraced, Matt Berninger and company laid down their soundtrack, playing such tunes as “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “Walk it Back.” “Day I Die” absolutely rocked, and it saw Berninger go into the crowd for the first of four times during The National’s headlining slot. The horn section for “Fake Empire” was an especially nice touch, as well. Berninger was charismatic as ever, rolling on the stage and joking with the crowd and band throughout the 18-song closing set. “I have to pretend I’m not having so much fun because this is a super-sad song,” he said before his bandmates plunged into a harder-than-on-the-record version of “Terrible Love.” What can we say? The National slowly has established itself as an important group, and it proved that it is deserving of all the critical praise and fan love it has accumulated over the last two decades. – JF