Shaky Knees has returned to Atlanta for its second year, expanding to three days and kicking off the weekend yesterday with enough feel-good tunes to banish the rainy-day blues and excite the Paste staff about what the rest of the weekend might hold.
Check out recaps of some of our favorite sets below, and peek at images from photographer Sterling Graves by clicking the gallery above.
These Athens, Ga. guys were essentially playing on home turf at Shaky Knees, so it makes sense that they’d blast the Tomahawk Chop as they triumphantly took the stage (with bassist Tim Deux sporting a rolled-up Atlanta Braves tee). The crowd ate it up, of course, chopping the air and singing along, and it was a great way to immediately win them over—not that The Whigs needed any extra help doing that. They played a great set featuring a balance of new material from this year’s Modern Creation and older favorites like “Right Hand on My Heart” and “Like a Vibration.”
There are some bands that work best in specific settings, and for some reason, White Denim seems to lend itself best to packed clubs and blazing hot outdoor sets. Unfortunately, Shaky Knees was neither of those; the clouds had already rolled in by the time the band hit the stage, and the overcast skies didn’t quite match the vibe their live show thrives in. They didn’t sound bad by any stretch, but they failed to capture the attention of those milling around towards the back of the crowd.
If you don’t find yourself moved at a Charles Bradley show—moved to dance, to yell, to throw your hands up in a silent “amen”—live music most likely isn’t for you. The Screaming Eagle of Soul is live music at its finest, a perfect balance of spectacle (the mic tricks, the flashy jackets he embroiders by hand himself, the pelvic thrusts) and real heart. For as much joy as Bradley brings the crowd, you get the sense that he’s still the one who’s happiest to be there, and as he wrapped up his set by going into the crowd and hugging as many people as he could (as he always does), a mini-stampede broke out, as if we were all a bunch of teen girls trying to get at Justin Bieber or something. Everyone wants to feel the Charles Bradley love, and that’s a beautiful thing—so much so that I’m instantly regretting even mentioning Justin Bieber in the same sentence as him.
It wouldn’t be Shaky Knees without some pouring rain (the festival is only in its second year, but it’s two-for-two in the downpour department). The water didn’t bother Foals, though. The UK band seemed right at home in the elements, playing a strong set to a dedicated, drenched crowd. When they played “Inhaler,” the whole place turned into a giant group rain dance, with a few brave souls even crowd-surfing under the slipperiest of conditions.
Every time I see Spoon live, it reminds me how much I love Spoon—because they’re great live, sure, but also because it’s a simple reminder of how strong and deep their catalog is. “I love this song!” is something I find myself excitedly announcing pretty much constantly throughout their sets, and as a friend pointed out, the “Spoon Greatest Hits” is a pretty damn-near unbeatable collection of tracks. “The Underdog,” “I Turn My Camera On,” “The Way We Get By,” “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb,” “Don’t You Evah,” “Don’t Make Me a Target”...most bands would kill to have recorded one of these songs, let alone all of them.
By the time The National began their headlining set, the storms had cleared, leaving us with a dark, calm sky lit up by the glow of the Atlanta cityscape and the smell of fresh rain in the air. In other words, it was an ideal setting to watch Matt Berninger and company soar through their gorgeous, melancholy set and let ourselves get carried away—not necessarily to Ohio on a swarm of bees, but certainly somewhere, to the places we can only reach when music and surroundings align perfectly to provide an unforgettable live experience.