Day 2 at Shaky Knees wasn’t without its technical difficulties (see our blurbs below for more on the power outage that cut Shakey Graves’ set short), but it was also full of highlights, including excellent performances by Deer Tick, The Decemberists, Huey Lewis and the News and My Morning Jacket.
Paste will be at Shaky Knees all weekend. Check out some of our favorites from Day 2 in the gallery, read about them below, and be sure to stay tuned for the rest of our coverage from this weekend as we head into Day 3.
The earsplitting vocals of Frances Quinlan are a rather jarring way to start your Saturday, but a small crowd of faithful gathered around the Piedmont stage to hear the folk-punk band do its thing in the early afternoon. Leading off with their 2015 hit anthem “Waitress,” (#7 on Paste’s 50 best songs of last year). Quinlan and the band strained somewhat to hit their marks at first before settling into a groove. Their live presence is an aggressive, driving one without the studio’s nuance, full of brief lulls that lead into fiery explosions of guitar and Quinlan’s tortured vocals. The more noticeable subtleties of “Horseshoe Crabs” were a definite highlight, despite the oddity of hearing prerecorded keys when none were present on stage.—Jim Vorel
Shakey Graves takes home the award for Saturday’s most technically challenging set, as the Austin singer emerged 10 minutes late to deliver bad news to a rowdy crowd of perpetually vaping listeners: The Ponce De Leon stage was now without power. After attempting to amuse the audience by leading them in a largely unintelligible sing-along, he retired backstage until things were back in working order. Reemerging with a vengeance, he and the band ripped into “The Perfect Parts” before shattering multiple guitars and tossing those pieces into the crowd in what would appear to be a symbolic appeasement of the Festival Tech Gods. Then working on limited time, Graves largely performed solo pieces, before eventually competing for sonic real estate with the beginning of Deer Tick on the Peachtree stage. We’ll hope to see Shakey Graves back in Atlanta soon, performing a set where he isn’t rushed by technical mishaps.—Jim Vorel
The silver lining of the technical issues on the Ponce De Leon stage was my Saturday afternoon discovery of Baskery, a three-member band of sisters from Stockholm, Sweden. Greta, Stella and Sunniva Bondesson have a unique sound that one would not expect to get out of three performers—one on double bass, one on electric and acoustic guitar, and one simultaneously playing an electrified banjo and kick drums. It sounds like the description of a folk band, and I suspect the trio probably draw regular comparisons to fellow Swedish folk-rock duo First Aid Kit, but the sound of Baskery is much more raw and rock-forward, despite the instrumentation. Vocally, one could compare their three-part family harmonies to Canadian folk bands like The Wailin’ Jennys or The Be Good Tanyas, and it sounds like a perfect match when they’re singing a Swedish drinking song, but they’re just as apt to rip into crunchy guitar solos with upright bass-slapped accompaniment. Comparisons ultimately fail, as Baskery is its own beast entirely. The stage presence of guitarist Sunniva in particular is like nothing so much as Scott Pilgrim’s antagonistic comic book ex-girlfriend, Envy Adams, and I mean that as a compliment.—Jim Vorel
Huey Lewis and the News
It only took one play through of Sports earlier this week to change my opinion of this particular booking by Shaky Knees’ Tim Sweetwood from cheekily nostalgic to brilliant. Packed with hits, the album has aged much better than I would have ever guessed, and so has Mr. Lewis and his original band. What his voice may have lost in its occasional control of pitch, he made up for with its potency and his swagger. It was the most fun many of us in the audience had all day, and I think most of us were surprised by that. He rewarded himself at the end of Side B with one of the band’s newer songs and then rewarded the rest of us by closing with “Power of Love.” These songs were hits for a good reason.—Josh Jackson
Portland’s Decemberists find themselves now in what feels like a comfortable “later career” period, of the sort where they’re not specifically committed to pushing their newest music, even while touring to support it. Their Shaky Knees set was reminiscent of their stop at Atlanta’s Tabernacle last year, an eclectic mishmash of material from their now lengthy catalog, including everything from Picaresque cuts (“The Sporting Life”) to contextless songs off The Hazards of Love concept album and material from The King is Dead and the newer What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. Colin Meloy is still good at constructing setlists—the band’s more recent shows are all “greatest hits” to some degree, but one never really knows what cuts he’ll select on any given night from each album, meaning there’s a degree of luck involved. Regardless, their bigger numbers are best suited for the festival circuit, which didn’t stop Meloy from attempting a somewhat ill-advised acoustic-only rendition of “Carolina Low” despite the noise pouring in from all around. But at this point, you sort of have to be glad they still want to play the occasional festival at all.—Jim Vorel
My Morning Jacket
At this point, it’s simply not festival season until we’ve seen My Morning Jacket headline somewhere, and their evening-ending spot on Saturday night at Shaky Knees was just as great as we’ve come to expect every year. Favorites like “Off the Record,” “Victory Dance,” and “One Big Holiday” were mixed in with Jim James’ solo track “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” and “Believe (Nobody Knows)” off the recent The Waterfall. But perhaps the most unexpected highlight was an amazing cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” falsetto coda and all, backed by purple stage lighting. The band’s paid tribute to the recently deceased Prince at plenty of their recent gigs, including New Orleans Jazz Fest, so while it wasn’t necessarily unexpected that they would continue to do so at Shaky Knees, but there’s simply no way to predict how moving such a thing is going to be until you’re watching it.—Bonnie Stiernberg