The Atlanta weather was kinder to Shaky Knees attendees on Saturday, offering some respite from the sun by way of both breeze and cloud cover. Conversely, Central Park swarmed with weekend warriors who weren’t able to make day one, filling out crowds and walkways alike, and making treks from A to B (or Peachtree to Ponce De Leon, as it were) a bit more challenging. Those trips were worth taking, as the sixth-year fest delivered another afternoon and evening of exhilarating shows, highlighted by a towering headlining set from Queens of the Stone Age.
The Paste team thinned out a bit on Saturday, as the demands of life outside of enjoying live music for hours on end exacted their toll, but those of us who made it out to Shaky day two took in as much as we could, for which our eardrums will likely never forgive us. Between the timeless sounds of up-and-coming acts like Greta Van Fleet and Jacob Banks, the familiar fun of performers from Andrew W.K. to Matt & Kim, and the main-stage theatrics of top-tier acts including The War on Drugs and QOTSA, we certainly saw more than our fair share of rock ‘n’ roll heroics.
Here are some of the top performances we saw on the second day of Shaky Knees 2018.
Greta Van Fleet
It’s simply not possible to discuss this rip-roaring rock quartet out of Frakenmuth, Mich., without mentioning Led Zeppelin, so let’s go ahead and get that out of the way: There are some similarities. As Robert Plant himself once said, “They are Led Zeppelin I,” citing Greta Van Fleet as one of his favorite up-and-coming bands. The comparison—one I have to imagine the young rockers are already sick of—is entirely laudatory. Twenty-one-year-old twins Josh (vocals) and Jake Kiszka (guitar), their 18-year-old brother Sam Kiszka (bass, keys) and Danny Wagner (drums), also 18, are straight out of the ‘70s in terms of both sight and sound, from their shaggy heads of hair to their preternatural retro rock ‘n’ roll chops. The foursome had a sizable Peachtree stage audience in the palms of their hands, muscling theatrically through crowd-pleasing jams from their acclaimed 2017 EPs From the Fires and Black Smoke Rising. Greta Van Fleet were joyously confident and charismatic in putting on a bombastic blues-rock fireworks show that made for one of the most stirring sets of Shaky day two. —Scott Russell
This Brooklyn indie foursome returned to Shaky Knees for the second time in three years for a Saturday afternoon set, which, appropriately, featured an early performance of Human Performance’s “Dust”—there was plenty of it in the air in the most grassless, Mad Max-y area of Atlanta’s Central Park. Parquet Courts’ principal songwriters A. Savage and Austin Brown bookended the Piedmont stage, the opposing poles embodying the band’s jittery, intellectual energy and laidback amiability—the duo have said they want their new record to make listeners dance, an end they accomplished with ease. They showcased numerous tracks from their forthcoming Wide Awake! (out on May 18)—including the as-of-yet-unreleased “Total Football,” “Freebird II” and “Before the Water Gets Too High,” in addition to the album’s irresistibly funky title track, “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” and “Mardi Gras Beads”—setting the entire crowd to kicking up even more dust. Their funny and festive set (with a faux-corporate Parquet Courts merch plug, and plentiful allusions to both Derby Day and Cinco De Mayo) revealed a band that has grown into a rare degree of versatility, boldly pursuing their creative impulses without ever taking themselves too seriously. —Scott Russell
Jacob Banks’s live set is not like his album. Sure, it’s the same music, but the produced beats from the album are replaced with absolute soul live. Dressed in a corduroy suit and a beanie hat, he absolutely commanded your attention from the Criminal Records stage. We put Jacob in our 10 bands to see at Shaky Knees list for a reason. He’s groovy, he’s passionate, he’s sincere and he keeps his energy up throughout the entire performance. And have we mentioned that voice? It’s unbelievably powerful. Don’t miss out on Jacob Banks—he’s touring for the next couple of weeks here in the States. —Annie Black
Atlanta indie rockers Manchester Orchestra put on a driving, high-energy show on their home turf, giving their extensive early-evening crowd “that rock and that roll,” as the band’s creative architect Andy Hull sang on Simple Math cut “April Fool.” The Hull- and Robert McDowell-led quartet last played Shaky Knees in 2015—since then, they’ve released their first album in more than three years, 2017’s acclaimed A Black Mile to the Surface. Their finely tuned set pulled from that innovative album as well as the rest of their beloved catalog, covering a wide range of emotional terrain, but regardless of which period in their decade-plus history they were pulling from, the band’s unfailingly anthemic sound was heavy in all the right places, with Hull’s soul-baring vocals leading the way. —Scott Russell
The War on Drugs
Adam Granduciel and his band took the stage late, delayed by a mercifully fleeting rainstorm, which made it all the more gorgeous when they broke into “Holding On” as the day’s last rays of sunshine broke through the clouds. The War on Drugs played a couple of key cuts from their Grammy-winning 2017 LP A Deeper Understanding, title track included, beckoning the soggy audience gathered at the Peachtree stage back into the light with their near-narcotic guitar reveries. I found myself anticipating Granduciel’s soaring, abundantly melodic guitar lines, rather than anything he sang, yearning to be swept away by the atmospheric peaks of sprawling songs like “Red Eyes.” Though later on, the band’s spell was briefly broken by the onset of Cake’s neighboring Piedmont stage set (which only overlapped because of the rain delay), The War on Drugs finished strong with Lost in the Dream opener “Under the Pressure,” seeing us through the sunset in dreamy and epic fashion. —Scott Russell
Matt & Kim
Seeing Matt & Kim perform live is going to a damn party. It’s high energy, completely dance-worthy and full of unexpected twists. Their set at the Ponce de Leon stage held nothing back. Blow-up dolls thrown into the crowd? Check. Slightly uncomfortable jokes about Kim’s, uh, lady parts? Check. Absurdly catchy, uplifting indie electro-pop? Obviously. You couldn’t watch this show without smiling. Matt & Kim released their sixth album, Almost Everyday, on Friday. —Annie Black
Queens of the Stone Age
Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age closed out day two with a viciously hard-charging, hour and a half-long set, the kind of performance you point to as evidence that they’re one of the most technically impressive rock acts around. This is a souped-up muscle car of a band, both unhinged and in control, effortlessly swaggering their way through relentlessly heavy rock ‘n’ roll that nonetheless maintains a shocking degree of danceability—that last bit’s in no small part thanks to Jon Theodore, their absolute beast of a drummer. QOTSA brought their most recent records—2017’s Villains and 2013’s ...Like Clockwork—to the forefront on the Peachtree stage, blasting out of the gate with the latter’s “If I Had a Tail,” and reaching into their considerable back catalog for stand-out renditions of Songs for the Deaf singles “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow,” Lullabies to Paralyze’s “In My Head” and a pace-changing “Make It Wit Chu,” off Era Vulgaris. Their riff-thick onslaught was also enhanced by one of the festival’s most elaborate light shows—the quintet prowled among a small forest of LCD-illuminated poles, anchored every few feet, which Homme and lead guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen frequently smacked around with abandon. And speaking of the band’s undeniably talented frontman, he was certainly himself, encouraging the festival-encompassing crowd to “get fucking loose” and cursing out a stagehand who scurried out to try and adjust Homme’s mic stand. He even seemed to acknowledge a certain misdeed, introducing “The Evil Has Landed” by saying, “I’ve made lots of mistakes. The past is over … I’m for letting go, so let’s let go, shall we?” Here’s hoping Homme is the wiser for his failings, because as he recently put it, “rock ‘n’ roll’s a wonderful thing”—his band’s Shaky set was proof. —Scott Russell