Shaky Knees Day 2 started with a bang and ended with a very, very big rainstorm. Luckily, Cage the Elephant was down to give us exactly what we needed to close the evening: a theatrical, booming show that kept us there despite the downpour. Here’s the best of what we saw for the second day of Shaky Knees 2019.
FIDLAR are easy to underestimate. The Los Angeles four-piece had the skater punk and party punk tags thrown at their band from the beginning, and songs like “Cocaine,” “40oz on Repeat” and “Wake Bake Skate” didn’t really help support a counternarrative. Now 10 years as a band, FIDLAR have mellowed out while still retaining their exceptionally fun live band status. Their new album Almost Free still addresses substance abuse and feelings of personal hangups, but FIDLAR seem unfazed by people still trying to pin them down as a shallow punk band. Judging from their Shaky Knees set, which featured fan favorites like “West Coast” and Almost Free cuts like “By Myself” and “Flake,” young fans still passionately cling to them in the way that kids did 10 years ago. Add a girls-only moshpit and a crowd-surfing panda, which frontman Zac Carper invited onstage to dance to “40oz on Repeat,” and I’m not sure how anyone could have walked away from their set without a wide, stupid grin. —Lizzie Manno
Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison took the stage with a full band as day was turning into night and the cloudy skies were threatening to rain. I’ve never thought about there being such a thing as “dusk music,” but these mostly sad songs from her 2018 album Clean fit the bill, the perfect set for the end of a warm Atlanta day with her laid-back electric guitar melodies echoing through the tree-lined Criminal Records Stage. When the sun finally set and a misty rain began to descend, Allison sent her bandmates off for a trio of solo songs, including her haunting cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and the gorgeous new song “Night Swimming.” After playing “Still Clean,” she brought the band back out for “Scorpion Rising,” one of best songs from one of the best albums of last year. For those of us not willing to endure the rain for Cage the Elephant, it was a wonderfully satisfying ending to a day of live music. —Josh Jackson
Jade Bird has been on our radar for a while now, most recently with her dynamite self-titled debut album. The 21-year-old Brit and her energetic band brought their game to the Ponce De Leon stage on Saturday afternoon, switching off between piercing takedown tunes (“Uh Huh,” “Lottery”) and earth-shattering ballads like “I Get No Joy,” an Americana stomper that cuts to the chorus with little fanfare and puts Jade Bird’s powerhouse voice on display. She’s already acquired millions of Spotify streams and YouTube plays, but hearing her live in all her fortified, edgy glory, it’s clear Jade Bird is worthy of attention outside of a playlist. —Ellen Johnson
We named Natalie Prass’ live act one of the best of 2018, and we’re happy to report it’s still an absolute delight to behold. Prass and her band (which includes her fiancée and Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick) wear solid blue from head to toe (jumpsuits for the guys, a twirly ensemble for Prass), but the costumes aren’t even half the fun. At one point someone yelled from the crowd, “Y’all are funky as hell!” and I can’t quite think of a better descriptor—jubilant, celebratory and worthy of non-stop dancing, Prass’ set is a hoot. She played her “ladies, assemble” anthem, “Sisters,” from last year’s The Future And The Past, as well as one of the catchiest tunes I’ve heard, “Short Court Style,” also from that record. —Ellen Johnson
CHON’s music isn’t exactly fashionable right now. The California group makes a largely instrumental fusion of jazz, prog, math and psychedelic rock—the kind of music your stoner uncle won’t shut up about. Their technically abilities are undeniably strong—many of their cuts were engrossing and dexterous psych odysseys. However, other cuts sounded more like above average elevator music. Like Tash Sultana who performed on day one of Shaky Knees, CHON bridge the gap between fans of chillwave, stoner rock and classic rock. Their music certainly isn’t in right now, but they’ve definitely found their niche. I can’t think of another band who plays chilled-out, downtempo music and also gets hordes of crowdsurfers. —Lizzie Manno
Julia Jacklin is a singer/songwriter from Australia who’s behind one of the best albums of the year so far, her sophomore LP Crushing. It’s a record of deeply affecting songs inspired by a breakup, but they’re much more than heartbreak tunes: songs about finding strength in autonomy and healing. Jacklin has one of the most of assured, steady voices, and on day two of Shaky Knees we discovered that voice translates more than smoothly in a live setting—it was absolutely pristine. Jacklin performed album highlights like “Head Alone,” “Pressure To Party” and, the wrecking ball of the bunch, “Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You.” —Ellen Johnson
Cage The Elephant are a band whose music is supremely elevated by their live shows. With five albums under their belt, the Grammy Award-winning Bowling Green, Kentucky band have maintained a fervent fanbase in the past 10 plus years as a band despite a lack of fervent critical acclaim. Their latest album Social Cues is admittedly a snooze fest thanks to the swapping out of uber anthemic rock hooks and impassioned vocal performances for an attempt at aesthetic and sonic flash. However, their set proves why people have stuck around for so long—and why the Shaky Knees crowd stuck around till the end in the torrential downpour. They’re an electrifying live band with just enough hits (“Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Cigarette Daydreams,” “Trouble”) to satisfy people who are less than enthused by their full-lengths. Aided by fireball and confetti cannons, their mediocre songs sounded good and their good songs sounded great. Frontman Matt Shultz reemerged halfway into his set wearing nothing but a fishnet bodysuit, a belt and tight, nude-colored underwear, and he quipped that his “wardrobe malfunction” was also the set’s “special guest” before giggling. It’s this kind tonedeaf dude rock behavior that puts me off bands like Cage. Shultz struts around stage like Mick Jagger and twitches maniacally like Iggy Pop, but it’d be nice to get that classic rock showmanship while gaining some modern-day self-awareness. All in all, Cage The Elephant are a great live band that can keep a crowd on their toes, but they aren’t what you’d want from a rock band in 2019. —Lizzie Manno