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Shaky Knees Music Festival Review Day I (CFR + AME + MM)

30 May 2013

written by Mod Mobilian


Shaky Knees Music Festival 2013:

Day One


Mod Mobilian – Alyson Stokes

The inaugural Shaky Knees Music Festival might have been dubbed other names like “Soggy Socks,” “Mud Fest 2013” and “Shaky Hands”  due to its cold, rainy opening day on Friday, May 4, but festival-goers were definitely dealt a musical experience not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

Atlanta-natives Chris Hartman and his friend Weng Mina said rain couldn’t stop them from seeing Jim James, Band of Horses and The Lumineers.  In fact, Hartman said he enjoyed the inclement weather conditions and even helped festival staff members lay out straw in attempt to soak up some of the mud and make it easier for patrons to walk around.

“I’m not coming unless it rains tomorrow ‘cause I gotta put that straw out,” Hartman says with a laugh. “Shoot dang! I’m putting down that straw.”

“It’s worth it, girl” Mina adds, saying she received Shaky Knees tickets as a birthday gift. “It’s my first rainy day festival!”

Other festival -goers let their creativity show as they used garbage and grocery bags to cover their upper bodies and feet, refusing to let a little bad weather rain on their parade. In fact, attendees embraced the downpour and even danced in the mud.

A suited up version of My Morning Jacket’s frontman Jim James shined brightly despite the cloudy weather during his 7:30 p.m.  set. Rain continued to hammer down on the festival grounds, and James expressed his gratitude to fans who stuck around to see his set.

(Photo courtesy of @shakykneesfest Instagram)

“All this love in the rain,” James said. “This is incredible. I’m never going to forget this.”

“It’s like a rainbow,” he continued, referencing the colorful crowd covered in a multitude of different ponchos ranging anywhere from pink to yellow to blue.

Though it can be argued that James’ performance was the highlight of day one, Saturday’s headliner Band of Horses played to a large crowd despite the rain falling harder and harder as the sun set. But, as the rain bounced off the stage, the weather seemed to provide an intimate and somewhat surreal setting as the enthusiasm of the audience never wavered and fans could be seen dancing and mouthing every word to old and new tracks alike.

Country Fried Rock & Atlanta Music Examiner – Chris Martin

Day one started off cold and wet then proceeded to get colder and wetter. As people slowly shuffled in many missed great sets from the early acts.

Proudly announcing that they were the opening band of the first SKF, Atlanta’s own Death On Two Wheels (their last album was Separation Of Church & Fate) wasted no time taking the crowd into their musical world full of chunky guitars, chugging rhythms and Trae Vedder’s gravelly vocals. Playing their Southern infused rock loud and fast, they rolled through a collection of old and new music.

Around the corner the Tumbleweed Wanderers (their last 3 releases are here) added a little soul to the proceedings. With some of the sweetest vocal harmonies I have ever heard, the Wanderers had folks dancing in the puddles with their folksy, soul infused California country tunes.

One of my favorite performances was from Robert Ellis (Ellis’ releases and compilations). Set up between a myriad of plastic tarps he picked up his guitar and wowed everyone with his spectacular song writing skills. The weather may have limited his plans, (the steel guitar was 86’ed due to the threat of rusting) but he made up for it with his intimate performance. A collection of tunes about infidelity, relationships and home highlighted his set, but it was the emotional tribute to his musical hero George Jones that stole the show.

As the early afternoon approached, Roadkill Ghost Choir (Quiet Light E.P.) and You Me And Apollo(all the links we could find) took to the stage splitting the growing crowd in two as they migrated to follow the sounds of their favorite bands. While they both delivered a set of folk flavored Americana, Apollo’s set was a bit lighter and spacey while Ghost Choir got dirty with fuzzy guitars and soulful keyboards.

Speaking of soul, the band Vintage Trouble (new music from them soon!) had the festival all to itself and they took every opportunity to show off their wares. Falling somewhere between James Brown and the Rolling Stones these guys know how to put on a show. Ty Taylor not once stood still as he jived and wailed all over the stage belting out tunes from their debut album. The harder they played and the louder they got the more intense the rain became but the legion of ‘Troublemakers’ (their loyal fans) sang and danced along through the entire set.

Drawing a big crowd was Moon Taxi (been a while since a release from them); their indie pop sound was good but was overshadowed by the raw power of Hanni El Khatib (tons of great choices). This guy was born to play live music, with a stripped down blues heavy garage rock sound his crowd grew and grew as festival goers flocked to the North Avenue stage liked rats to the pied piper.

The longer the day went the harder the rain fell, and with each band the ever expanding muddy crowd was given everything they expected. The Joy Formidable (good stuff here) wowed with their noisy fuzz rock, Lucero (Country Fried Rock alums) showed why they are one of the best Americana bands around today and The Orwells(new-ish record here) impressed with one of the best sets of the day as they pounded listener’s ears with their lo-fi sonic refrain.

With a packed house finally achieved, Gary Clark Jr. (this guy is amazing) took the stage and showed all of us what it meant to be one bad ass guitar player. From soulful to raunchy his playing ran the gamut of styles leaving fans mesmerized by his set.

Without the comfort of his MMJ brethren, Jim James a rabbit hole of great music put on an incredible show. Showcasing his solo material, the music was an explosion of rhythms and melodies as James bounded around the stage giving every last bit of energy to his performance. (He could of closed the show out and packed the house with as crowded as the music park was for his set.)

J. Roddy Walston (love this guy times eleventy zillion) is and has always been one of the best live performers I have ever seen, and Saturday was no different. While most of the people were jamming out to Mr. James, the rest were having their minds blown by the sheer explosiveness of Walston’s live act. A cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Memphis Slim he attacked his piano like a wild man stunning the crowd with his powerful playing and primal wailing. It amazes me that the piano survives his sets.

The first day came to a close with Band Of Horses a frequent reference in interviews). They played admirably as the weather deteriorated. Playing all the songs everyone wanted to hear they were able to keep the attention of most of the wet and tired crowd, many that would be back the next day to do it all again.


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