The first day of Shaky Knees was strong. While the heat was a bit much at times, the quality of the music made it relatively easy to ignore.
Mitski Miyawaki‘s set at the Boulevard Stage was an early highlight of the festival. Heavily favoring her most recent album Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Miyawaki performed an emotionally intimate, yet powerful 45 minute set. Between powerful ballads, Mitski quietly praised the sizable crowd who was enduring the Atlanta heat. She also repped her home, New York, but told the ATL audience “You don’t have to go there though.” Miyawaki displayed gratitude to be performing for the crowd that ate up every moment of Miyawaki’s gorgeous garage-pop.
-Andy Tabeling @andytabelz
As a huge Kooks fan since the ninth grade, I was very excited to see the band perform live. The group made sure to showcase songs from each of their four albums in their allotted hour. From its newest album, Listen, we heard “Forgive & Forget,” “Down,” and “Bad Habit,” among others. From their first album, Inside In/Inside Out, they played “Ooh La,” “She Moves in Her Own Way,” and finished the entire set off with “Naïve.” Other songs they performed include “Junk of the Heart (Happy),” “Always Where I Need to Be,” and “Is it Me?” The Kooks definitely lived up to my expectations, however I wish that they had performed more from their first album, just for nostalgia’s sake. Overall, their performance was engaging and drew a large crowd.
From 2:30 to 3:15 today, I experienced the group that is Tennis on the Buford Highway stage. A decent sized crowd crammed under the tent to watch them. The group was upbeat and adorable, and the crowd remained calm. Fans sang along to some favorites, such as “Marathon,” the first song the group wrote, and Origins. Although they played for less than an hour, the band definitely brought a full concert experience and singer Alaina Moore provided beautiful vocals. I definitely would love to see a full performance from this group in the future.
-Valerie Voswinkel, @valvoswinkel
Mac DeMarco, with his lackadaisical and laid-back style, was a highlight of the afternoon. The whole show seemed to be set up as a way to celebrate the birthday of bandmate Andy White. The indie star wasn’t just confined to fan favorites like “Blue Boy” and “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” and instead included a lot of crowd interaction such as a last-minute stage dive and dividing the crowd into the VIP section and the general admission “peasants”. His bassist even sang a cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow, ” however the band pulled it off flawlessly. It didn’t matter how wild things got, Mac never got too cheesy.
-Trevor Adams, @RevorTadams
A live performance of the Mountain Goats is seemingly intimidating for the casual listener. Their discography is massive and the audience interaction relies heavily on fans’ incredible memory of their favorite Darnielle lyricisms. However, the live band John Darnielle put together (including legendary Superchunk drummer/funny-guy Jon Wurster) brings life and joy to the Mountain Goats’ live show. The band’s most recent record, the wrestling themed Beat Them Champ, fits right in among Darnielle’s other sing-along-ready tunes. After spending a brief acoustic set touring through some of the project’s older songs (Darnielle memorably broke out “Cubs In Five”, which he claims to rarely play anymore), the whole band ripped into some of the most popular Mountain Goats songs including “Up the Wolves” and “This Year”, ending with a sparkling rendition of “No Children”. The band’s hour long-set satisfied both the casual fans in the group along with the already converted.
I want to thank whoever was responsible for American Football‘s timeslot, despite it conflicting with Mastodon. I had been at the festival for over 6 hours, and my feet were starting to tire out. I opted to sit on a hill to the side of the stage to see the Midwest emo legends, and by chance it was the the best decision I made all day. Seeing the sun set behind the skyline of Atlanta while listening to the gorgeous guitar layering and powerful trumpet solos of American Football was magical. While the band may not be young as they used to be, and it shows some in the vocals, they still have no problems delivering the atmosphere of nostalgia and emotional memories, which is reason for their loyal fan base.
Hot off the release of their recent single “Mene”, Brand New delivered an incredible performance that no doubt pleased the legions of devoted fans that swarmed the Ponce De Leon Stage Friday night. Opening with the previously mentioned new song, Brand New preceded to take a tour through their previous albums, leaving ample room for moments of intimacy along with the bands stunning crescendos. Jesse Lacey and co. felt loose, energetic and truly grateful for what was one of the best festival crowds I’ve been a part of. It seemed like thousands of people shouted “Yeah!” during The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’s “Sowing Season” and the audience became hushed during “Luca” which was one of the set’s quietest moments. When Brand New chose to be loud, such as during Daisy highlight “Gasoline”, they sounded world-conquering.
Before the James Blake show even started, I could tell that the crowd around me was more enthusiastic than usual. Once the overhead lights cut out and blue spotlights replaced them, a cheer erupted that was louder than what I expected from a tired crowd so late in the day. Blake didn’t disappoint his fans, playing heavily from his renowned self-titled debut. He played with drummer Ben Assisted and guitarist Rob McAndrews, who also employed the use of a sampler. He himself at the keys and vocals, Blake succeeded in creating an entrancing atmosphere that evoked all the best sonics of his studio albums. There were also several tracks I did not recognize, usually tending to he more dance-oriented. The light show that accompanied the music was phenomenal, and is a big portion on why the show was so enjoyably hypnotizing. The show has greatly raised my hopes that future music by the English producer will be able hold up to his past.
As Friday’s shows came to an end, all of the festival-goers gathered at the Peachtree Stage to watch the final performance: The Strokes. The band started the set off with “Reptilia” and followed with “Welcome to Japan.” They played a medley of songs from different albums, many of them fan favorites. Towards the end of their performance, Julian Casablancas called Mac DeMarco onto the stage. The two acts then performed the Strokes’ song “Last Nite” together. The Strokes stayed on stage until a little past 11 o’clock, performing four encores. Their show was high energy and brought the day to a happy close.