After two full days of music and exuberance, the final day of this year’s Shaky Knees Music Festival came, and it ended up being the hottest, as well as my favorite day of the three. We began our Sunday at the Piedmont Stage to catch Whitney, a band that wowed audiences and critics alike with their debut LP, Light Upon the Lake, in the summer of 2016. Whitney took the stage, as the sun beat down upon a fully populated crowd, and jumped right into their groovy set; the band is a super group or sorts, made up of the former drummer for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Julien Ehrlich, and the former guitarist for Smith Westerns, Max Kakacek. With their mellow, feel-good rock sound that is simple yet refined, the pair have found the perfect configuration to accentuate their talents–and we were privileged to relish in the beauty of it.
Anthemic dance pop standouts Saint Motel, whose contagious rhythms demand a response from every listener, took the Main Stage; the entire crowd was moving and grooving to the sound as lead singer A/J Jackson owned the atmosphere. This show was pure adrenaline from beginning to end.
After Saint Motel, rockers J. Roddy Walston & the Business took the Peachtree Stage by storm. Their roots rock sound featuring electrifying energy and J. Roddy’s howling voice, the band had the Main Stage rocking from beginning to end. Full of heavy guitar riffs and rockabilly piano, the boys brought the house down and showed us all how it’s done.
We made our way across Centennial Park to the Ponce de Leon stage to see folk rock veterans, Fruit Bats, who packed out the stage; they played songs spanning the majority of their large catalogue, focusing mostly their stunning 2016 release, Absolute Loser, as everyone in the crowd sang along to every word. During their set, lead singer Eric Johnson told a story of a fan who had attended their last show in Atlanta, and to his surprise, that very fan was standing in the front of the crowd. Johnson had a good laugh and expressed his gratitude that he didn’t badmouth the attendee in any way.
After being blown away by Fruit Bats, we moseyed over to the Piedmont Stage to watch pop rock band Bleachers. After some early technical difficulties, the band pulled off one of the best sets of the weekend, due to the overwhelming energy from front man Jack Antonoff. Antonoff owned the stage as he sang and played his heart; he made his excitement known and wanted everyone to have as good of a time as he was having. Back by an astounding band, Bleachers played their 80s-tinged anthems with near perfection, taking the songs to a whole new level. It was a stellar performance from the weekend and ignited excitement and anticipation for their upcoming record Gone Now, set to release on June 2nd.
Next up on the Piedmont Stage was legendary singer/songwriter, Ryan Adams. Adams packed the stage with massive amps and randomly placed felines in full order, as her and his band began to play through songs spanning the entirety of his massive catalogue of albums, including some from his latest release, Prisoner, along with classics like “When the Stars Go Blue,” “Magnolia Mountain,” and “New York, New York.” Ryan Adams and the Unknown Band rocked the Piedmont crowd and kept things interesting with the usual stage banter and his signature lighthearted dialogue. During a guitar solo, he broke a string and seamlessly changed guitars to finish the song—but, he wasn’t satisfied, and played the whole thing over again. It was a memorable moment as the crowd erupted with applause at the end of the do-over.
French rock band Phoenix, back from their hiatus, are as good as ever. Their production included crazy visual elements–projected images on the floor of the stage, reflected by a suspended mirror that projected the images onto the crowd. The band sounded incredible and played with electrifying energy, a great to end an amazing weekend. We left Atlanta thirsty for more, so here’s to next year!