The first announcement of the inaugural Shaky Knees Festival took place what seems like was over a year or so ago. Massive amounts of excitement was created then just as it would wane another strategic announcement would be unleashed to the public about the schedule, bands on the line-up or a wealth of other news surrounding the festival. Brilliant move I must say. Well here it is the week of Shaky Knees, the two day musical affair is close to being sold out, they are dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” at the Masquerade right now as you read this and the bands are making their way to Atlanta. If you have tickets then I am sure there is some form of anticipation for the weekend (unless you are a robot) and if you don’t have or want tickets then you are scrambling to procure them or you are in a coma. While other events will be taking place in the Metro Atlanta area this will be the place to spend the weekend.
Most will travel to the multi-stage set up at the Masquerade to take a gander at the Lumineers, Drive-By Truckers, Band Of Horses, Gary Clark Jr. or Jim James. Yes they all warrant the bulk of the weekend’s attention and they all deliver incredible live shows, but here are ten bands you will want to add to your music listening schedule.
#10 – Von Grey (Sunday, May 5th, 12:30pm)
Comprised of four talented teenage sisters, Von Grey has been making Atlanta proud the last several months. Their own blend of bluegrass, country and folk is sweeping the nation as they make appearances on Conan, Letterman and other national TV shows. Soothing vocal harmonies and mellow Southern melodies are what their music is all about as their tunes infiltrate listener’s ears. If you have not listened to Von Grey check them out, then get there early Sunday so you can hear their set at 12:30.
#9 – The Joy Formidable (Saturday, May 4th, 4:30pm)
When this Wales trio hits the stage it is all about loud, fast and powerful pop infused rock music. Their albums are loaded with catchy melodies, fuzzy guitars and Ritzy Bryan’s haunting vocals. When they hit the stage you will wonder how in the hell three people can generate that much noise. Their live shows are raw and high octane and will send the crowd into a frenzy as the band rolls through tunes off their new record Wolf’s Law. Make sure you see their set, and be glad it is outside so your hearing will remain in tack, well most of it.
#8 – Murder By Death (Sunday, May 5th, 3:00pm)
Murder By Death (MBD) has always done their own thing. Brooding music is what they do and they do it well. Falling somewhere between Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, MBD compliments the dark rhythms with the addition of cellos, mandolins and accordions giving the music a Southern infusion. Their latest record Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon may be the best of their collection and Sunday afternoon the music from the album will be on display.
#7 – Frontier Ruckus (Sunday, May 5th, 1:15pm)
Listening to Frontier Ruckus is an experience that will make your ears extremely happy. Chock full of banjos, acoustic guitars and musical saw their tunes fits nicely alongside the music of bands like Dr. Dog and Blitzen Trapper while delivering an indie feel similar to the Mountain Goats. The music in the songs is merely a vehicle to deliver the lyrics that flow much like poetry than songs. While their albums are nice and mellow, when they hit the stage they take on another life all together. These dudes may be the surprise of the festival.
#6 – Death On Two Wheels (Saturday, May 4th, 12:30pm)
Two words best describe this Atlanta band’s live shows, KICKS ASS. When they take the stage the initial sounds burst from the speakers reach into your brain and proceed to smack the crap out of you until the final buzzing of the amps leaves your ears. Their music is anchored by vicious fuzz filled guitar licks and thunderous rhythms as they successfully deliver classic garage rock sounds infused with a bit of blues and a hard rock edge. You do not want to miss these guys they will blow your faces off.
#5 – Roadkill Ghost Choir (Saturday, May 4th, 1:45)
The best way to describe Roadkill Ghost Choir (RGC) is that they are a musical chameleon. You never know what you will get with each song, but you can be assured it will be good. They are not afraid to step outside of the box and when you listen to their music it shows. Pulling sounds from all over the musical spectrum RGC has created a sound that is similar to My Morning Jacket, Futurebirds and Tedo Stone. With a folksy American backbone they build from there creating music worth listening to. When they take the stage Saturday you can bet you will be treated to one of the best sets of the weekend.
#4 – J Roddy Walston & The Business (Saturday, May 4th, 7:30pm)
J. Roddy Walston plays music like a man possessed. His music revolves around his piano playing which borders on being out of control. Fast and loud is the way Walston plays it and when you hear him live it will blow you away. Nestled somewhere amongst the piano is his vocals which range from low moans to screeching wails, but his music would not work any other way. When his band finishes up their set, which will include tunes from their multiple albums, not only will Walston be exhausted, but so will you. Pace yourself Saturday so you still have something left in the tank for this set.
#3 – Lucero (Saturday, May 4th, 5:30pm)
I probably didn’t need to mention Lucero on this list because a lot of folks know about these guys. If you dig music loaded with Southern soul then you need to be front and center for their set list. The Tennessee band has made a career writing songs that focus on life in the South, and their lyrics paint vivid mental pictures about what they are singing about. Lucero’s music syncs the soul with some bad ass rock and when you see them live the rock shines through. If you have never seen them live you need to, and be sure to meander over to the stage before they start because they bring a devout fan base.
#2 – Hanni El Khatib (Saturday, May 4th, 3:30pm)
Raw blues rock is the order of business with Hanni El Khatib. Employing an approach similar to The Black Keys, Jon Spencer and Dex Romweber, Khatib’s music is based on classic blues then souped-up a bit with rapid fire percussion and fuzzy guitars. His vocal wailings carry the music to the next level creating a primal feel to his sound. Seeing him live is an experience in itself due to the explosive nature of the band. The music will be loud and fast and should get you jacked for the rest of the afternoon of music.
#1 – Shovels & Rope (Sunday, May 5th, 2:00pm)
This is the one band you need to make time to see. Shovels & Rope (S&R) are a duo that creates a big sound using guitars and drums as the husband and wife trade places throughout the set. Cary Ann Hearst’s vocals dominate their music and when husband Michael Trent joins in (which is a lot) the harmonies are incredible. Their music is about the south as the duo sings about small town life. When they play live something special happens and you can’t believe the sound that come from just the two of them. They leave everything on the stage and when the music stops they will be spent and have given you everything they had. When I say do not miss S&R, I mean it. You will hate yourself if you do.
There you have it folks, ten performers that are must sees this weekend at Shaky Knees. While the festival schedule is full of top notch music and I am sure you probably have your own list of who you are going to see, I am just saying that the bands on this list may be the highlights of the weekend.