Greta Van Fleet - The Fox Atlanta

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Admittedly to save myself some time, I'll default to Atlanta's music writer, Melissa Ruggieri, for a spot on review of this show (and some good humor besides). 

Greta Van Fleet - jamming in the low light

However derivative they are of Led Zep, this band is really good at it, and their first official CD, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, demonstrates lessons well-learned and applied in a respectful way, but still suiting their own skills.  Josh Kiszka has "the voice" - or particularly, the scream, a la Robert Plant.  His brother, Jake, has developed some really great riffs that rival some of Jimmy Page's, helpfully avoiding the latter's penchant for start/stop phrasings.  Drummer Danny Wagner owns his kit, and pretty well announced the return of rock and roll with a drum solo in their opener, "Safari Song."

Greta Van Fleet - and me settling for my iPhone camera  Bah!

But I suspect the special talent is actually Sam Kiszka, whose bass cleverly drives the songs and whose keyboard playing adds a very helpful element to their sound - sure, just like John Paul Jones did for Led Zep.  Only, as the brothers are 22 years old or so, to my ears, Sam is contributing well beyond his years while Jake is learning to solo and Josh continues to role play, though with the vocal gift that deservedly puts the band on the map. 

I'm looking for more to come from this group, as they demonstrated at the Fox that they've already come a good distance since last year's show at the Shaky Knees festival.  That said, the sound quality was much better at the festival, as both Josh's vocals and the instruments never sorted themselves out aurally, a real disappointment. 

"Highway Tune" - during the scream

Set list:

Safari Song
Black Smoke Rising
Flower Power
You're the One
Age of Man
Black Flag Exposition
Watching Over
Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)

When the Curtain Falls
Highway Tune

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Shaky Knees 2019 - Day Three

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Day three.  Tired legs, and no wind couches allowed still.  The hawkers outside the gate are back to selling bottled water and tickets, and the security line finds, again, more people than I would expect for the time of day.  Shaky Knees is growing in popularity, and despite the rainy forecasts before the weekend, Day Three only has the potential for quick, scattered rains. 

First on our agenda today was The Murlocs, an off-shoot of the Australian band, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Here, the KGLW keyboardist plays guitar and sings lead, as well as a bit of harmonica.  He arrived dressed to impress, but the southern heat persuaded to let go of the jacket and sweat still more.  He provided a very energetic performance and wasn't shy about the expectations of leading a band.  I'd liken them to a number of 60's bands, with lessons learned from simple guitar melodies, surfy reverb, and harmonica.  "Space Cadet" for example. 

The Murlocs

The Murlocs
I almost forgot about Calpurnia.  I'm a fan of Netflix' Stranger Things, and Finn Wolfhard plays the lead role in the show.  And has a band on the side.   I'm not sure if the crowd was more excited about the music or the actor, but I'll hope it was the actor.  The band has a way to go.  So so melodies, vocals that don't quite agree between members, and a wasted talent on guitar.  Ayla Tesler-Mabe didn't get to play lead much, and when she did, you hardly noticed because it was a short solo, and she did nothing to draw attention to herself.  She can flat out play, but her abilities aren't really necessary for the music the band is putting out currently.  Still, it was a fun set, and Wolfhard is a personable frontman.


Deerhunter is an Atlanta band that puts out well received albums, but their music never really caught with me.  I checked out their music before the festival, but I liked it a lot better live.  That happens sometimes, and it's one of the joys for going to festivals.  I was disappointed they didn't include "Element" from their latest release, by far my favorite song.  "Desire Lines" was one of a number of strong songs.  Good set.

A friend opted for FOALS at the same time slot.  A good band, but, hey, I made a choice. 


Maggie Rogers is an up and comer with a large crowd for an artist with only one major release.  But it certainly ?found its market.  I wasn't interested, but stopped for a very brief listen when traveling from a food truck to the Peachtree stage to wait for the closer, Tame Impala... and discovered that a our favorite food truck, The Pickle, was hidden away from the other food trucks... after three days of sticking with Chipotle's truck, which had the best $ to heft ratio.  Sigh.

Maggie Rogers
My son and I could have gotten much closer to the stage, but not real close, and that would require a lot of standing.  So, we camped on an incline and waited it out, while watching one guy in particular who could make every frisbee throw precisely, including skipping it off the ground.  And there were several ladies doing interpretive dance with their hula hoops, which may as well be a workout regimen.

Otherwise, we suspected and confirmed that the group around us lit up the weed when the show began.  They were fairly fun to watch, and humorous in that one of the big screens reminded audiences that Shaky Knees was a non-smoking event.  Don't know what the organizers were smoking, but the crowd certainly did.  If they meant no smoking, then the border crossing guards obviously weren't looking, like they were for my air couch.  Yep, still aggravated about that.  In any case, for a State that hasn't yet approved recreational marijuana, I don't know at this point they even need to bother.  

Tame Impala, I would imagine, is a great band for a high as they're described as a psychedelic rock band.  They play a good mix of snappy percussion, fuzzy bass, a generally positive vibe, and a little bit of other influences of dance and r&b.  In my world of music, I'd call them a cross between The Flaming Lips and The War on Drugs (irony not intended).

The staging minimized the band's playing, instead opting for dry ice on stage and a heavy display of lasers.  I completely missed the robot with laser eyes depicted on the back screen until I checked my photos.

Overall, this was a very good show and set an appropriate mood for ending the festival.  Not too heavy, not too light, with a good bit of variety throughout.

I'll be back.

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Shaky Knees 2019 - Day Two

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Day Two threatened storms, and while the weather raged briefly in the morning, that was in the far north suburbs.  It turned out to be a perfect day until Cage the Elephant, the closer.

First up this day was Mark Lanegan, who spoke little and croaked a lot.  A former lead vocalist for Queens of the Stone Age, his voice has recently transitioned from a smoky baritone to a listenable rasp to a distress call to the ENT doctor.  Still, the music was good, even if the presentation wasn't as compelling as hoped. 

Mark Lanegan

Next up was Jade Bird, featured in 2018 by NPR and already a SXSW veteran.  On record, her country/rock songs sound "polished" in the sense that the audio quality is good, but the nuances of her voice aren't on full display.  So, what do find from a 21 year old who looks 16 and sings about heartache?  She puts on a great show, with much more expression and vitality than one might expect.  And who knew jump suits were popular?  Or even manufactured any longer?  "Ruins" and "I Get No Joy" were great examples of songs that raised the roof when she put her vocals to it.  Recorded, not quite flat, but not lively either.

Jade Bird
Chon was next, a "math rock" band according to my son, but I'd just give them the prog rock label.  Although they have a few songs with vocals, we were thankfully spared that and treated to some very fine guitar work amid complicated song structures, odd time signatures and such that musicians would appreciate.  I just liked their style - one of the surprising highlights for the weekend.

Apparently for this particular stage, mosh pits (a gentle variety as evidenced by the number of girls participating) and crowd surfing were common.  After helping a few people along to the security guy at the front of the stage, I tired of the distraction and moved to the rear.  There ended up being well over 20 guys and gals taking a ride just during this show.  Why not, when you're young and indestructible?

Off to a bigger stage, The Struts were playing.  They live up to their name, essentially anthem singers in the vein of Def Leppard with a hint of Queen.  Leading off with killer songs "Primadonna Like Me" and "Body Talks," they set the tempo for the remainder of their unabashed rock and roll set.  They were the best party band I heard during the weekend.

Japanese Breakfast, essentially Michelle Zauner with a backing band, was next.  A different shade of other bands I've heard before, I'd call it "delicate pop stylings,"  Lyrics were introspective, regretful or otherwise just another instrument in the mix, Zauner delivered the songs with enthusiasm and plenty of smiles in front of an audience that seemed very familiar with her songs.  Zauner returned the appreciation by calling the show her "best ever in Atlanta."

Japanese Breakfast

Interpol arrived with a buzz from their recent shows.  I wasn't familiar with them, but they delivered a confident set of indie rock songs that sounded vaguely European despite their NYC roots.  It's in the steadiness of the beat, the vocals, and the keyboards.  If The Struts, an English band, covered the songs, they might sound like American arena rock.  It's not hard to re-imagine "If you Really Love Nothing" with a chutzpah delivery. 

The radar showed that storms were threatening, so Interpol started early, as did Gary Clark, Jr., an artist that I'd been really looking forward to - good vibe, good guitar solos.  Maybe the storm threw a wrench into their plans.  "Bright Lights," a song with a catchy guitar riff, started the set.  Only, it seemed to drag forever.  And pacing was the problem.  "What About Us," "Low Down Rolling Stone," and "I Walk Alone" all shared a plodding rhythm, and Clark seemed content to let his guitarist take most of the lead when the solos came around.  He played maybe 35 mins, then returned for "Come Together" when someone told him maybe his set was a bit too rushed.  It was a very disappointing set that probably didn't win any fans or left others, like me, losing a measure of interest.

Then the masses headed for the Peachtree stage, where Cage the Elephant would headline the evening amid a steady, though light, rain.  It started with pyrotechnics and lead singer Matt Shultz's best Mick Jagger impressions, dancing, twisting and gyrating across the stage.  After a costume change, he morphed into Gollum/Smeagle with a near nude look and odd crouching postures.  

Rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, Matt's older brother, was no less extroverted.  Exhorting the crowd with frequent fist pumps and shouting along with the lyrics aside his brother, it's not hard to imagine him as the rowdiest English soccer fan in a pub working the fans into a frenzy.  He was a man of the people, several times going into the crowd and body surfing. All in all, this was another band I wasn't very familiar with, but a set of 21 songs made it clear I've heard quite a lot - "Come a Little Closer," "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," and "Cigarette Dayreams" among them.  The performance, great performance and variety of song styles left no question as to why they were a headliner for the event.

Cage the Elephant
And it didn't rain on the way back to the car.

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Shaky Knees 2019 - Day One

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This was my second Shaky Knees festival, held in Central Park in Atlanta's historic "Old Fourth Ward" community. A week prior, the forecast for the festival included dismal prospects of rain: 50% Friday, 100% Saturday and 100% Sunday.  However, the weather service is on a roll of late of completely missing on forecasts.  Despite occasional threatening clouds, the weekend was clear except for Saturday evening during the final set.

As usual, we were greeted by the Atlanta's ever-present scalpers, buying or selling wristbands, as well as those selling bottles of water (not allowed within) and T-shirts (unofficial ones).  Security, I'll say was fairly easy and organized, but I didn't read this year's edition of the rules.  Having spied "Wind pouches" - essentially thick plastic bags that you swoosh around to fill with air to make a chair or couch - I brought one this year, the perfect thing for hanging back when the music matters less and the back and feet deserve a break.  Well, not permitted.  What the heck?  There is literally no place to sit within the park except on the ground.  I can manage that, and did, but c'mon.

The side benefit was that I had downloaded the Lime app in preparation of a future need, and therefore was prepared to try out Atlanta's burgeoning "sharing economy" means of transportation, namely an electric scooter.  They're super convenient for the final gap of a commute when using public transit or for downtown residents.  Or, they're a public menace for drivers and pedestrians.  It depends on who you ask, and my opinion is that they're some of both.  Around the festival area, the scooters could be considered "littered" along the sidewalks.

Afflicted cities are studying related injury rates, and it turns out that hospital data is suggesting that about 30% of the injuries they receive are by first time riders.  That doesn't include the injuries that don't make it to hospitals, so... it's just a statistic, right?  No worries, though! Helmets are required per the City of Atlanta and the Lime app.  Only, eh, no one walks around with a helmet, and no scooter company has yet to figure out how to provide them without going broke.

The scooter was intuitive to operate with accelerator on the right handle and a brake on the left, with a sturdy frame.  Overall, I saved about 30 minutes to return my contraband to the car.  Interestingly, Atlanta apparently passed a regulation that they're allowed only on the streets.  That's a death sentence given Atlanta's street conditions and its frustrated drivers, so, like everyone else, I stuck to the sidewalks, which weren't too bumpy but featured low lying limbs and, of course, pedestrians to dodge.  My son later told me that "Coming through!" is the common notice to people in your way, and I suppose that's the way the younger generation literally rolls.  In any case, for $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute afterwards, it was a bargain, allowing me to return to the venue in time to catch the second half of Curtis Harding's set.  Music.  The reason I came.

Curtis Harding
 Harding is a neo-soul artist, carrying the requisite voice, good tunes and music sensibilities.  Highlights included "Till the End" and "Need Your Love." And then it's off to IDLES, a British punk band. A quick look pretty much tells you, well, me anyway, it's not my scene, but others in my group enjoyed it, including the obligatory mosh pit.


Speaking of the crew... A good time was had by all.  That's my son sporting my 1990 McCartney tour shirt.

Then it was on to Peach Pit, a serviceable band, with a share of fans who knew some of their lyrics. 

Peach Pit
Back to the Piedmont stage, one of the two large ones, to see Sharon Van Etten.  Entirely serviceable, with a mix of styles.  Almost every artist at this festival was an unknown to me, and I put in the effort to sample music from all of them, then deciding in a playoff format which of the two bands performing at a given time that I'd rather see.  Through the afternoon, I didn't really care and floated around.

Sharon Van Etten
Next up was Liz Phair, an artist I'd heard of but hadn't actually listened to.  Her fairly straightforward set was okay, but the conversation from our resident musicologist was helpful in understanding she came to fame rephrasing or responding to the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street" in the view point of a woman.  And she's 52.

Liz Phair
Next up was a brief visit to hear Dashboard Confessional, a favorite of the daughter of someone in my group (#DaddyFail).  We politely listened to a couple of songs from Rock's answer to Nickelback, and departed posthaste. 

This also gave us the opportunity to get a little closer for Incubus.  This is one of those bands you've probably heard on the radio but didn't care enough to figure out who they were because they sound a lot like a number of bands.  "Drive" is their big hit, which they didn't play on this occasion.   Decent, good performance, but I was distracted by the bright red shoes in the VIP side balcony.  Why?  It's  right in the sweet spot for post Red Hot Chili Peppers rock music, good for a beat and fairly mindless. 

Next up was Tears for Fears, a favorite in my college days.  My son and I only stayed around into the third song, because of all the weekends, one of my favorite prog rock bands chose this night to play just down the road, and we had to get there in time, resulting in cutting this show short and missing Beck completely.  They started off with "Everyone wants to rule the world," which was solid, then "Secret World," a snoozer, then the Beatles-ish but overly long "Sowing the Seeds of Love."  They played "Creep" by Radiohead which I would have liked to have heard, but they only played three tracks off  their classic Songs from the Big Chair album.  So, I can live with having missed the rest of the set.

Tears for Fears

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Riverside - Live at City Winery Atlanta

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What band would make me not only give up seeing  the Day One closers at the Shakey Knees, including Beck and Tears for Fears?  Riverside.  Yes, a price paid for a three day festival, and I'm paying even more to step outside of the same to see this band.  No regrets. 

The band seems to dislike the "prog rock" label given to them, but it's an apt description.  Riverside is from Poland, but they write and sing their songs in English.  They're not unknown in the U.S. but are woefully under appreciated given the venues they play when they tour.  In Europe, they sell out amphitheaters.   This was the second time I've seen them, the first being in a ridiculously tiny bar in 2013 - maybe a hundred people attending.  Maybe, and that following a show at a beach bar in Isle of Palms, SC.  ridiculous.  But, it was my good fortune, really, to see them so close up and inexpensively, as well as one of my favorites of all time.

This time, they played at City Winery, a venue that I've been to before, aggravated generally that 1) they get some really good artists that would otherwise be seen in better venues and 2) the table arrangements are awkward and make it difficult for many to turn their seats to see the stage, comfortably anyway. For this show, I chose seats further back, which turned out to be perfect... for the venue.

A rock band playing at a "City Winery" might also consider it less than ideal, and leader/singer/bassist Mariusz Duda got right to the point - they're accustomed to performing for standing audiences and didn't bring an "acoustic set" with them.  Good humor for an awkward venue, because he's right.  Still, even though the band was younger than almost all of their fans, sitting down wasn't such a bad proposition, even for an electric show like this.

The band played seven of the nine songs off their latest release, Wasteland.  The album has a different tone, in part because Duda sings in a lower key, and in part because it is absent their founding lead guitarist who passed suddenly in 2016.  As its title implies, post-apocalyptic imagery abounds but accompanied by a search for understanding.  It necessarily has a heavier tone than has been heard in the last couple of CDs, which I loved, but I like bands that change, and this outing certainly wasn't a misstep.

With the weight of all that, the performance certainly demonstrated a band that is moving on.  Their keyboardist, Michal Lapaj, maintains a sense of enthusiasm and joy, often checking out the audience.  But what has changed is that Duda might have simply said the titles of songs and "thanks," but instead kept the banter flowing and drew the audience participation to sing a long with various vocal "sounds" that follow the melodies.

Duda essentially writes the lyrics, the bass lines, the melodies, and now the lead guitar parts.  I'm sure the other band members make these more than they were - witness Duda's other solo albums - but watching Duda in concert is to appreciate the driving power, imagination, and melodic possibilities of the bass guitar in a rock band.

The band played about two hours, touching on some of their earlier albums more than expected, but they were clearly energized to play the songs they had chosen.  A great night, shared with my son, for which I was oddly commended by another attendee fwho failed to pass on his musical heritage successfully to his kids. Ha!

For the untried, here you are.

Set List:

Acid Rain - Wasteland
Vale of Tears - Wasteland
Reality Dream 1 - Out of Myself
Lament - Wasteland
Saturate Me (intro) - Love, Fear and the Time Machine
Out of Myself - Out of Myself
Second Life Syndrome (first part) - Second Life Syndrome
Left Out - Anno Domini
Guardian Angel - Wasteland
Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened by a Hat?) - Love, Fear and the Time Machine
The Struggle for Survival - Wasteland
Egoist Hedonist (first two parts) - Anno Domini
Wasteland - Wasteland

02 Panic Room - Rapid Eye Movement
River Down Below - Wasteland

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