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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