Shaky Knees Festival Preview May 9-11

sk_logo1 We here at Jasper had our eye on Shaky Knees Festival last year when it launched in downtown Atlanta—for rock fans, it was a nice mix of marquee indie talent mixed with a host of accessible names all the way down the bill, and for a decent sticker price ($99 for a two-day ticket). By all reports, last year’s effort, despite colder-than-expected temperatures and a rainy Saturday, was largely a success, a well-planned event that sold out by Sunday afternoon. That, it seems, was enough to embolden the organizers to up the ante.

This year the festival expands to three days and moves to a new location—Atlantic Station—to  accommodate a much larger crowd and a serious line-up that is anchored by such beloved (and commercially successful) indie rock bands as Modest Mouse, The National, and Alabama Shakes.

Those names alone made the advance 3-day pass (at $150) quite the steal and, although those have now sold out, 1-day passes are still available for $85 a pop, and each day features some high-quality acts that, along with the day's headliner, make for a great day or two of music-seeing for any serious fan. We'd like to highlight a few of the supporting acts each day who we think make this year's festival such a draw.

Friday – Headliner: The National

Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires @ 4:00pm

Bradley is a James Brown impersonator-turned-retro soul revival leader who dropped his first album at the ripe age of 62. Since then, he and his Menahan Street Band collaborators have wowed audiences with their vintage sound and Bradley’s emotionally charged performances which take the theatrics of Brown and fuse them with something even more powerful and harrowing. The man has to be seen to be believed, but curious fans should check out the documentary on the singer available on Netflix, Soul of America.

Spoon @ 8:00pm

These well know rock and roll soul minimalists could probably have swapped headlining spots with The National without much of a fuss, given that their tight-pocket grooves and elegantly simple pop hooks are practically direct-engineered to get a large festival crowd grooving and swaying.

Other Friday Acts: American Aquarium, Mutual Benefit, Blood Red Shoes, Sleeper Agent, Wild Belle, The Whigs, White Denim, Bright Light Social Hour, Band of Skulls, Man Man, Dropkick Murphys, Foals, The Airborne Toxic Event, Graveyard, Cage the Elephant, & Gaslight Anthem

Saturday – Headliner: Modest Mouse

Hayes Carll @ 2:15pm

One of several under-the-radar alt-country talents on the festival’s line-up, Carll writes in the finest traditions of the Texas troubadour, crafting clever honky-tonk rambles and wizened and heartbroken ballads with aplomb. With a near-literary eye for detail in his character sketches and elegantly wrought metaphors, Carll is just the kind of singer/songwriter to check out early into a festival day.

The Replacements @ 8:00pm

I’m actually more excited about this recently-reunited band of college rock ruffians than any other act at the festival. Although only frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson remain of the original members, this is still a chance to hear an avalanche of classic tunes that formed much of the early canon of indie rock.

Other Saturday Acts: Wake Owl, Fly Golden Eagle, Packway Handle Band, Apache Relay, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Districts, Tokyo Police Club, Lone Huron, The Lone Below, Phox, Dawes, Portugal the Man, Cold War Kids, Houndmouth, Conor Oberst, and Jenny Lewis

Sunday – Headliner: Alabama Shakes

Jason Isbell @ 3:45pm

This former Drive-by Trucker doesn’t need much to sell him to Southern rock fans—he’s penned sprawling guitar brawl classics like “Decoration Day” and has the kind of soulful delivery that allows him to effortlessly cover both Van Morrison and The Band, so his ability to deliver a first-rate live show is never in doubt. With the release of last year’s Southeastern LP, though, Isbell has also firmly established himself as a songwriter of what could be timeless quality, with songs like “Elephant,” “Live Oak,” and “Cover Me Up” sounding damn near like classics that will still be in circulation among songwriters generations from now.

Violent Femmes @7:45pm

Although far more of a cult band than even The Replacements, Violent Femmes were also a hugely influential band that also boasts their fair share of counter-canon classics, none more so than the over-played (but still awesome) “Blister in the Sun.” Their set is worth it to hear thousands of fans shout these zany lyrics together in unison. It will likely be the kind of pure musical moment that you can only get in a festival setting.

Other Sunday Acts: Benjamin Booker, Paperbird, San Fermin, Langhorne Slim & the Law, Mason Jennings, Deer Tick, The Weeks, Blitzen Trapper, Jackie Greene, Iron & Wine, Trampled by Turtles, The Hold Steady, Local Natives, Kopecky Family Band, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

-K. Petersen

In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Record Review - Can't Kids' Ennui Go

"On what is likely one of the more anticipated releases in her local scene in 2014, Can’t Kids leader Adam Cullum seems intent on delivering something a bit different than the group’s well-received debut Brushes Touches Tongues. While the group hasn’t exactly abandoned their self-described brand of “Southern Gothic cheerleader metal” that seemed so startlingly refreshing in 2012, there does seem to a deliberate sense of stepping back, leaving the songs a bit more open and making the lyrics a bit more pensive than that raucous effort. On a number of efforts here, including the album’s bookends “Oh Momma” and “Oh Adam” and the album’ centerpiece, the hauntingly bereft “You Don’t Plan,” the songs mostly features a pretty cello line from Amy Cuthbertson and Cullum’s quiet fingerpicking and plaintive vocals at the expense of the two members who bring much of the dynamism to the band, bassist Henry Thomas and drummer/second vocalist Jessica Oliver, who tend to only appear on the back end of these tunes. In keeping with that feel, Oliver, who used to be almost a co-leader in the group, seems to have taken more of a backseat in these sessions, sounding more like a traditional harmony singer than ever before.  Only two songs here—the rollicking pop-punk number “More Soda” and the Modest Mouse-y “Late for Lunch”—see her and the band up to their old tricks. While some fans are likely to be put off by the left turn, Ennui Go actually makes for a better listen than Brushes. The two raucous rockers break-up some of the more singer/songwriter material nicely, and the band is mostly finding a sweet spot between the two extremes, finding a buoyant pop bounce on tunes like “The Calm” and “The Twist” that feels different, but every bit as singular, as their early material. And Cullum has always been a brilliant songwriter, alternatively astutely honest and self-reflective and caustic and cackling. He still occasionally shows his love of Isaac Brock a bit too much on his sleeve, but his misanthropy never reaches his hero’s dire levels—instead, Cullum always seems to write, even when he is engaging in casual wordplay or humor, with a keen desire to figure out, however bleakly, the world around him.

With a short running time and a quieter, humbler approach, it would be too easily to think this is a sophomore slump. I would argue, instead, that not only is it a stronger and more cohesive effort, it is also exactly the kind of record Can’t Kids needed to make to grow and mature as a band." – Kyle Petersen

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