For its fourth year, May 13th to 15th, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees relocated, this time to Centennial Park. For the second time, the entire festival was held without rain, and actually had hot days. Food truck vendors expanded. Dos Equis returned as a big sponsor, bringing its Feast of the Brave for free in its bar area, featuring exotic foods. Lemmy Kilmister was reincarnated as a ten-foot mascot, holding a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a smoke in the other, while still managing to take pix with anyone who approached him.
The Struts’ singer Luke Spiller appeared in a flashy jacket with gold sequins. Between songs, he worked the audience with call and response. Adam Slack and Jed Elliot were focused and by the time they started “Coulda’ Been Me”, Elliot had broken out in full force and the music was rocking. The Struts were a consummate stage act with impeccable timing and showmanship. The show was powerful, the music bouncy, and the rock energy was contagious.
Festivalgoers like to have fun, and Bloc Party seemed a great band to get the vibe going the first day. Singer Kele Okereke began the band procession from side stage to onstage, and lots of eyes landed on the talented, lovely drummer Louise Bartle as she began playing. As the set progressed, Okereke showed off his soulful side, and Russell Lissack brought some wicked raw guitar chops on “Hunting for Witches”. There was sporadic dancing throughout the audience, which was a sea of smiling faces, all grooving to funky fun band on stage. At some point, people don’t want the set to end, but wow what a fun hour that was when it ended.
Years ago, Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart played a small venue called Lenny’s and the live show was raw and tough. It was to be seen if they would sustain that energy on a larger scale. After a minute, it was clear that The Kills had taken the performance intensity to another level. Hince stepped to center stage, brandishing a cheerful sneer and riveting guitar licks, while Mosshart danced around with a spastic grace. Her moves were energetic and hyperactive but still quite sultry. It’s a rare moment when both hot and cool elements merge onstage, but The Kills left the audience mystified.
With a dramatic opening, The 1975 began with a disco-esque version of “Love Me”. Clearly, the audience loves the band, if numbers tell. Matt Healy engaged the audience on the first song and got some positive feedback from the energized crowd. Healey had a boyish charm on stage; he’s also got good dance moves. He shared the stage well, dancing away while Adam Hann and Ross MacDonald took the spotlight during the instrumental bridges of songs. The group was well rehearsed, and the light show was in perfect sync with the pauses and stops of the music. They had lit divisions that created separate spaces like rooms for the band members in the back.