The second day of the Shaky Knees Music Festival followed the pattern of previous years, with festival attendees flowing through the gates into Central Park earlier and in larger numbers than on opening day. While festival goers managed to dodge the rough weather that was predicted for opening day, as Saturday rolled around, the threat of rain and storms was still hanging over the area, but it certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm as fans made their way to the early afternoon performances.
We started the day at the Peachtree stage with Australian singer-songwriter, Julia Jacklin. Having released her captivating sophomore album Crushing earlier in the year, we were eager to see how the emotional and introspective songs would translate when delivered from a big stage to an eager festival crowd. Any concerns that her songs might not resonate were quickly washed aside as Jacklin’s vulnerable lyrics were delivered with confidence. Her voice exuded a delicate power that quickly mesmerized the early afternoon fans. It was the ideal way to ease into what was shaping up to be a sunny afternoon.
From the emotional introspection of Julia Jacklin, we ambled over to the Ponce Stage for what would amount to the sonic equivalent of jumping into an ice-cold swimming pool. The shock to the system was delivered by Canadian indie rockers Cleopatrick. The duo of Ian Fraser and Luke Gruntz got the adrenaline pumping with a wildly energetic set of heavy but hooky churning rock slathered with blues grooves.
With the blood pumping, it was a short walk over to the Criminal Records stage to take in a different kind of intensity, this time provided by Natalie Prass. As Natalie took to the smaller tree lined stage, the weather made good on its promise and the clouds briefly opened up and doused the crowd with a light but fleeting shower. Natalie was prepared and came out sporting a pink rain poncho as she played through a jubilant set that pulled a sizable chunk from her latest album, The Future And The Past, As well as some fan favorites from her self titled debut, including a soaring version of “Bird Of Prey,” that was a definite highlight. Natalie might not have hit with the force of Cleopatrick, but her set was every bit as powerful. It was a joyous celebration that definitely ranked at the top of the weekend.
Still smiling and with a spring in the step, we dove fully into the solid Saturday lineup that kept the highlights piling up. Some of the memorable sets included:
• The indie rock hybrid project Bad Books, featuring singer-songwriter Kevin Devine and Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra, fulfilled their potential by playing an engaging set of dynamic songs laced with passion and power. Their performance was filled with a balance of self-deprecation and knowing swagger that easily won over the crowd. The chemistry between band members was undeniable, as was the appeal of their finely crafted songs.
• Jim James, whose band My Morning Jacket, inspired the naming of the Shaky Knees Music Festival, played a highly-anticipated solo set that fused passionate singing with some inspired and fiery guitar work. James proved that whether fronting MMJ or venturing out on his own , he has the ability to grab an audience and keep them engaged with finely crafted songs that routinely generate smiles.
• In what would turn out to be one of our favorite sets of the weekend, Philadelphia’s Japanese Breakfast positively owned the Ponce stage. The solo project of Michelle Zauner, Japanese Breakfast came out and immediately set a celebratory mood. Zauner and her band were locked-in and all smiles and bravado as they played through a varied sonic palette while delivering a buoyant live sound that was layered on a foundation of heartfelt soul. It was a top-notch performance that left the audience cheering wildly and chanting for more.
The stormy weather continued to hold off until early evening, when the threat of impending storms threw the festival a curveball that caused the organizers to shift and condense a few set times. Interpol hit the Peachtree stage early, and Gary Clark Jr. was also bumped up, setting the stage for an early and ultimately rain-soaked performance from Saturday’s headliners Cage The Elephant. Luckily the thunder and lighting held off, but the clouds opened up, bathing fans in a steady rain shower as Cage the Elephant took the stage for their highly anticipated closing set. Rather than dampen the mood, the rain seemed to enhance the fiercely over the top live performance for which Cage have become famous. Frontman Matt Shultz channeled his inner Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop as he strutted around the stage whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The band matched his intensity delivering the pounding anthemic sonic force that electrified the fans who reveled in the experience. It was a gratifying end to day 2 and sent the crowd into the night drenched but happy.
Day 2 at Shaky Knees Music Festival 2019
Photos © Dan Kulpa // Clashdan Photography