We were Still buzzing from the excitement of Day 1, at what we just can’t help but continue calling “Spooky Knees”, as we made our way down to Central Park on what was a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon. As in previous years, the opening day almost feels like a dress rehearsal as the crowds are a bit thinner and everyone is working out the timing and pathways between stages, food vendors, bars, and most importantly, porta pottys. By Day 2, with the work week closed out, the crowds start to pick up and the weekend kicks into high gear.
Central Park was already noticeably busier as we made our way to the Criminal Records stage to start the day with the alternative bubblegum-rock of all-women indie trio Kid Sistr. While the band’s songs seemed to have a profound creative identity born from the interests and realities of young women, they remained for the most part shiny and lighthearted. The interplay between the trio created an infectious party vibe that was received with delighted approval from mostly young and enthusiastic crowd. While they played songs from their recently released debut EP, one of the highlights of their set was introduced as a song from a Thor movie, that saw the band chug through a spirited and fun loose cover of “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin.
After the ear candy of Kid Sistr, it was a short walk across to the Ponce de Leon stage to catch the music festival debut of heavily buzzed Brooklyn-based teenage quintet Geese. The band didn’t disappoint as they whipped up the crowd with an energetic set of avant-garde post-punk culled primarily from their forthcoming album. With the blood pumping, it was back across to the Criminal Records stage to catch Georgia’s own singer/songwriter, Liza Anne. Liza and her band, found the sweet spot right between Kid Sistr and Geese. She mixed power pop with full-blown art rock. Their delivery was fierce and bordered on anthemic.
Our start to the day zig-zagging back and forth between the smaller stages was the ideal slow burn to launch us into a Saturday afternoon of solid highlights:
• Larkin Poe. Playing at the top of the hill on the Piedmont Stage, sisters, and Georgia natives, Rebecca and Megan Lovell delivered one of our favorite sets of the day. Their first-class musicianship was clearly evident during their combustible performance of gritty roots-rock.
• The Hives. The Piedmont Stage was on a roll and delivered the next two highlights of our festival day. First up were Swedish garage-rock punk band, The Hives. Having caught them at their late night show the previous evening (or was it early this morning?), we knew exactly what to expect, and the Hives delivered! Frontman “Howlin’” Pelle Almqvist and guitarist Nicholaus Arson dialed up their showmanship to 11 on the bigger festival stage. Early in the set, Pelle even climbed off the stage to get down and mingle with the fans as he had at Center Stage on Friday. The band were as solid and ferocious as ever, and they certainly turned more than a few heads with their energetic performance.
• Alice Cooper. Continuing the Shaky Knees tradition of booking at least one artist that has reached a nostalgic or iconic status, this year saw a rare festival appearance by none other than 73-year-old Alice Cooper! With the stage decorated like a gothic nightmare castle, Cooper and his band, including the uber talented female rock guitarist Nita Strauss, easily won over the crowd with his theatrical brand of hard rock. Much like the Rolling Stones, Cooper shows no signs of slowing down.
• Run The Jewels. Closing out Saturday night fell to the hip-hop super-duo of El-P and Killer Mike, better known as Run The Jewels. The rappers paced back and forth across the stage weaving savage verses, delivering ambitious social-justice themes over a bass-heavy soundscape. They were the world conquerors who ended Saturday night masterfully.