Day 3 at the Shaky Knees Music Festival is always a bittersweet affair. There is a whole day of music and fun ahead, but it also means that the weekend has rounded third and is heading to home. So, it was with a melancholy anticipation that we trekked into Central Park for the final day of this year’s festivities. After leaving Saturday night drenched and tired, Sunday was making amends by greeting festival goers with mostly sunny skies and temps in the mid-70’s.
Kicking off our Sunday fell to the Nude Party on the Piedmont stage. The wildly fun six-piece garage rock band hailing from the rural mountain town of Boone North Carolina started the afternoon off on the right foot with a set that mixed psychedelic garage rock with surf guitar and a dash of country twang. The crowd was up dancing and cheering from the first song. With tight musicianship and lighthearted delivery, they definitely set the fun-first direction for the day.
With a sunny smile and a new bounce in our step, courtesy of The Nude Party, it was off to the Criminal Records stage for the heavier rock vibes of UK alternative rockers, Demob Happy. The band, playing songs from their 2018 sophomore release “Holy Doom,” mixed a heavy crunchy guitar attack with buoyant melodies. They were loud and bombastic, without being overpowering. Their sound is truly a distillation of their influences. They sound like the sonic lovechild of Queens of the Stone Age and The Beatles. It’s a sound that is both familiar and somehow fresh, and added an edge to the festive Sunday vibe that would carry on throughout the day. Some of the other acts that stood out during Shaky’s homestretch included:
• Back at the Ponce stage, Slothrust impressed the gathered crowd. Led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Leah Wellbaum, Slothrust mixed sonic muscle with some pop hooks and irresistible melodies. The effect was both powerful and ethereal thanks to Wellbaum’s enchanting vocals. This is definitely a band we will be checking out further.
• Lucy Dacus transformed the tree-lined Criminal records stage into an intimate setting. Performing songs from 2018’s sophomore album, Historian, Dacus pleased both her adoring following and endeared herself to curious festival goers who wanted to check out a previous member of Rolling Stone’s “10 new artists you need to hear.” Her seductively charming voice was a solid focus whether supported by a stark acoustic guitar or a fuller gently churning sonic backdrop.
• Continuing to pinball between the Criminal Records and Ponce stages, we caught The Murlocs. Led by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith, The Murlocs provided a dose of fuzzy distorted psychedelic blues that resonated with the enthusiastic crowd.
• Calpurnia, the band fronted by Stranger Things young star Finn Wolfhard, drew a solid crowd mixed with members of his dedicated fanbase and curious onlookers. The young band who, released their debut EP last Summer, proved they were more than a vanity project for Wolfhard. They turned plenty of heads with their mix of spunky indie rock, melodic classic rock, and a bit of psychedelic flavoring. Lead guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe was a surprise standout as she delivered the musical hooks that underpinned Calpurnia’s lighthearted breezy vibe. Calpurnia may be young, but they displayed a burgeoning potential that will serve them well as they look to build on their existing fanbase.
• Hometown heroes, Deerhunter, led by frontman Bradford Cox performed tracks from their new album, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared, to an energized and receptive crowd… And we do mean “crowd,” as the intimate Criminal Records stage was positively jammed with family, friends, and fans. Bradford’s obvious good mood spread quickly through the attendees and the set felt more like a house party with friends then a festival set. It was definitely a highpoint that would be hard to match.
• The lively carefree danceable pop of Maggie Rogers was positively infectious. Rogers stormed the stage wrapped in a flowing blue scarf that provided a colorful vapor trail that accentuated her every move. From the first notes, her set was a full-on celebration. Rogers powerful vocals never wavered as she remained in constant motion, dancing throughout her set. Regardless of the tempo, she seemed to channel the music through her entire body. Her heartfelt performance had the crowd up and dancing with her. Maggie Rogers is a force to be reckoned with and a breakout star whose trajectory is well earned.
• Closing out the night and the entire weekend fell to Tame Impala. The Australian psychedelic rock outfit led by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, were no strangers to Shaky Knees, having been a headliner back in 2015. Already a fan favorite, they have continued to evolve into a must-see live act. Their performance was a multi-faceted sensory experience. Their blissed out psych vibes were augmented by confetti cannons, billowing smoke, swirling multi-colored lights, and a laser show that would make the members of Pink Floyd smile. It was a fitting end to another great Shaky Knees weekend.
The Shaky Knees Music festival has continued to build on its strengths from year to year with small incremental adjustments that serve to enhance the festival experience for attendees. It has stayed true to its roots and remained focused on the music, a fact that has resonated with dedicated fans near and far, and is reflected in increasing ticket sales. In a booming music festival landscape that has birthed monumental failures like the much publicized Fyre Fest, Shaky Knees remains a shining beacon of success. It is well run and impeccably curated. Founder Tim Sweetwood and the festival organizers once again have a smashing success on their hands. There is a reason why Shaky Knees continues to appear at the top of multiple “best of” lists… Long may it continue!
Day 3 at Shaky Knees Music Festival 2019
Photos © Dan Kulpa // Clashdan Photography