Heading into the Shaky Knees 2022 weekend, Sunday was the day that the rains were predicted to come, but the Festival Gods just weren’t having it. With each passing moment, the chance of rain continued to drop. Normally Sunday tends to be a bit of a slow burner as everyone eases into the day. We decided to ignore that precedent and started the day at the Criminal Records stage to catch a sonic jumpstart from San Francisco post-punk band, Spiritual Cramp. From the moment frontman Michael Bingham leapt at the microphone and the band launched into their first song, we knew we made the right choice. Spiritual Cramp were wildly exhilarating for an early Sunday afternoon, channeling a host of punk and post-punk influences like The Modern Lovers, Dead Boys, and the Talking Heads, and distilling them into a raw, aggressive, yet ultimately catchy and rhythmic sound. The infectious energy of Spiritual Cramp was the ideal way to get the blood flowing and shake out any fatigue. We were ready to finish the weekend strong and luckily the lineup provided plenty of opportunities for highlights. Some of the sets that stood out were…
Destroyer. The musical moniker and primary creative outlet of Dan Bejar, Destroyer was the musical antithesis of Spiritual Cramp, while providing just as much entertainment. While spiritual Cramp was a shockwave of bravado and energy, Destroyer was a mix of more delicate arrangements and reigned-in proficiency. Their set channeled a varied and eclectic sonic palate, including rock, jazz, and baroque pop. The focal point of the performance was the unassuming yet magnetic Dan Bejar, who often seemed to retreat within himself, slightly disconnecting from the audience. He would periodically sing with his eyes closed or his gaze focused on the horizon, yet remain a mesmerizing presence that demanded attention.
Dirty Honey. Rising from the of Los Angeles club scene, hard rocking quartet, Dirty Honey, hit the Piedmont stage and delivered a healthy dose of grimy hard rock and sexy blues-tinged rock’n’roll. Taking their performance to the next level, it was easy to see how Dirty Honey have managed to share stages with rock royalty, opening for The Who, Guns ’N Roses, and the Black Crowes.
Band Of Horses. Frontman Ben Bridwell took the stage, endearing himself to the locals in the crowd by showing off Georgia bulldogs and Atlanta Braves art on the back of his hands. Despite some early sound issues the band mixed fan favorite songs like a rollicking version of “NW Apt,” with songs from their latest release, Things Are Great. The bright sunshine that bathed the stage, mimicked the mood of the wildly cheering crowd.
Death Cab For Cutie. The quintessential emo and alternative rock outfit, led by frontman Ben Gibbard started their performance with an extended and ferocious run through “I Will Possess Your Heart,” and never looked back. Gibbard shifted between guitar and piano as the band played through a setlist pulled from across their catalog. The songs struck an emotional balance between passion, heartache, and elation, that kept the crowd captivated throughout.
Khruangbin. Along with Nine Inch Nails, funky psychedelic trio Khruangbin played one of our favorite sets of the weekend. The band played a bass-heavy mix of dub, rock, funk, and psychedelia with a splash of hip-hop and classic soul. Their genre-bending sound was both unique and familiar at the same time. Bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer, and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson locked into a groove and took the crowd with them. Khruangbin have been generating a solid buzz with fans and critics alike, and it was easy to see why.
The final set of the weekend fell to headliners, My Morning Jacket. Opening with “One Big Holiday,” frontman Jim James led the Kentucky-based rockers through a two-hour set of extended jams that mixed rock and americana with a psychedelic flair. The performance occasionally meandered into jam-band territory, culminating in the sonic journey of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2.”
And just like that, the cathartic weekend of communal music was over. Shaky Knees Founder Tim Sweetwood and the festival organizers continue to deliver a top-notch experience, even in the shadow of a pandemic. With the ten-year anniversary of Shaky Knees on the horizon, we can wait to see what kind of rabbit they pull out of the hat…