BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
The 2018 edition of Shaky Knees Music Festival wrapped under one of the most beautiful days this spring.
Crowds of people strolled among the four stages erected throughout Central Park on a cloudless, breezy afternoon (the only downside? That wind equated to a LOT of sandy dirt wafting around) to check out the third and final day lineup that included Alvvays, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Alice Merton, Lord Huron, Tenacious D and headliners, The National.
Here is a look at some of the Sunday performances.
All Time Low: The guys in the Baltimore-formed quartet barely look old enough to have rocked stages for almost 15 years, but their easy command of an audience reflected their longevity.
Singer Alex Gaskarth, with his magenta hair and a grin that could only lead to trouble, bopped around in his skinny jeans as the band sliced through awesomely catch power pop songs such as “Lost in Stereo” and “Dark Side of Your Room.”
Several girls in the young-leaning crowd climbed atop shoulders – much to the dismay of security – to get a closer look at Gaskarth, guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson.
Gaskarth toned down the jangle-pop briefly for the slightly darker “Life of the Party” (“A song about mistakes I’ve made,” he said). But the band’s big choruses and catchy melodies should be enough for them to graduate to a bigger stage next time around.
Lord Huron: The six-piece band fronted by Ben Schneider kicked off their set with a pair of dreamy, hazy soundscapes – “Ancient Names, Pt. 1” and “Meet Me in the Woods.”
Schneider, who wore a fedora except when hitting a moment of rocking out, stayed true to his promise that he wouldn’t talk much (“They don’t give you much time up here,” he explained) and instead led the band through the propulsive “Never Ever” and the indie-rock-meets-Pink-Floyd “Back from the Edge.”
The added vocals from touring keyboardist Anne Williamson on “The Balancer’s Eye,” from Lord Huron’s new album, “Vide Noir,” offered a pleasant balance to Schneider.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: Boogying onstage to the opening “Shoe Boot,” the gruff-voiced Rateliff was obviously transported by his band’s deep, soulful grooves and barely had to work to get the crowd to join him.
With a cadre of bandmates onstage, including a three-piece horn section and the compelling facial expressions of guitarist Luke Mossman, Rateliff worked up a sweat as he sang, played guitar and moved to keyboards for “A Little Honey,” one of several new tracks played from the band’s 2018 release, “Tearing at the Seams.”
Rateliff hails from Colorado, but offers up an enticing mélange of southern-fried soul.
Vance Joy: Despite his 2013 folk-pop hit, “Riptide,” the handsome Australian was one of the more curious main stage acts. After all, this is a guy who earned a high-profile slot opening for Taylor Swift, which made him seem a little out of place among the rougher-edged indie set.
But with his acoustic guitar and a backing band including a trumpeter, Joy infused his breezy songs with texture. His pretty voice veered off key on “Mess is Mine” and “Wasted Time,” but the girls screaming, “I love you, Vance!!” likely did not care.
Joy showcased his songwriting prowess with a couple of songs performed sans band, including “Call If You Need Me.”
Tenacious D: As Joy was running down to the “Riptide” on the Peachtree Street stage, across a bank of dusty hills a packed crowd at the Piedmont Stage started chanting “D! D! D! D! D!”
They wanted, of course, that crafty duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass, aka Tenacious D.
Slamming through “Kielbasa” and “Kickapoo,” Black and Gass traded bared teeth, crossed guitar necks and unleashed a rollicking set that was part pop-metal, part goofy comedy.
Black also broke some news during their set: The follow-up to their 2006 film, “The Pick of Destiny,” will be out in October.
“I don’t know where you’ll be able to see it, but we have decided that it’s happening and it’s coming out,” he said.
He and Gass riffed on Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” while a couple of band members tended to busted strings before returning to the meaty riff-rock of “The Metal” and “Dio.”
The National: The last time the Ohio quintet played Atlanta was for the 2014 iteration of Shaky Knees, so it seemed fitting that they would close out the three-day festival.
Singer Matt Berninger restlessly paced the stage as he put his distinctive vocals behind “Nobody Else Will Be There” and “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” which found him emoting in a voice wracked with pain.
The stage was bathed in shadowy hues of blue and purple as guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner bookended Berninger with intricately winding solos during “Walk it Back,” while melancholy piano coated “Guilty Party.”
That song came from the band’s current album, the Grammy-winning “Sleep Well Beast,” which, as their seventh studio album since 2001 has solidified their standing as indie rock royalty.