Cage the Elephant, The Struts, Jim James offered engaging sets

The second day of the Shaky Knees Music Festival rolled along until early evening, when impending storms caused a sudden shift in set times and length.

It happens.

But despite the abbreviated performance by Interpol and the rain-splashed sets from Gary Clark Jr. and headliner Cage the Elephant, the tens of thousands of fans who trudged through dust-turned-to-squish at Central Park barely seemed bothered by the weather.

Following an opening day that boasted Beck, Tears for Fears, Incubus, the Black Lips, Idles and dozens more, the Saturday edition of Shaky Knees offered indie rock fans a lineup that spotlighted The Struts, Jim James, Japanese Breakfast, Fidlar, Pedro the Lion, Soccer Mommy and numerous other acts spread among four stages.

On Sunday, Shaky Knees will wrap with headliners Tame Impala, as well as performances from Maggie Rogers, Foals, Grouplove, Tyler Childers and 16 more artists.

YOUR GUIDE | Shaky Knees 2019: lineup, tickets, transportation and more information

Day 1 Photos | Shaky Knees Music Festival 2019

But enough about rain, here’s a recap of some of the Saturday performances:

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Jim James

Red heart-shaped sunglasses and all, Jim James brought even more heat during the day.

James is the lead singer for Louisville, Kentucky, rock outfit My Morning Jacket, which has as deep a connection to the festival as you can get. Shaky Knees gets its name from MMJ’s song “Steam Engine,” which appears on its 2003 album “It’s Still Moves.”

Your skin looks good in moonlight

And god damn, those shaky knees

The fact that my heart's beating

Is all the proof you need

He did solo stuff such as “Over and Over” along with “Just A Fool.”

- B.B.

The Struts

The British quartet is a frequent presence in Atlanta, and how fortunate for us.

Led by captivating frontman Luke Spiller, The Struts rocketed through familiar stompers “Prima Donna Like Me” and “Dirty Sexy Money” while also tossing in their equally winning new song, “In Love with a Camera,” from their second album, “Young and Dangerous.”

Spiller, with silver glitter smudged under his eyes like a glam football player, usually garners the spotlight because it’s usually impossible to look elsewhere. But guitarist Adam Slack and bassist Jed Elliott provide plenty of visual excitement as well, while drummer Gethin Davies anchors the band’s intoxicating Queen-met-Def-Leppard-and-married-The-Darkness sound.

The Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury comparisons with Spiller are inevitable, but the truth is, he’s just a phenomenally charismatic stage presence as well as a top rock yowler.

The glorious key change in “One Night Only” and standout harmonies during “Put Your Money on Me” provided musical highlights. Spiller, meanwhile, high-stepped, jumping-jacked and karate kicked his way through close to an hour of anthemic rock perfection.

- M.R.


Pedro The Lion

If you hadn’t known that Pedro The Lion was from Seattle, Washington, you would have when lead singer David Bazan started talking about trees.

“They’ve seen a lot of things,” Bazan said, looking up.

The healthy crowd appreciated the near-total shade coverage, something that was an impossibility at Shaky Knees past in Centennial Olympic Park.

“We’re in an ongoing exchange with these trees,” Bazan added.

The crowd was also in an exchange with the band, especially when Pedro The Lion gave them "Powerful Taboo," which appears on their album "Phoenix" that dropped earlier this year. It was the band's first album in 15 years.

- B.B.


Before the second song of their set, singer Zac Carper gave the call for mosh pit action – and the crowd obliged as Carper thrashed his long mane and bassist Brandon Schwartzel spazzed around the stage as if jolted by electricity.

The Los Angeles-based punk rock quartet kicked off their performance with “Alcohol,” from their current album, “Almost Free,” released in January, and leaned on an early Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe for another newbie, “By Myself” (“A song about drinking by yourself,” is how Carper described it).

Fidlar unleashed a barrage of short, punchy songs that inspired singalongs (“40 oz. on Repeat”) and also turns fans into such a frothing mass that several were toted out of the mosh pit by security.

- M.R.


Japanese Breakfast

Much like an actual Japanese Breakfast, there’s nothing not to like about Michelle Zauner.

Want proof? Try to dislike any of this separately or in combination: Zauner looping her lo-fi vocals, dream-sequence-like keyboard work, a singing drummer with a mullet and a very serious left-handed bassist.

It’s fan-service done well, and the fans must have known that because the ancillary stage was jammed with people to hear jams.

Speaking of, Zauner covered “Lovefool” by the Cardigans, and that’s such a good fit for her voice it should be illegal.

- B.B.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wasn’t the only one confused upon arriving, like it was taught by its mother, 10 minutes early to the Interpol set only to find out the band had actually been playing for 15 minutes.

The impending rain moved everything up and altered set times, which happens, but a push alert from the official Shaky Knees app at 7:24 p.m. to say that Interpol would now start at 7:05 p.m. wasn’t helpful.

The huge electronic signs beside the stages then started indicating what the new schedule would be.

Interpol probably had a really good set because they’ve been doing their thing for more than two decades.

- B.B. 

Gary Clark Jr.

The Texas blues-rock maestro was also a victim of the incoming weather, as his set was moved up 45 minutes and trimmed so headliners Cage the Elephant could then begin their performance earlier.

Rain began to sputter as Clark growled the lyrics to “Bright Lights” and the new tracks “What About Us” and “Low Down Rolling Stone,” from his searing new album, “This Land.”

Clark is an old-school bluesman with a knack for making the classic sound contemporary. And while his voice is capable of reaching down for those shuddering low notes, he also possesses a stunning upper register, which he demonstrated on “Pearl Cadillac.”

- M.R. 

Cage The Elephant

A Southern heart with a British overcoat, that’s Cage The Elephant.

Yes, though formed in Bowling Green, Ky., the band moved to London about a decade ago.

And the band, fronted by Matt Shultz, needed to be comfortable with a dreary English night because it rained basically their entire set.

You know who else hung around London a lot? Mick Jagger. You know who is a lot like Mick Jagger in musical styling, stage presence and literally the way he dresses and scrunches up his face? Matt Shultz.

Despite listing a rain-adjusted start time of 8:25 p.m., the band came on at 8:37 p.m.

They opened with gusto and fire and a new song, “Broken Boy.” The crowd was thrilled.

Brown hair already matted to his forehead, Shultz and the band broke into “Spiderhead,” with guitar work reminiscent of “Suffragette City.”

The band — which has had two Billboard Hot 100 hits in "Shake Me Down" and Borderlands theme song "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" — stayed tight and fun, especially considering the main source of their energy was being rained on.

Toward the end of the set, they played a real feeling-heavy “Cigarette Daydreams,” which, notably, concludes with something that surely spoke to the soggy crowd:

"If you can find a reason, a reason to stay 

Standing in the pouring rain"

Soon after, the band ended at 10:10 p.m.

It may not have been what anyone (other than meteorologists) could have predicted, but Cage The Elephant stayed professional and gave the crowd a great time in the rain.


Here was the scene last year...