BY MELISSA RUGGIERI and YVONNE ZUSEL
Our advice for the final day of Shaky Knees Music Festival: Seek shade.
On Saturday, the blistering sun threatened to melt the tens of thousands of festivalgoers who flocked to the five stages dotting the sprawling space of Central Park to hear acts ranging from The Black Lips to Flogging Molly to Social Distortion to Wilco.
Hey, for those who complained about the rain the first two years of Shaky Knees , consider it Mother Nature’s revenge.
As the sun began its descent behind Social Distortion on the main Peachtree stage in late afternoon, some fans used the red dirt baseball field to toss a Frisbee, while others were content to lie on the sidelines in coveted tree shade, buried in their phones or napping as music thundered around them.
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Kudos to the Shaky Knees organizers for keeping a million moving parts running fluidly, especially the super-prompt set times.
Shaky Knees wraps tonight after a scheduled set from Tame Impala; other acts slated to play include Ryan Adams, Minus the Bear, Old Crow Medicine Show, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Spiritualized, Best Coast and Matthew E. White.
Single day tickets are still available. Here’s some info to help you plan your outing – and here’s a recap of some of the performances.
Mariachi El Bronx: Even if the set of spinoff mariachi project of the punk band The Bronx (who played Shaky Knees later in the day) had been lackluster, they still would have gotten a million points for wearing full on charro outfits in 85-degree heat with barely a bead of sweat on their collective brow. As it happens, though, the group delivered a spot-on performance of their quirky mariachi-punk tunes, including the plaintive "Cell Mates" and the jaunty "Sleepwalking," on which Rebecca Schlappich displayed some pretty impressive violin pickin' skills. The 1:15 p.m. crowd was a little sparse, but lead singer Matt Caughthran did his best to rile up the small but enthusiastic group that was there, encouraging them to clap along and playfully suggesting that Shaky Knees organizers add Hoobastank to the lineup next year. The group ended their set with a fast, fun version of "Norteno Lights," proving that an accordion and some horns can add a lift to any party.
The Black Lips: The boys from Atlanta might have grown up a bit since their urinating on stage days, but that doesn't mean their music has lost its mischievous edge. Frontman Jared Swilley, who related that the band used to sneak into Music Midtown back in the day by hopping the fence, led the group through a raucous set that included the sludgy "Boys In the Wood" from their latest album "Underneath the Rainbow," the '50s-tinged "Dirty Hands" and the bouncy "Katrina." It was a fast-paced, face-melting set that Atlanta natives could be proud of.
Flogging Molly: If not for Interpol needing to start their set on the neighboring Piedmont stage, Flogging Molly frontman Dave King might still be up there, cracking jokes, furiously attacking his guitar and having a grand time. “Say hello to breakfast,” he cracked, hoisting a Guinness. The seven-piece Celtic punk rockers have always been more Clash than Chieftains and furious songs such as “The Likes of You Again” and “Selfish Man” bulldozed any questions about their stamina. King, who took a moment to praise The Tabernacle as a worthy venue, traversed the stage in his plaid button-down and khakis – the coolest guy in the vicinity by far. From the accordion-driven “Revolution” to the more traditional Irish sway-er “Whistles the Wind” to the foot-stomping “Tobacco” and “Drunken Lullabies,” Flogging Molly thoroughly engaged the crowd. King and Co. departed with the pensive “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” but let their fans truly invigorated.
Built to Spill: When it comes to singers, there's no mistaking Doug Martsch's voice for anyone else's, and it served the indie rock stalwarts well during a set that fell during the hottest part of an already scorching day. The group performed a nice mix of songs from their eight albums, including their 2015 release "Untethered Moon," their first album in six years. The group shined in particular on their older tunes -- Martsch, a gifted guitar player, led his ever-changing lineup of musicians through the poetic "Randy Described Eternity," the tuneful "The Plan" and the catchy "Carry the Zero." It was a set worth sweating through.
Interpol: The New York indie rockers tapped into their New Wave leanings early with the set-opening “Say Hello to the Angels” and, soon afterward, “Narc.” Their myriad influences are much more distinguishable live, as “Take You on a Cruise” immediately conjured images of David Bowie, while shades of U2 highlighted “Everything is Wrong.” Guitarist Daniel Kessler, in a black suit and skinny tie, unleashed a crafty solo during “PDA,” while singer Paul Banks moved the band’s set along with minimal chatter and low-key professionalism.
Neutral Milk Hotel: The Neutral Milk Hotel set on Saturday was a bittersweet one -- fans watching likely knew that it would likely be one of the last times they'd see the group together after an announcement last year that their 2015 tour would be their last "for the foreseeable future." Good thing they made this one count. Jeff Mangum led his group -- part of the Elephant 6 collective that emerged out of Athens in the '90s -- through a series of favorites, including many from their highly-lauded 1998 release, "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea." The soaring title tune in particular was lovely, complete with a haunting slide guitar accompaniment, and Mangum performed a nice solo rendition of "Two-Headed Boy." Mangum's nasal voice still sounded as distinctive and steady as ever, and the parade of instruments, from the aforementioned slide guitar to the accordion -- gave the songs some added heft. It was a set that should satisfy fans until the next time (fingers crossed) the group comes around.
Social Distortion: Social D leader Mike Ness, meanwhile, talked almost as much as he sang. The band is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its self-titled album and paid tribute with a string of meaty songs including “So Far Away,” “Story of My Life,” “Sick Boys,” “It Coulda Been Me” and the instant sing-along “Ball and Chain.” “Some of us survive, some of us don’t,” Ness said matter-of-factly, sounding rough and raspy – just as he should. Ness also talked a bit about the expectations of a punk rock band and how he wrote several love songs even though purists didn’t consider that “punk.” No one would confuse “A Place in My Heart” with a Celine Dion ballad, but the song’s bracing simplicity more than conveyed the point.
Wilco: Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy got some press last year after taking umbrage with the phrase "dad rock," which a 2007 Pitchfork review attached to their then-new album, "Sky Blue Sky." He called the phrase "unflattering and hurtful," and didn't like the implications that came with it. Well, if "dad rock" is as blisteringly delivered as it was during the group's Saturday night set, we'll take it. The group, celebrating two decades together, kicked things off with a gloriously noisy version of "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," and proceeded to rock hard on "Art of Almost" and a bluesy, blustery "I'm the Man Who Loves You." Even the band's quieter, introspective songs like "Via Chicago" and "Jesus Etc.," seemed to have an extra kick to them. Whether Tweedy is subconsciously -- or consciously -- trying to dispel the "dad rock" moniker, one thing's for sure -- he still knows how to plain old rock.
Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds: The mercurial mastermind behind some of Britpop’s most revered works recently released his second studio album with his post-Oasis crew. He unleashed an early dose during his set with the opening “Do the Damage,” a B-side for the lead single, “In the Heat of the Moment.” Some questioned Gallagher’s inclusion of horns on this new release – and live he had a three-piece brass section, including David B. Freeman from Yacht Rock Revue – but the horns don’t change his sound, they amplify it and add richness. Sounding hearty and clear, his guitar playing razor sharp, Gallagher and the four-piece High-Flying Birds unleashed taut versions of the soulful, pulsing “Everybody’s on the Run” and the mellifluous “Fade Away.” Always the charmer, Gallagher, in a denim jacket and jeans, noted he would play something from the new album because, “That’s why you’re here, right? That’s why I’m f****** here.” The fuzzy-guitar garage rocker “Lock All the Doors” and soaring “You Know We Can’t Go Back” provided festivalgoers with a sampling of the new “Chasing Yesterday” album, while a revival of the melodically brilliant “Champagne Supernova” provided a dose of nostalgia.
The Avett Brothers: When it comes to The Avett Brothers, many diehard fans see a clear delineation -- pre-2009, and September of that year, when the group released "I And Love And You," the first of the band's albums produced by Rick Rubin and one which was seen as a poppy, mainstream departure from their previous work. Saturday night's headlining set almost certainly left fans of both Avett Brothers satisfied. The group out of North Carolina -- actual brothers Seth and Scott Avett, as well as Bob Crawford on double bass and Joe Kwon on cello -- delivered songs from "I And Love," including a fun-as-hell version of "Kick Drum Heart" and the soaring "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise," as well as many from their pre-2009 days, including the singsongy "Salina" from 2007's "Emotionalism" and "Distraction #74," on which the brothers Avett impressively share singing duties, switching off every few words. The group clearly enjoys playing with each other, and it's that joy that truly elevates their sets. Over the course of two hours, they spread that ebullience to their fans, and likely created some new ones in the process.