When I found out Lucero would be playing at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta I immediately tried to figure out a way to get there. They were also playing the Beale Street Festival in Memphis the next day, so don’t think I didn’t try to figure out if I could do both. (I couldn’t.) doderama graciously offered her guest room to me and I was on my way to Atlanta. violaleeblue suggested some bands I might check out at the festival, so I was ready with my list and my rain poncho because they were predicting rain. But I didn’t bring my wellies and I only had one pair of sneakers, which was a big mistake because this is what we walked into on Saturday.
We arrived at 3:30pm on Saturday. doderama and I had already missed Robert Ellis and Vintage Trouble because it was raining so hard that we wanted to minimize our time on the field. When we entered Historic Fourth Ward Park, the North Avenue Stage was to our left. Hanni El Khatib was on stage playing aggressive rockabilly and blues/rock. Next to us was a sandwich sign with a mother and child hiding out underneath trying to stay a little dry. We walked over to the Masquerade Music Park Stage and listened to Moon Taxi. I remember bouncing up and down but I don’t know if it was because I didn’t want my feet to get stuck in the mud or because my feet were cold from walking in puddles and deep muck. When they were done we walked over to the main stage, Old Fourth Ward Park Stage, for The Joy Formidable, a hard-rocking alternative band.
All three bands were very good but the ground seemed to be melting away under our feet. The boards over the big puddles or straw over the mud were sinking down very quickly and I was afraid I was going to sink in the mud like quicksand. The crowd was pretty large for such a rainy day; it skewed young – mostly college age. At one point the sun came out and the crowd spontaneously cheered and scared it away so we only saw the sun for a brief second.
The site had a few food trucks and few more bars. The beer and wine were flowing but barely anyone was eating. The problem was that any food would have melted immediately in your hand. There was one brave soul with a corndog and another with sweet potato fries but I don’t know how long it was before they disintegrated.
Finally it was time for Lucero at the Masquerade Stage. We watched their soundcheck and when they couldn’t get sound for the horns’ monitors, Ben Nichols (vocals/guitar) told the sound people to just let them listen to the side fills. We had a show to get on.
Despite the dampness the boys played a great show. Ben seemed to get a little sentimental. Maybe because it was the next to last date of that leg of the tour or maybe it was the whiskey. Maybe both. He was loving the horns. Jim Spake (sax) and Scott Thompson (trumpet) are forever first rate. He put his head back to take in Rick Steff’s (keyboards/accordion) playing. He smiled widely when Brian Venable (lead guitar) took a solo. The entire band seems more mature but they are just as much fun. Ben’s voice sounds better than ever. No matter how many times I see Roy Berry lightly tap those drums it is a mystery how he gets that big sound. And I loved when Ben pulled out the acoustic (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it) to do some of the newer songs. Listening to “Other Side of Lonesome” I realized how much it reminded me of Dylan’s “You’re Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go” and I was wondering if that was Ben’s intention or just a happy accident.
The people around us were enjoying the show but were also drinking and talking a lot. I don’t know why they feel the need to shout above the band when they can easily move to a location where they can hear each better.
Before we had gone to the concert on Saturday, Mr. TFH took us all out to lunch to the Tilted Kilt. It’s a step above Hooters but I still found it difficult to look at the waitress in her short tartan skirt and tartan bra. It made me a little uncomfortable for her. But it is a family place and popular, so they’re doing something right. I did enjoy time with all of doderama’s family – Mr. TFH and I talked about CBGB’s and NYC in the late 70s/early 80s.
doderama and I left right after Lucero. We were soaked to the bone. I could hear Gary Clark, Jr. playing on the big stage as we were leaving and he sounded fantastic. We missed J Roddy and Band of Horses unfortunately but I’ve seen them before. At doderama’s house we had some takeout and sat on the sofa wrapped in blankets.
The rain finally stopped on Sunday at about 11am. My sneakers had been on the porch all night so they were still wet and muddy. I put on a pair of socks, wrapped my feet in saran wrap, and then put on another pair of socks. It actually worked pretty well in keeping my feet warm and dry.
On the way to the festival we stopped off for some Tex-Mex, forgetting that it was Cinco de Mayo. Luckily it was early enough that we were able to get a table and enjoy some good food and I had a big margarita. And again I surprised the waitstaff because I wanted it straight up instead of on the rocks or frozen. Is NYC the only place where people drink margaritas straight up?
What a difference a day makes.
There were a lot more little kids and older folks. It wasn’t very crowded when we got there about 2pm but the park started filling up very quickly. The duo Shovels & Rope were an absolute delight. The two of them managed to fill the big stage by trading off instruments. The woman’s voice reminded me of Charity Rose Thielen (The Head and The Heart) although not as earnest. They covered The Beatles’ “One After 99” and it made me even happier. They are definitely a band I’d like to check out in a good venue.
I left doderama at the big stage while I walked over the Masquerade stage to check out Murder By Death. I’ve seen them live before so I knew what I was getting. I do like the lead singer’s deep voice – unfortunately he was struggling sometimes. They have a Kickstarter album of requested covers. From that album they did a great slightly reworked version of INXS’ “Tear Us Apart.” There’s a cellist in this band and they put her to very good use.
Walking back over to the main stage I stopped off at King of Pops and got a sea salt chocolate ice cream pop for myself and strawberry lemonade for doderama. Delta Spirit live up to their name in every way. Except they don’t. They sound like a Southern hard rock band and when they were talking their accents were so thick we couldn’t understand a word they said. But their bio says they’re from Southern California and live in Brooklyn. Two drummers, long hair head-banging, and accents that put you thick in the delta. But listening to them online and reading about them it seems like there are two totally different bands. I liked the band I saw at Shaky Knees. And I like the band I hear online. But they don’t seem like the same band. The first thing we heard when walking over to the stage was the drumming – the band online sounds more indie than hard rock. But they are the same band just with an apparent split-personality.
Kurt Vile and the Violaters. Everyone keeps writing great things about Vile. People I respect like him. I keep trying, but I don’t get it. The Masquerade stage was super-crowded. I stood off to the side because I wanted to be able to make a fast getaway plus being in the middle of all those people scares me. Vile has this mass of hair and he bends his head down so that all you see is hair. The first song seemed to consist solely of the word, “yeah.” However, I did get the appeal more than I did the last time I saw him live. But I’m still not a convert.
The best part about where I was standing is that I could watch the guitar tech for Drive By Truckers.
The sun was still out but there were grey clouds in the distance and doderama and I decided to leave. The wet grass and mud made it impossible to sit anywhere and both of us were tired of standing.
After we got back to her house it hailed for a very short time but we knew we’d made the right choice. Then we went out for some great burgers.
The next day doderama stopped off at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack on the way to the airport. I ordered a half-slab of ribs, baked beans, and cole slaw. Both the ribs and slaw were delicious. I used the bread to sop up some of the extra bbq sauce. But the baked beans were a revelation. These were the best I’ve ever tasted. I saved that ramekin of beans for last and was so disappointed when the ramekin was empty. They give free refills of lemonade. I would have traded that for free refills of beans. I never knew I could love beans so much.
So even though I didn’t get see a lot of bands that weekend, I still got my money’s worth. This was Shaky Knees’ first year and I think they great job with the lineup. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make down there again, but it’s a music festival I would recommend for anyone.
By Carene Lydia Lopez