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Dean Morgan
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 Lists
05.18.16 Shaky Knees Fest 201603.28.16 Atlanta Live Q1 2016
03.03.16 Sputnik's Favorite NIN Songs02.03.16 Rec me queer musicians/bands
10.19.12 Converge / Torche / Kvelertak Show09.30.12 A Eulogy For Hydra Head
08.06.12 Lollapalooza Day 308.05.12 Lollapalooza Day 2: Lollapocalypse
08.03.12 Lollapalooza Day 112.21.11 Flavorwire: Stereotyping You By Your Fa
09.09.11 Writer's Block04.14.11 The Sunn 0))) Awards: 10 Awesome Bands

Shaky Knees Fest 2016

Last weekend I attended Shaky Knees, an annual 3-day music festival in Atlanta, GA. Here's who I saw and what I thought.
1Beach Slang
The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel


Beach Slang's set was among the less refined I saw at the festival, but in a way, that lack of polish is what makes their performance work. They might be unseasoned, but they're heartfelt, passionate, and carefree enough to own their sloppiness, and it made them charming and fun. 7.5/10
2Foxing
Dealer


In contrast to Beach Slang, Foxing's performance was as tight as anything I saw at the festival, while still retaining its deep emotional impact. The real star of the performance was vocalist Conor Murphy, whose harrowed delivery and mesmerizing stage presence elevated the bittersweet tone to wonderfully affecting heights. 8.5/10
3July Talk
July Talk


Goddamn, this was a fun performance. Peter Dreimanis (vocals, guitar) and Leah Fay (vocals) complement their he-said-she-said songs about shitty relationships with a playfully antagonistic dynamic that gives them an incredible stage presence. Leah flipped Peter the bird. Peter bit down on Leah's microphone as she sang. Leah walked on the steel barricade separating the stage from the audience. Peter kneeled down in front of Leah as she held her microphone in front of her crotch. In short, these guys were a joy to listen to and an absolute thrill to watch. 10/10
4Against Me!
Transgender Dysphoria Blues


This set struck the perfect balance of fun and anger. On the former end, the band played their catchiest songs with enough energy to keep the whole crowd bouncing and singing along. On the latter end, Laura Jane Grace prefaced "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" with a fantastic little speech about North Carolina HB2, which included a statement that until trans people are guaranteed their rights, she'll be "pissing and shitting outside like a fucking dog." She is the absolute punkest of all punks. 9/10
5Savages
Adore Life


In terms of their music, Savages are a bit hit-and-miss. Their bare-bones post-punk sound can be lots of fun at times and a tad awkward at others. But one thing that stayed consistent throughout Savages' set was vocalist Jehnny Beth's undeniable stage presence. She has an infectious energy to her performance that makes her skilled at getting the crowd excited, and for that reason alone, Savages are definitely worth checking out. 7.5/10
6Ghost (SWE)
Meliora


The costumes and stuff are kinda cool to see live, but if you're not a huge fan of the music itself, the novelty wears off real quick, and I always thought these guys were just okay. Plus, Papa didn't even wear his full getup. I don't blame him for ditching the pope hat and cape in the Atlanta heat, but it was still underwhelming. 6/10
7The Kills
Midnight Boom


Alison Mosshart is pure sex. That’s all. 9.5/10
8Hop Along
Painted Shut


Frances Quinlan's trademark raspy voice is just as full of pain and passion live as it is on the album, if not more so, and it was a pretty remarkable experience to hear her pour her heart out on stage. The band wasn't particularly interesting to watch, but the music itself was great enough to make this performance worthwhile. 7.5/10
9The Dear Hunter
Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise


Given the grandiosity of The Dear Hunter's music, I was curious as to how it would translate in a live setting. To my pleasant surprise, with just six members they delivered a live performance that was every bit as epic as their albums. Every single member provided both tight musicianship and infectious intensity, making this one of the most impressive sets of the festival. 9/10
10Twin Limb
Anything Is Possible and Nothing Makes Sense


Between Lacey Guthrie's gorgeous alto and an unconventional yet strangely cohesive approach to instrumentation (which prominently features accordion), Twin Limb have crafted a hauntingly beautiful sound. They didn't put on much of a show, but understandably so, as any stage antics they could have added may very well have detracted from the music. This is definitely a group to look out for. 7.5/10
11Silversun Pickups
Better Nature


Anyone who was worried that Silversun Pickups were going too soft after Better Nature need only attend one of their live shows to have their faith restored. The band delivered a fantastically fun and upbeat performance, and even the one or two softer songs were played with enough beauty and passion to make me remember why I like this band so much and optimistic about their future. 8.5/10
12Foals
What Went Down


It was during this set--specifically during "A Knife in the Ocean"--that I realized I'm a sucker for good stage lights. Don't get me wrong, the music itself was great. Foals gave a tight performance packed with enthusiasm and vigor, and that would have been true without all the intricate colored lights. But the way the lights changed and moved just helped drive everything home, from the punch of the guitar slides on the aforementioned "A Knife in the Ocean" to the explosive climaxes of "Inhaler". I know I'm harping on the lights, but in a broader sense, the point I'm making is that every element of Foals' set fit together well enough to create an impressively solid performance. 8/10
13Ought
Sun Coming Down


Much like Savages, Ought can be sort of hit-and-miss. The stripped-down Talking Heads throwbacks sometimes work effectively and sometimes fall a bit flat. But the band still performs their songs with enough flair and finesse to make them worth seeing. 7/10
14Adia Victoria
Beyond the Bloodhounds


Various critics and journalists have alternately categorized Nashville-based singer-songwriter Adia Victoria's style as blues and country (both of which are appropriate), but during her festival set, I was surprised to note hints of metal creeping into her performance. From the dirge-like tempo of "Howlin' Shame", to the biting chords of "Head Rot", to the droning guitars that backed her cover of a Robert Johnson song, to the sheer volume of everything she performed, Adia Victoria has somehow managed to make blues and country even bleaker--a perfect fit for her somber songs about the rough life of a poor black woman living in the South. This was one of the most affecting acts of the festival, and possibly one of the most promising new musicians of the moment. 8.5/10
15Frightened Rabbit
Painting of a Panic Attack


Maybe it was the drunk girls next to me who were screaming way too much and clapping on the wrong beat, but this was a bit of an underwhelming set. The performance of "The Modern Leper" in particular seemed too slow, with not as effective a build as on the studio recording. But when I say that this set was underwhelming, I mean that only slightly, and relative to how good of a band Frightened Rabbit is. There were still plenty of songs that I enjoyed, and as long as you have better luck in crowd neighbors than me, you'll almost certainly have a good time at one of their shows. 7.5/10
16Nothing
Tired of Tomorrow


Well this was a disappointment. Speaking as someone who really dug both of Nothing's albums, what makes their music work is the shoegaze-y atmosphere it conjures. And boy was that in short supply during this set, making the music just sound like passable alt rock. Nothing was also probably the least professional act I saw, which is saying something considering I saw Beach Slang. But whereas Beach Slang owned their sloppiness and it made them endearing, Nothing just came across like they had no idea what they were doing and had no business being at a festival this size. It wasn't an awful performance, just an extremely mediocre one, and I got about two songs in before deciding that claiming a decent spot for the Deftones set was a better use of my time. 4.5/10
17Deftones
Diamond Eyes


I've heard that Deftones' live sets can be hit-or-miss, but they were on-fucking-point at this one: tight musicianship, aggressive and passionate delivery, and infectiously energetic stage presence. This was everything I could have hoped for from a Deftones set. 9.5/10
18At the Drive-In
Relationship of Command


There wasn't any doubt in my mind that At the Drive-In would be the best set of the weekend, and holy shit, did they deliver. Their performance was pure controlled chaos, from the breakneck interplay between the instruments that never missed a beat, to Cedric's possessed flailing across every square inch of the stage, to the crowd screaming along to every word. Even after a decade and a half of being apart, At the Drive-In can still blow every other band out of the water. 10/10
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