This weekend, May 13-15, marks the return of Atlanta’s annual Shaky Knees Festival, now in its fourth year. Amidst a busy summer landscape chock full of more events than ever, Shaky Knees shines as a beacon of well-curated, affordable weekend fun, counting acts like My Morning Jacket, At the Drive-In, Jane’s Addiction, Deftones, The 1975, Florence + The Machine, The Decemberists, Bloc Party, Against Me!, The Kills, The Front Bottoms, Atlas Genius, Beach Slang, and so many more among its 2016 performers. Tickets are still available right here, with both weekend passes and single day options available, and whether you live nearby or you’re looking for a totally drivable regional escape to kick off your festival season with a bang, we’d couldn’t recommend it any more highly. We’re road-tripping down to fest this weekend to bring you coverage, and, leading up to its kickoff, we’ll be bringing you a guide to our top performer picks, broken down by day with a special nod to Nashville artists at the end. We already gave you our 12 Can’t-Miss Friday picks, and, today, we’re keeping things going with our top 12 must-see performers from Shaky Knees’ stellar Saturday bill. Be sure to download the fest’s official app to stay on top of your schedule, and add these artists to your must-see list!
#12: WILD NOTHING
Saturday | Piedmont | 5:15pm
Though he’s joined by a set backing band live, Wild Nothing is, for all intents and purposes, the complete brainchild of singer/multi-instrumentalist Jack Tatum. Tatum went from his dorm room-recorded, surprise breakout debut Gemini in 2010 to his hyped and beloved 2012 followup Nocturne, not only cementing Wild Nothing’s status as a critical force to be reckoned with, but landing on countless year-end lists from high-profile magazines and websites. Wild Nothing isn’t exactly blazing new trails with his shimmering, synthy, ’80s throwback dream pop sound, but his knack for crafting compelling, strong, interesting, and nostalgic compositions certainly puts him in a league above his stylistic peers. After a four year gap, Tatum finally released a third album, Life of Pause, earlier this year, and is sounding more focused and confident and ever with an exciting new batch of songs.
LISTEN | “To Know You”
WATCH | “Paradise” (Official Music Video)
#11: SILVERSUN PICKUPS
Saturday | Piedmont | 7:15pm
Hailing from the hip, artistic, and musically rich Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake, Silversun Pickups formed more than 15 years ago, though they spent their early years honing their sound and crafting the material that would eventually make up their debut EP, Pikul, and critically-acclaimed first full-length, 2006’s Carnavas. Propelled by tacks like “Lazy Eye,” the album broadened the band’s reach and set them up for an even bigger critical and commercial followup, Swoon, in 2009, subsequently earning a Best New Artist Grammy nod, scoring the band placements in immensely popular rhythm games Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and quickly escalating their status to tour with some big-name acts such as Foo Fighters, Against Me!, Manchester Orchestra, and Ok Go. Brandishing a shoegaze-y, indie, dream pop sound, utilizing layers and dynamic control with a clear love for ’90s alternative, the band have only honed and evolved their style with more recent releases Neck of the Woods and last year’s self-released, Jacknife Lee produced Better Nature, and continue to perform as festival staples, their live show honed from many years on the road. Distinct amidst an increasingly homogenized rock landscape, Silversun Pickups are a constantly evolving, fanatic breath and fresh air, and they’re always top-notch in concert!
LISTEN | “Nightlight”
WATCH | “Lazy Eye” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Boulevard | 8:15pm
Formed a decade ago in Oxford, England, Foals have become one of the preeminent live indie acts in the UK, crafting songs not quite like any other artist, and adapting them with an intensity, rawness, and unwavering live energy that has to be witnessed firsthand to fully appreciate. After performing and becoming acquainted through various other projects, the quintet’s founding members, all of whom are still in the band, came together in 2005, releasing their first batch of tracks in 2007, and gaining critical buzz and television placements before the release of their debut, Antidotes. Quickly finding fame in their native UK and abroad, Foals have gone on to tour with a whole host of prominent bands, including friends of the site Cage the Elephant, and have become regulars on the festival circuit, as well as TV and radio fixtures. Combining elements of prog, art rock, dance music, math rock, alternative, and more, their eclectic sound is at once primal and progressive, yet pop accessible and harboring mass appeal. Frontman Yannis Philippakis has a knack for blending personal with layered and high-concept lyricism, and he and his bandmates have only improved over the last ten years and four LPs. Their latest, last year’s What Went Done, is a soaring, sonic gut punch, and adds even more fantastic material to Foals’ live repertoire.
LISTEN | “My Number”
WATCH | “Mountain At My Gates” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Buford Highway | 12:30pm
Scheduled in the opening spot on Shaky Knees’ smallest stage, we can’t help but feel like Polyenso might be the biggest hidden gem on the entire lineup. Hailing from St. Petersburg, Florida, the trio, made up of vocalist/keyboardist Brennan Taulbee, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Alexander Schultz, and percussionist Denny Agosto, captured underground attention and found critical acclaim with their 2013 debut, One Big Particular Loop, merging dreamy, electronic, soulful, and r&b infused experimental rock with more traditional indie pop. Their dense, haunting, and harmony-laden tunes are finding appeal with a broad base of fans, striking a chord with the indie punk/emo crowd thanks to similarities to acts like Hrvrd, A Great Big Pile of Leaves, and Bright Eyes, while also appealing to more mainstream indie rock fans, drawing them comparisons to alt-j, Glass Animals, and even Radiohead. With their recent sophomore album, Pure in the Plastic, Polyenso further explore dense, melodic, and sweeping soundscapes, doubling down on their experimental tendencies, landing as one of the most gorgeous, unique albums of the year so far. Get to the fest early to see these guys, and thank us later.
LISTEN | “Dog Radio”
WATCH | “Not My Real Life” (Official Music Video)
#8: THE VACCINES
Saturday | Boulevard | 6:15pm
Formed in 2010 in West London, The Vaccines erupted onto the scene with more hype than just about any other act in recent memory. Before even releasing a proper single, the band were selling out shows, being heralded by the British press (particularly, famed DJ Zane Lowe), and even managed to perform on Later with Jools Holland, earning them a major label record deal, and eventually leading to the endlessly-hyped release of their 2011 debut, What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? Fortunately, the group lived up to the hype, breaking through internationally and earning spots at countless festivals and on tour with acts like Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even The Rolling Stones. Influenced by a wide range of styles and eras of music (from ’50s rock to ’80s hardcore), The Vaccines have essentially reinvented their sound with each release; their debut, a love letter to classic punk with indie, garage, and post-punk sensibilities; 2012’s Come of Age a poppier, more frenetic, more contemporary indie bent; and last year’s English Graffiti a psychedelic-tinged, garage rock odyssey. Powerful and unpredictable, their live show is dripping with cool, and after bit of a break before their last LP, the band are more energized and focused than ever.
LISTEN | “Teenage Icon”
WATCH | “Dream Lover” (Official Music Video)
#7: THE DECEMBERISTS
Saturday | Ponce de Leon | 7:45pm
Known for their smart, high-concept, story-driven, and musically eclectic style, Portland natives The Decemberists formed in 2000, quickly amassing a cult following after their stellar debut Castaways and Cutouts. Blending folk, indie rock, and baroque pop, and employing unorthodox instruments like accordion, mandolin, and melodica, the band have carved out a niche, writing play-like albums with fictional story arcs, pulling from history, and just generally appealing to the imaginative, bookish, indie crowd. By their 2006 fourth album The Crane Wife, the band had graduated to major label status, and, through subsequent releases, have largely stuck to their foundation while exploring new and interesting conceptual areas. Known for their participatory, polished live show, the group’s generally jovial disposition is something of a juxtaposition to their often melancholy songwriting, bringing forth a balance of emotions and well-rounded, engaging experience. Undoubtedly a modern classic, The Decemberists reemerged last year with a new LP, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, after a short hiatus, and their seasoned festival experience should make for a memorable outing.
LISTEN | “July, July!”
WATCH | “Make You Better” (Official Music Video)
Saturday | Ponce de Leon | 5:45pm
Alabama native Matthew Houck has been honing his craft for over 15 years, first under the name Fillup Shack, initially based in Athens, GA, and then as his current live alias, Phosphorescent. Now residing in Brooklyn, Phosphorescent’s rise to critical acclaim and underground fame has been gradual, but no less well-deserved. Since 2003, he’s released a series of six full-length albums, navigating the realms of indie rock, pop, folk, and alternative. A talented multi-instrumetnliast and self-sufficient producer, Houck’s 2007 Dead Oceans debut Pride would prove to be a turning point for critical recognition, though, inarguably, his most recent effort, 2013’s Muchacho, is what finally helped Phosphorescent break through to a broader audience (if you’ve heard one Phosphorescent song, it’s probably “Song for Zula”). A new album feels overdue, so, in addition to being a stunning and personal live performer, Matthew’s set should also be a priority for the likelihood of hearing new music!
LISTEN | “Song for Zula”
WATCH | “Ride On / Right On” (Official Music Video)
#5: HOP ALONG
Saturday | Piedmont | 1:45pm
Led by frontwoman Frances Quinlan, Philadelphia’s Hop Along (then known as Hop Along, Queen Ansleis) formed just over a decade ago, initially conceived as a freak folk solo project, before morphing into a full band a few years later and settling on the punk, emo, and grunge tinged flavor of alternative rock they play today. Hop Along’s first full-band album, Get Disowned, arrived in 2012 through Saddle Creek, immediately grabbing the attention of the music press, and resonating with a wide range of fans, especially in the punk world. Versatile enough to tour with everyone from Modest Mouse to Dr. Dog to Speedy Ortiz, the group’s latest effort, last year’s Painted Shut, further boosted the band’s presence and landed on numerous year-end lists. Easily their best effort to date, Painted Shut features a more focused, indie rock rooted sound with personal and effective songwriting, and, live, Hop Along transform their great songs and engage every crowd with an energetic and magnetic ease. We expect these guys to keep getting bigger and bigger, but you should absolutely catch them now, while they’re in the midst of their rise.
LISTEN | “Waitress”
WATCH | “Tibetan Pop Stars” (Official Music Video)
#4: THE DEAR HUNTER
Saturday | Boulevard | 4:45pm
Progressive, experimental, indie rock outfit The Dear Hunter (not to be confused with Atlanta’s Deerhunter) began a decade ago as a solo outfit for frontman Casey Crescenzo, who formerly fronted post-hardcore group The Receiving End of Sirens. By 2006, The Dear Hunter began to morph into a full-time, proper band and Crescenzo mapped out a series of six concept albums revolving around a character called “The Dear Hunter,” with Act I, II, and III dropping in 2006, 2007, and 2009, respectively. Finding critical and commercial appeal through their high-concept songwriting and progressive approach, the group diverged from their thematic continuity to release a series of nine EPs named after and centered around the visible color spectrum, which were collected into a full-length called The Color Spectrum in 2011. Diverging even further, The Dear Hunter released their fifth record, Migrant, in 2013, abandoning all concept approach for the first time ever with a self-contained series of songs. However, last year, Crescenzo and co. resumed their initial intent, and released Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise to high praise. Certainly one of the most progressive, eclectic bands in the indie/punk rooted world, The Dear Hunter are a marvel to behold live, and are sounding better than ever a decade in.
LISTEN | “A Night on the Town”
WATCH | “The Church and The Dime” (Official Music Video)
#3: NOAH GUNDERSEN
Saturday | Piedmont | 3:15pm
There are few singer-songwriters who are creating music as intense, heartfelt, and as well-crafted as Seattle indie folk singer Noah Gundersen. He first entered the music scene back in 2008 with his band The Courage, before recording his debut solo EP, Brand New World, that same year. Over the next few years, Gundersen honed his craft and earned buzz within the industry, thanks to his insightful and beautifully-written songs and string of early EPs. Noah’s popularity reached new heights with the release of his first full-length album, Ledges, in 2014. Expertly vocalizing the growing pains of twenty-somethings in today’s world, Gundersen has been rightfully celebrated for his sometimes painfully honest take on the realities of young love, heartbreak, and life itself. With the release of his second album, Carry the Ghost, he has cemented himself as a talented and innovative songwriter, evolving his sound even further by exploring a moodier, more layered approach which gives off a dark and sometimes desperate feeling. Gundersen’s pain and sorrow are portrayed so vividly that it can be sometimes hard to digest at first listen, as he creates an almost therapeutic experience by diving head-first into emotions that most of us tend to avoid. All of these emotions are on full display in his love show, which, though powerful, is amazing to witness.
LISTEN | “Jealous Love”
WATCH | “Ledges” (Official Music Video)
#2: MY MORNING JACKET
Saturday | Peachtree | 9:00pm
No strangers heading up festival lineups, Louisville psychedelic/alternative/roots rockers My Morning Jacket have amassed something of a cult-following in their nearly two-decade-long run. One of the best live bands in the world, their mass appeal stems from their unwillingness to pigeonhole their sound into any one genre, and the band’s latest album, last year’s The Waterfall, shows that they still know how to play to their strengths while exploring new, progressive sounds (they’re already prepping a followup for this year, as well). Formed in 1998 and headed up by singer-songwriter Jim James, My Morning Jacket found breakthrough success with their 2005 fourth album Z, using their newfound platform to further push musical boundaries, incorporating elements of alt country, indie, roots rock, and more into their psychedelic and experimental sound. Prolific outside of MMJ through side projects and guest appearances, the band are one of the scene’s most beloved both by fans and their peers, and their lengthy, ever-evolving live show has become the stuff of legend. We really shouldn’t have to convince you to watch these guys, considering they’re one of the top line headliners, but if somehow you haven’t yet seen My Morning Jacket in action, long-time fan or newcomer, consider their set mandatory.
LISTEN | “Big Decisions”
WATCH | “Holdin on to Black Metal” (Official Music Video)
#1: HUEY LEWIS & THE NEWS
Saturday | Peachtree | 6:45pm
While it’s typical of major festivals to grab “legacy” acts these days, bands not quite big enough to be headliners, yet still classic or nostalgic enough to provide diversity and credibility, Huey Lewis & the News sort of stand alone on the Shaky Knees lineup as the one very successful, very mainstream get that don’t quite have the pull of a full-on top billed act. While we generally revel in these types of booking choices (Bonnaroo’s Tears for Fears or Alice Cooper; Riot Fest’s L7 or Echo & the Bunnymen), we don’t usually rank them #1 on our must-see list. Why are Huey Lewis & the News different? One word: Sports. The pop rockers, still made up of many original members, are set to play their breakout 1983 album, seven times platinum certified, in full, in addition to a set of hits which will surely include “The Power of Love,” “Hip to Be Square,” and other chart-toppers. Whether you were around in Huey’s ’80s heyday, or you found them through American Psycho or Back to the Future (as this millennial writer did), Huey Lewis & the News are inarguably one of the best pop rocks acts of their era, and their set will unironiclly bring something unique and special to the contemporary-skewing Shaky Knees lineup. Cast your pretension aside, and sing along to some unabashedly fun rock and roll.
LISTEN | “The Power of Love”
WATCH | “I Want a New Drug” (Official Music Video)