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 and Saturday picks, and, today, we’re finishing things up with 12 artists from Shaky Knees’ Sunday lineup that you absolutely need to see! 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: EAGLES OF DEATH METAL
Sunday | Piedmont | 4:15pm
While they infamously became the subject of international attention last year when their show at Le Bataclan in Paris fell victim to one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in history, it’s important to separate California garage rockers the Eagles of Death Metal from that tragic event; their music was great before, and their endurance in the face of misfortune is admirable. Josh Homme and Jesse Huges have been friends since high school, when Homme thwarted a bully’s attempt at picking on Huges. It was Josh Homme himself who gave Jesse the nickname “The Devil,” at the ripe age of 13 – and it has stuck ever since. They eventually formed the band in 1998, which first saw action in a Dessert Sessions compilation that same year. As the story goes, Huges was introducing Homme to the genre of death metal, and when he played him a song from the Polish band Vader, Homme referred to them as the “Eagles of Death Metal.” This led to them pondering what a mix between the Eagles and Death Metal would actually sound like – an answer they created in their own way in the form of the band. With just four albums now under their belt in the 15+ year history of the band, their actives in recent years have been intermittent, but of all Josh Homme’s various projects (he’s best known for Queens of the Stone Age), none is more fun than this one. They make music that makes you wanna both dance and laugh, and if you can’t at least do one of those things while listening to an EODM record, you’re probably doing it wrong.
LISTEN | “Complexity”
WATCH | “I Want You So Hard” (Official Music Video)
Sunday | Piedmont | 12:45pm
A site favorite since their earliest days, indie/synth-pop outfit COIN came together while several members were attending Belmont, quickly finding buzz and a local following through their high-energy, polished live show and infectiously catchy and layered sound. With only a handful of tracks to their name, the group were already selling out local clubs less than a year into their existence, bagging them a deal with Columbia Records imprint StarTime International, through which they released their Jay Joyce-produced self-titled debut LP last year. Still a relatively young act, COIN have already toured with some heavy-hitters like Walk the Moon and Neon Trees, and are steadily becoming a festival favorite. Keeping momentum going, the band just released their first new single in a minute, “Talk Too Much,” and we’re ready to call it a contender for our jam of the summer.
LISTEN | “Talk Too Much”
WATCH | “Run” (Official Music Video)
#10: UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
Sunday | Ponce de Leon | 3:15pm
Hailing from New Zealand though now residing in Portland, Unknown Mortal Orchestra are one of the most dynamic and unique acts to emerge from the indie rock scene in recent years. The group got their start in 2010, after anonymously uploading tracks to Bandcamp, sparking interest in the blogosphere, and eventually prompting them to claim responsibility and reveal themselves as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Helmed by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson, the trio released their lo-fi, psych-infused eponymous debut in 2011, quickly gaining traction in their native New Zealand. It was 2013’s sophomore effort (and Jagjaguwar debut) II, however, which catapulted the band to broader recognition, garnering praise from critics and allowing them to tour the world, including stops at festivals and a U.S. TV debut. With last year’s Multi-Love, and its infectious title track, UMO nabbed a bona fide radio hit, channeling broader experimental evolution. Though many contemporary groups harbor an affinity for ’60s-era psychedelic rock and pop, few give it as much of a modern sheen as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, finding a way to co-opt the best parts of the aesthetic, and fuse it with contemporary indie and lo-fi rock.
LISTEN | “So Good at Being in Trouble”
WATCH | “Multi-Love” (Official Music Video)
Sunday | Peachtree | 12:45pm
Buzzworthy newcomers Ought found critical acclaim with their stellar debut LP More Than Any Other Day in 2014, further cementing their sound and becoming a fixture in the modern indie punk scene with last year’s even better Sun Coming Down. Formed in 2012 in Montreal, the band play an art-rock, experimental flavor of post-punk, taking cues from acts like Cap’n Jazz as to Talking Heads, constantly making creative decisions and adventurous songwriting choices to keep their material inventive and surprising. Thanks to singles like “Habit” and “Beautiful Blue Sky,” they’ve become indie press darlings, and are quickly building an organic fanbase through their passionate, emotionally and politically charged, and personal live show. The depth, wit, and insight of frontman Tim Darcy’s observational lyrical themes help set these guys apart, and make them one of the best under the radar bands performing this weekend.
LISTEN | “Habit”
WATCH | “Beautiful Blue Sky” (Official Music Video)
#8: DIET CIG
Sunday | Buford Highway | 3:15pm
Punk-tinged pop rock duo Diet Cig hail from New Paltz, NY, and wowed us a few months back at a local show with Nashville fave Daddy Issues. 2015 was the year the group, vocalist Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman, began to find a national audience, thanks to their insanely good debut EP Over Easy. Anthemic, earnest, personal, and witty, Luciano’s lyrical style is charming and relatable, and the band’s overall vibe is just begging for a wider audience. The duo’s interplay is magnetic and their chemistry readily apparent spilling over from recording to forge a shockingly well-rounded live show for a band without a ton of tour experience. They’re set to play Shaky Knees’ smallest stage, smack dab in one of the worst schedule-coflict-inducing blocks of the weekend, but if you need a more intimate, exciting, and up and coming performance to watch, Diet Cig are poised to steal the show.
LISTEN | “Harvard”
WATCH | “Dinner Date” (Official Music Video)
Sunday | Buford Highway | 5:15pm
While this year’s Shaky Knees might be lacking in a few genre areas compared to similar fests (um, where’s the hip hop y’all? not to mention electronic…), but if there’s one area where this lineup is atypically strong, it’s shoegaze. Philadelphia’s Nothing are among the best at way they do, harkening back to classic shoegaze with modern indie and noise rock tendencies, all the while cranking things up unbelievably loud to help reinforce their weighty, emotionally dense thematic focus. More tragedy and misfortune has befallen this band, and specifically singer Domenic Palermo, than most anyone should be able to reasonably endure, but, throughout struggles, they’ve only found more fuel for their pair of fantastic LPs and string of EPs. Formerly the vocalist of punk group Horror Show, Palermo did a stint in jail for aggravated assault (self-dense), briefly taking a break from music before fronting Nothing. While on tour, he was mugged and badly injured, their label, apparently funded by the infamous Martin Shkreli, folded, and his father abruptly passed away, all in a short span of time. Pretty heavy, huh? Whether music is their coping mechanism or just a necessity, Nothing play with an urgency and sense of endurance few bands can match, and their live show is intense, to say the least. Venture over to the intimate Buford Stage and see what we mean.
LISTEN | “Vertigo Flowers”
WATCH | “Bent Nail” (Official Music Video)
#6: EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY
Sunday | Boulevard | 7:15pm
Formed over 15 years ago in Austin, Texas, experimental rockers Explosions in the Sky are one of the premiere instrumental acts making music today. Frequently placed in film and TV, the band have released seven albums since 2000, most recently last year’s The Wilderness. Though sometimes labeled post-rock, their sound is more reeled in than some of their more dissonant and experimental peers in the instrumental rock realm, drawing more from pop and traditional rock. Famed for their ferocious and energized live show, the band have toured with legends like Fugazi and Nine Inch Nails, often swept up by the alt rock and punk community but able to crossover and reach a wide range of audiences. Their early evening set time promises to bring their hypnotic, layered, and elaborate sound and sonic knack for storytelling through musicianship as a soundtrack to Shaky Knees’ final day’s sunset, and we can’t think of better way to wind down a magical weekend.
LISTEN | “Your Hand in Mine”
WATCH | “Disintegration Anxiety” (Official Music Video)
#5: PARQUET COURTS
Sunday | Boulevard | 3:15pm
Formed in NYC around 2010, Parquet Courts have exploded onto the scene over the last few years, thanks to their critically beloved 2012 sophomore LP Light Up Gold. Nothing if not prolific, they followed that up with Sunbathing Animal in 2014, praised by fans and embraced by critics as well, peaking at #55 on the US Billboard Charts, but that was just part of a busy year. They also recorded a live show at Third Man Records (to be released on vinyl on 3/3/15), they were named Spin’s Best Band of 2014, and, less than six months after the last LP’s release, snuck in a second record entitled Content Nausea under the pseudonym Parkay Quarts (see what they did there?). Keep the momentum going, the band dropped a fifth LP, perhaps their best year, Human Performance, earlier this year, and are the subject of more buzz than ever. You have a chance to hear what all the hubbub is about firsthand this weekend, if you haven’t already, so don’t miss your opportunity to catch one of the hottest bands in the scene, Sunday schedule conflicts be damned.
LISTEN | “Stoned and Starving”
WATCH | “Berlin Got Blurry” (Official Music Video)
#4: FLORENCE + THE MACHINE
Sunday | Peachtree | 8:30pm
Helmed by the unparalleled and magnetic talent that is Florence Welch, English indie rockers Florence + The Machine burst onto the scene in 2009 with their breakout debut LP Lungs, its popular single “Dog Days of Summer” crossing over to become an international hit. Two more efforts, Ceremonials and last year’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, have followed, and, in that time, Florence and co. have become a musical institution, known for their transcendent, theatrical, and breaking live shows, and substantive songwriting, navigating the realms of baroque pop, neo soul, art rock, and chamber music. We’ve had a handful of opportunities to see the group in action, and whether its a headliner or a festival appearance, they always steal the show, brimming with optimism and unbridled talent and energy. Once again, we don’t really need to argue much to convince you to see a festival headliner, but trust us, there’s a reason this group is top-billed.
LISTEN | “Delilah”
WATCH | “Dog Days Are Over” (Official Music Video)
#3: JULIEN BAKER
Sunday | Ponce de Leon | 12pm
If you’re dialed into the indie scene, then you’ve very likely heard of buzzworthy up and coming songstress Julien Baker, whose sprawling, sad full-length debut, Sprained Ankle, was ranked among 2015’s best releases (and for good reason; it’s incredible). What you might not know, however, is that Baker is local, or at least local-ish. Raised in Memphis, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter relocated to Murfreesboro to attend MTSU a couple years back (we’re assuming school’s on hold for a bit, given her tour schedule), and cut her teeth in the Nashville scene fronting the group Forrister (formerly The Star Killers), who we frequently wrote about in recent years when they often served as support for under the radar emo, indie, and pop punk shows. Since stepping out on her own, after pursuing a new crop of songs she didn’t feel were good fit for the band, Julien has been met with widespread critical acclaim. She recorded her solo LP with Michael Hegner at Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Studios in Richmond, VA, the same place follow former MTSU student and long-time Nashvillian Natalie Prass crafted her eponymous debut, in the summer of 2014, and already seems to be prepping a followup, if the new song she debuted this week on NPR is any indication. Easily one of the most promising up and coming talents in the indie world, Julian’s popularity seems to be spreading like a wildfire, so see her now, because next time around she might be headlining.
LISTEN | “Something”
WATCH | “Sprained Ankle” (Official Music Video)
Sunday | Piedmont | 6:15pm
Formed nearly 30 years ago in Sacramento, California, hard rock icons the Deftones have proven to be one of the most enduring, evolutionary, and influential acts in the metal scene. The Chino Moreno led group came out swinging with ferocious and now classic debut Adrenaline in ’95, and found huge commercial success (and even a Grammy) by third album White Pony in 2000. By circumstance of timing, the band were associated with the nu metal scene of the era, but with influences like classic hardcore, ambient rock, art rock, post-rock, and shoegaze, they’ve always been much more expansive, and have pushed way past that aesthetic leading into the ’00s. Now on LP 8, this year’s Gore, the band have forged a knack for balancing heavy, dissonant, and thumping instrumentation with personal and edgy themes, making them one of the most beloved and widely-recognized bands in alternative metal. Their live show is always top-notch, and because of that we’re calling them one of the most essential bands of your Skaky Knees weekend.
LISTEN | “Prayers/Triangles”
WATCH | “Back to School (Mini Maggit)” (Official Music Video)
#1: AT THE DRIVE-IN
Sunday | Piedmont | 8:30pm
Formed in 1993 in El Paso, TX by vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Jim Ward, later joined by Omar Rodríguez-López (guitar), Paul Hinojos (bass), and drummer Tony Hajjar (drums), At the Drive-In exploded onto the scene with their 1996 debut Acrobatic Tenement, heralded for their strong live show and relentless work ethic. Though their early years were characterized by constant DIY touring, word of mouth buzz, and beloved but relatively indie releases, by the time their final full-length, Relationship of Command, dropped in 2000, the band were gaining a worldwide reputation for being the best thing to happen to post-hardcore since Fugazi. Known for their frenetic, intense live show, and for their ability to flex so much range and musical influence within a defined scene, ATDI have only become more fondly remembered in the years since their 2001 split, and are now largely regarded as one of the most important rock bands of their era.
For many years, the chances of a reunion seemed pretty slim, with Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala finding unprecedented success as The Mars Volta, and Ward and Hajjar continuing their alt rock legacy with Sparta (Hinojos would start in Sparta, before spending several years in The Mars Volta). However, on and off talk of a reunion turned into a full-fledged summer tour in 2012, bringing the band back together about a dozen shows and festival appearances, before fading back into other projects, and staying pretty silent about ATDI’s future prospects. However, to our surprise and delight, the group started popping up on summer festival lineups earlier this year, officially confirming plans to tour and to release music for the first time in 16 years, jumping from defunct to truly back (well, almost); something we genuinely never expected. What At the Drive-In will sound like in 2016 (or 2017; there’s no timeline on release plans) is anybody’s guess, but individually, they’re better than they’ve ever been. What we know for sure, though, is that their set is sure to be an intense, nostalgic, and unforgettable experience and if you grew up on this band, you don’t want to miss it.
LISTEN | “Napoleon Solo”
WATCH | “One Armed Scissor” (Official Music Video)