Shaky Knees Festival: Day Two - The Avett Brothers, Wilco, Real Estate

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Shaky Knees Festival: Day Two - The Avett Brothers, Wilco, Real Estate

The sun was still shining on day two at Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta as the Paste staff arrived to catch performances from Black Lips, Flogging Molly, Devil Makes Three and more. Check out some highlights below, and take a peek at Mary Caroline Russell’s photos from the festival in the gallery above.

The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three exist in that weird limbo zone of festival eligibility—they’ve got the legitimate bluegrass and old-timey chops to be a popular draw at Telluride or Newport while also being perfectly at home drawing big crowds at Bonnaroo or Saturday afternoon in the blazing sun of Shaky Knees. Indeed, the trio seemed determined to flash a big middle finger straight at the summer heat, appearing entirely in black from head to toe. “We’ve not been here for a very long time,” said vocalist Pete Bernhard to an assembled crowd that had clearly missed the bluegrass stand-outs, although to describe them as just a bluegrass band is to miss complexities in their sound that range from the old-timey swing of a group such as Pokey LaFarge to the gypsy influences of Django Reinhardt. They lit up the crowd with favorites such as “40 Days” and “All Hail,” although their best moments are usually when banjo player Cooper McBean is cutting loose with a scintillating solo. All in all, a fitting beginning as the first show of the band’s new tour, as they set out across the U.S. after returning from touring overseas. —Jim Vorel

Real Estate

We made the last-minute game-day decision to catch Real Estate instead of Metz when we realized how ungodly hot it would be in the afternoon. Their music seemed like an easier way to kick off day two—by casually easing into it with some jangly guitar and relaxed vibes—and they didn’t disappoint on either front. —Bonnie Stiernberg

Flogging Molly

The last time I saw Flogging Molly live, it was eight years ago, in a small music club, and their sound threatened to shake the bricks loose from the mortar. In that sense, it’s comforting to know that not much has really changed since—they’re still the same boisterous bunch of celtic punk rockers extolling the virtues of whiskey and the occasional crowd-surfing experiment. It’s hard to believe singer Dave King is now in his 50s, but he’s lost no power off the raspy, tortured vocals that are his signature. The band has moved away a bit in recent years from quite so many songs featuring traditional instrumentation, as one might have seen on Drunken Lullabies or Swagger, but the festival shows are still very much a greatest hits parade that take Flogging Molly back to its roots. The setlist was heavy with those tunes (“Devil’s Dance Floor,” “Tobacco Island”), which is great—it’s what the audience truly wants to hear as they whip up clouds of dust and omnipresent pot smoke in a throng around the Peachtree stage. As the set closed, King suggested it might be the last visit for a while, as the band returns to the writer’s garret to ponder their first album since 2011’s Speed of Darkness. —Jim Vorel

Black Lips
The Black Lips are never a disappointment live, but when guitarist Ian St. Pe left the band last year, he took with him his charming stage presence—in other words, there was a hole that needed to be filled. But the Black Lips made the best of it and brought back their former guitarist Jack Hines, who had been away from the band for 10 years. Hines fit right in with the group at Shaky Knees on Saturday, and it seems like their live presence hasn’t missed a beat. In between favorites like “O Katrina,” “Raw Meat” and “Bad Kids” they told stories of sneaking into Music Midtown and asked if everyone was planning on checking out Neutral Milk Hotel later on because “that’s real Georgia music.” —Bonnie Stiernberg

Built to Spill
Built to Spill played an extremely strong set of their original stuff, but the thing I’ll remember most from it is the cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” they closed with. It needed more cowbell (sorry, I had to), but it didn’t come off as jokey in the slightest—it was just an extremely solid take on a great song, and a perfect way to wrap up a great, sweltering midday set. —Bonnie Stiernberg

Neutral Milk Hotel
“Festival band” might not be the first thing you think of when you think of Neutral Milk Hotel—that’d probably be “reclusive act making its triumphant return”—but Jeff Mangum and company are absolutely the perfect band to see in a massive crowd of people outside. Because everyone knows Neutral Milk Hotel. Even if they don’t know On Avery Island, they at least know In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and that makes for some amazing crowd sing-alongs on songs like “Two-Headed Boy” and the inescapable title track. —Bonnie Stiernberg

I can’t even remember how many times I’ve seen Wilco at this point, but this was one of the best ones by far. Maybe it was the energy coming from the crowd, or maybe it was the fact that—as Jeff Tweedy noted—the band was celebrating its 20th anniversary, but Wilco just seemed at the very top of its game on Saturday night. Songs with sing-along potential like “Jesus, Etc.” “I’m the Man Who Loves You” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” mixed perfectly with more soaring, experimental jams on tracks like “Art of Almost” and “Impossible Germany.” Here’s to 20 more years. —Bonnie Stiernberg

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers’ headlining slot on the festival’s second day had festival goers sprawled out on blankets or tossing frisbees towards the back while the more eager fans crowded up front. The music matched the mood, and the Avetts brought out favorites like “Another is Waiting,” “Head Full Out Doubt, Road Full of Promise,” and “The Ballad of Love and Hate.” The group even tossed in cover “Country Blues” before launching into “Murder in the City” and an enormous sing-along for “I and Love and You.” It was another reminder of just how many good songs the band has at its disposal. —Dacey Orr