The inaugural Shaky Knees Music Festival held in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward Park may have seen two days of cold rain and slippery mud—à la Woodstock ’94—but that didn’t stop true music fans from sticking it out and enjoying the festivities. The fest offered a solid lineup filled with rock, folk and alt-country acts, many of which included female musicians. Below are the best of the lady acts.
The Joy Formidable
Ritzy Bryan and Co. were in fine spirits for their late afternoon set on Saturday, dominating the O4W Park Stage with selections mostly from their sophomore album, Wolf’s Law. While the boys—bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matthew Thomas—definitely produced their fair share of energy, Ritzy commanded the stage as the group’s ringleader, exciting a drenched audience with hard guitar riffs, playful stage antics and a perpetually beaming smile. At one point toward the end of their set, the sun made a brief appearance, as if to say even Mother Nature approves of The Joy Formidable.
T. Hardy Morris
T. Hardy Morris lucked out with a sunny afternoon set on Sunday. The Dead Confederate frontman was accompanied by a band that included a female vocalist/keyboardist who sweetly complemented Morris’ soft Southern twang. Overall, the set was filled with easygoing, sleepy indie folk/country jams from Morris’ upcoming solo album Audition Tapes, out July 30. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Shovels & Rope
Shovels & Rope’s set was definitely not one to miss at Shaky Knees. The South Carolina duo kicked things off on the O4W Park Stage Sunday with perfect harmonies and a full, impressive sound that would have you believe they were backed by a four-piece band (thanks in part to multi-instrumentalist Michael Trent, who at times played guitar, harmonica and kick drum simultaneously). Trent and his talented wife Cary Ann Hearst created a perfect union on stage (think June Carter and Johnny Cash), and performed a rollicking, foot-stomping set of rock, folk and country songs from their debut album O’ Be Joyful, including a rousing sing-along of crowd favorite “Birmingham,” inciting a joyful dance party in the park.
The Heartless Bastards
The Heartless Bastards was an unexpected favorite of mine. Not having known much about the band before seeing them live, I was pleasantly surprised by their performance on the North Ave. Stage. Fronted by vocalist and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom, the Heartless Bastards brought a fervor of hard rock, blues, and country to the smallest of the three stages, but with a full throttle sound like theirs, they’ll be playing larger stages in no time.
By the time The Lumineers came out for their headlining slot, the skies had opened up once again and the rain came down harder than ever. Appropriately enough, the band decided to kick off their set with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” The group continued with all the favorites from their self-titled debut, including colossal hit “Ho Hey,” which was brought out surprisingly early (but most likely due to the downpour) and another fun cover, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan. A new duet between singers Wesley Schultz and Neyla Pekarek was debuted as well, rounding out a wet, yet musically enjoyable weekend.