Bully / Teenage Wrist - Shaky Knees Music Festival (Cover Artwork)

Bully / Teenage Wrist

Shaky Knees Music Festival (2018)

live show

Shaky Knees Music Festival entered its sixth year in 2018 and returned to Central Park in Atlanta after a few years at Centennial Olympic Park. Headliners this year included Jack White on Friday, Queens of the Stone Age on Saturday, and the National on Sunday. This was my first year at the festival, although I’m no stranger to festivals in the city having attended Warped Tour (multiple times) and Music Midtown in the past. Shaky Knees was one of the better festivals I’ve been to; Central Park was an idyllic venue – more woodsy than Piedmont Park (which is essentially a wide-open space), with most of the stages at various hilltop elevation levels so that each area seemed independent. As with any outdoor festival, the most important feature is whether there are enough Port-a-Pottys and Shaky Knees succeeded in an ample supply with minimal waiting times.

Regrettably, I missed my most anticipated act of the day, the Distillers. However, some guy in the merch line told me they played Coral Fang in full the night prior to their Saturday set. I did snag a T-shirt so it wasn’t a total loss.

Nashville’s Bully played an early afternoon set on the main stage before the rain kicked in. First, let me say that the sound engineers did an excellent job with the mixing as the band’s assault simply thundered off the stage. Alicia Bognanno’s vocals are my favorite part of this band as her raspy Cobain-esque screech bowls over the charging guitar fuzz laid down by the fellows in Bully. She was chatty on stage as the band made last minute set changes, plowing through an equal representation of new album Losing and prior album Feels Like. Losing was a solid release for the band recorded at the famed Electrical Audio in Chicago where Bognanno was a recording intern after graduating from college. Losing saw the band decamp from Columbia and join the Sub Pop roster whose alumni are more closely aligned to Bully’s overall aesthetic. The band’s high energy and crowd engagement carried into their final number, a raucous cover of McLusky’s immortal “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” (which coincidentally enough was recorded by Steve Albini himself at Electrical Audio – making the record nerd within me squeal with joy). Bognanno abandoned her guitar and flopped around the stage with manic exhaustion as the band clattered into the finale. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the band’s next release.

Next, I sauntered over to one of the smaller stages to catch new Epitaph signees Teenage Wrist. Their debut Chrome Neon Jesus is definitely an homage to shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine with an equal measure of Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins’ monolithic guitar symphonies. Interestingly, lead singer and bass player Kamtin Mohager has kicked around the Los Angeles music scene for a while with his other band The Chain Gang of 1974 (who admittedly I have never heard) and spent some time on the major label circuit (unfortunately he was also the touring bassist for the atrocious 3OH!3 – but I won’t hold this against him since nothing from that dumpster fire band seems to have informed Teenage Wrist). Again, Shaky Knees’ sound engineers did a magnificent job of making the band’s distorted ballads sound absolutely massive. The only detriment is most of the band’s vocals were delivered in sighs more often than bellows which were easily lost in the ocean of noise (although the engineers were quick to make level adjustments so things evened out well by each song’s mid-section). While the band’s sound isn’t completely original, their variation on this style of rock music was enjoyable. Hopefully, future releases will find them broadening their sound and formulating a more unique identity.

I was forced to leave right before Charly Bliss’s set and sadly missed the Distillers. Next time, Shaky Knees.