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Shaky Knees Day Two Recap: Sylvan Esso, Lewis Del Mar, The xx and More

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Day two of Shaky Knees 2017 served as something of a breather after the first day proved a hectic start to this year’s metro Atlanta indie-rock fest. Aside from a swift-moving rainstorm that sent crowds scattering and seeking shelter under trees, ponchos or some combination of the two, it was a warm and relaxing afternoon and evening, highlighted by notable shows courtesy of everyone from Anderson East and Dr. Dog to Sylvan Esso and The xx.

Paste is keeping it Shaky in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park all weekend long. Check out our own Annie Black’s photos from day two above, and our thoughts on some of the day’s best sets below. You can look back on the first day of Shaky Knees 2017, and keep an eye out for our coverage of the fest’s third and final day.

Anderson East
It must be nice to have a horn section as tight as Anderson East’s, because you can launch into a classic Sam & Dave cover that is guaranteed to knock the crowd dead, exactly as it did when we performed “Hold On, I’m Coming” Saturday afternoon on the Peachtree stage. It’s quite the boon for the talented, 28-year-old soul singer, who Paste thought highly enough of to place on the inaugural vinyl version of the Paste Sampler—which you can get here. He’s a performer who radiates a cool, collected sort of energy, even when he’s stomping, howling and sweating. I don’t think he’s the kind of performer who would be capable of having a “boring” show if he wasn’t intending to do so, as his emoting is the entire crux of the act, like any great R&B or soul vocalist. He casts himself as a bit of a grungy casanova, and says things to the crowd along the lines of, “This next song is about fornicating with a preacher’s daughter” before launching into “Devil in Me.” He was a good mid-day, hot weather act for a crowd looking to burn off some energy, playing tracks from his breakthrough major label release, Delilah, and demoing a couple new songs, such as the archetypal “King For a Day.” Jim Vorel

Run River North
Run River North hail from L.A., rather than the popular Denver neighborhood of the same name, as I originally suspected. I walked up on their set as they were performing the radio-friendly “29,” a song with soaring, Arcade Fire-esque vocal fills that you can easily imagine backing an SUV commercial as it winds its way up the same mountain path as every other SUV ad. The band’s members are all Asian American, drawing upon the immigrant experiences of their parents for songwriting and making amusing reference to preconceived notions of Asian musicians in their stage banter. “As you can tell, we’re really Asian on stage,” says singer Alex Hwang. “This next one is for everyone with an Asian dad. If you don’t, then sucks to be you.” On the Ponce de Leon stage, they favored a big, layered sound with strings, keys and up to five members on vocals at once, taking advantage of the fact that the Ponce stage had by far the best acoustics and instrument levels throughout the course of the festival. At times, they may remind one a bit of the ambitious but radio-friendly hits of Young the Giant, which is a comparison I imagine they wouldn’t mind hearing. Jim Vorel

Shovels and Rope
A storm blew right through the middle of Shovels and Rope’s set, but their music itself still managed to evoke the sunny southern afternoon that Shaky Knees attendees would have preferred. While some of those audience members fled at the first dark clouds, most stayed anchored in front of the Peachtree stage, watching the close-knit South Carolina duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst deliver a punchy and compact hour of warm, inviting roots rock. Even when thunder cut through their harmonies, the sky started falling in earnest, and the umbrellas and ponchos came out en masse, Shovels and Ropes kept right on, doling out the emphatic folk rock they’re known for. Once the worst of the rain passed, the onlookers who stuck it out were rewarded with what was essentially a down-home White Stripes show, which is a seemingly lazy comparison that’s nonetheless undeniable after you’ve heard Shovels and Rope perform their Little Seeds stand-out “Buffalo Nickel.” Multi-instrumentalist Trent—who at one point was playing piano and guitar simultaneously—and drummer Hearst managed intimacy and energy throughout their show, despite its main stage scale and the inclement weather, making for one of day two’s most memorable sets. Scott Russell

Dr. Dog
Dr. Dog laid down an immediate, unassailable groove at the outset of their late-afternoon Piedmont stage set, setting every head nodding from the very start. Their performance achieved the feel of a prototypical, high-energy summer music festival set in a hurry—the sun was back out (after that earlier rain storm) and beaming down, the beach balls were bouncing, the smoke was rising and the crowd was surfing. The Pennsylvanian indie-Americana band and music fest staples put out their 10th record last fall, and their ample output was on full display during this wide-ranging, workmanlike performance. Dr. Dog play with the breezy ease of a band that has been here, done this—bassist Toby Leaman and guitarists Scott McMicken and Frank McElroy swapped instruments and vocals with equal aplomb, their synchronous melodies weaving in and out of one another, and Eric Slick cut quite a character, his bushy hair bouncing while he held down the drums. The set’s biggest flaw was its being subject to competition: Shame, Shame stand-out “Shadow People,” for instance, was partially drowned out by the sounds of Catfish and the Bottlemen, who were playing at the nearby Peachtree stage. But all told, Dr. Dog put on the kind of laidback, satisfying show that’s best at a fest. Scott Russell

Fantastic Negrito
Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, aka Fantastic Negrito, rolled into his set with the fire of a funky, ‘70s blaxploitation film soundtrack, aloof to the presence of a much smaller crowd than he really deserved on the Ponce de Leon stage. It was difficult not to be annoyed by the rude attendees in particular, who had laid out blankets on the grass in front of the stage and lay there, fully reclined as the guy was performing all of 30 feet away from them, essentially stretched out on what was meant to be a dance floor. Eventually caving to the presence of people standing in literally every direction around them, the situation eventually resolved itself. The set was a rare instance this weekend of the levels on the Ponce stage seeming out of whack—overwhelmingly loud and distorted when the entire band was playing hard, but much better on the tracks when Negrito is treating the crowd to some solo virtuosic vocals, as on “Rant Rushmore,” which he also performed rather spectacularly in the Paste Studio. It’s undeniable that Negrito possesses a personal magnetism that few can match; the kind of guy who would be fun to watch with our without sound. He closed the set with a drawling, soulful cover of “In the Pines,” heavily featuring the band’s Nord keyboard, and enough soul that Kurt Cobain would presumably have given it his grudging blessing. – Jim Vorel

Sylvan Esso
Durham, N.C., indie-electronica duo Sylvan Esso, made up of singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn, were Shaky Knees’ only act I caught without a guitar to be seen in their set—indeed, their stage setup was almost comically sparse, consisting solely of Sanborn’s mixing console. That’s far from the only way in which their set was singular: When all is said and done, theirs is sure to fall right alongside LCD Soundsystem as one of this festival’s most joyous and danceable sets. Their recently released What Now constitutes a true coming-out party for the dynamic duo. Sylvan Esso’s Peachtree stage performance was only their second show in support of the new record, and their first festival set. Meath and Sanborn put on a self-assured, infectiously energetic show, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt why they belonged on the main stage. Meath, sporting a pair of towering platforms and a “No Nukes” t-shirt, explored the performance space in a fashion that would have made Bruce Dickinson beam, swapping occasional smiles with the otherwise intensely focused Sanborn. If Sylvan Esso’s music hadn’t been enough to get the crowd moving (which is an absurd proposition), Meath’s charisma and mean set of dance moves would have done the job. But What Now cuts “Kick Jump Twist,” “Die Young” and “Radio,” plus Sylvan Esso’s “Coffee,” “H.S.K.T.” and particularly “Hey Mami,” sparked an explosive, transcendent dance party that made for a glorious electronic oasis in the midst of all that guitar rock. Scott Russell

Lewis Del Mar
Lewis Del Mar are two longtime best friends who absolutely love what they do, and it’s incredibly obvious on both counts. Guitarist Danny Miller is a performer through and through. From the justifiably angry, experimental “Loud(y)” to the island-vibes of “Painting (Masterpiece),” Miller danced around the stage milking the crowd’s attention effortlessly while drummer Max Harwood played along with an authentically-earnest smile. The crowd at the small Ponce stage was fiercely dedicated. This wasn’t a show you went to just for fun, this was a show to see one of your favorite artists and thoroughly enjoy it. Most entertainingly, the band covered Kanye West’s “Runaway” with fellow musician and friend Anna Wise which was 1) unexpected and 2) glorious. Annie Black

The xx
This is a serious, serious message. If you ever have the chance to see The xx live, take that opportunity and run with it all the way to the venue. I’m dead serious. Romy, Oliver and Jamie sound so eerily similar to their albums live, you’ll want to close your eyes and transport yourself to something much more casual than a festival. From 2009’s “Crystalized” to the current hit “On Hold,” The xx captivated the crowd and kept them moving all night long. Three cheers for The xx, y’all. They deserve it. Annie Black

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