Tag Archives: Alex Ebert

Review – Shaky Knees Festival 2014

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Shaky Knees, an Atlanta music festival in its sophomore year, was by most accounts a success on a grand scale. The festival relocated to a single Atlantic Station location this year from its bifurcated presence last year in Fourth Ward Park and Masquerade Music Park. While there was initially some noise regarding the somewhat less central location of the festival, the new site proved to be a boon, allowing for improved transportation to and parking at the festival. While festival organizers strongly urged ticket holders to use public transportation, there was ample parking and a discount agreement with Uber for the weekend.

The Good

It’s not often that the entrance to a festival is located within a large strip mall, but the unused, paved lot behind the Atlantic Station live-work-play development proved a worthy space for a burgeoning event. While the festival was not long on real estate, the available space was well utilized and easy to navigate. Two stages on each end of the lot ran on impressively precise schedules- when one band finished its set, the band on the neighboring stage picked up within seconds, keeping the energy of the crowds high.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were as unpredictable as they were talented. Alex Ebert, the lead singer, was down from the stage and in the crowd within the first three minutes of their set. The Sunday show took place on his birthday, and he was in no way shy about celebrating with the audience. Ebert included plenty of audience participation in the show, and the band’s popular single “Home” was kicked off by a fan proposing to his girlfriend onstage. Ebert took time to showcase songs from several members of the ten-member band; however the female vocalist of the band, Jade Castrinos, was conspicuously absent. At times songs seemed on the verge of falling apart, such as their closer “Om Nashi Me”, only to burst into climactic and perfectly timed reprises.

Portugal. The Man played an impressive set on Saturday afternoon. Having heard about the previous day’s deluge, John Gourley performed the entire show wearing a hooded raincoat and sunglasses. The band focused heavily on their latest album, 2013’s Evil Friends, both opening and closing with “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue.” While the band played all of the favorites, one of the most notable songs of the set was a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” which reminded the audience just how rock ‘n’ roll Portugal. The Man is at its core.

Tokyo Police Club proved once again that they thrive at an outdoor festival. Opening with the nearly nine minute long suite “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)” from the brand new album Forcefield, the band showed that they’ve grown up quite a bit since the release of Champ in 2010. That said, the setlist neatly combined the two albums, delighting already-fans and winning over those unfamiliar with the band’s indie-pop sound. TPC closed with the first track of their first album, “Cheer It On,” bringing the show full circle and reminding fans exactly who they were.

Closing the festival with her performance Sunday night, Britney Howard of Alabama Shakes continually told the audience between songs that she wasn’t an eloquent speaker. However her raw and melodious songs spoke for themselves. The band played “Hold On”, the hit single from their album Girls and Boys, with the same energy as if they were playing it for the first time. The Alabama Shakes also debuted a new song “Miss You”, which combined tender verses reminiscent of a Motown classic, with a chorus that was unapologetically Rock ‘n’ Roll. They split their show with the interlude “Gemini I and II”, an eleven minute song involving voice effects and a slower pace, which was the only part of their show that dragged or lacked energy. The band’s performance at Shaky Knees was their last stop before returning home to Alabama to begin recording their second album.

The Bad

Though the addition of local food trucks to the festival sounded kitschy and even appealing, the execution was off here. The front of the park had only three options to contend with roughly half of the crowd. While the back had more options, they were arranged in a tight U-shape where people hopped in lines for anything (or nothing) and never seemed to make much progress. I’ve never wanted a hot dog so badly in my life.

As mentioned earlier, this festival took place on an asphalt lot. On the upside, it wasn’t a giant mud pit by the end of day two. On the downside, there wasn’t much around to absorb sound, and it certainly bounced resulting in a somewhat fuzzy sound quality from the audience. There were also instances of sound competing from opposite sides of the park. Jenny Lewis fought to be heard as she was blasted by The Replacements set playing at the same time.

The Ugly

As some other Atlanta natives have famously said, “you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.” Such was the case for Shaky Knees. In fact, wash outs seem to be par for the course for this festival, making back-to-back appearances in 2013 and 2014.

That said, there were very few ugly parts of this largely successful new festival. It seems that in time Shaky Knees could easily develop into one of the more popular festivals in the Southeast.

Story and photos contributed by – Emily Yerke and William Ruff

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Debut Album Review: Alexander

Alexander The Great

Amidst a busy touring schedule last year, singer/songwriter Alex Ebert (frontman for bands, Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) took a break from his baker’s dozen feel-good-hippie-music-act to create an eloquent and eery solo album fittingly entitled, Alexander.  Ebert’s solo sound is thankfully a departure from the pop-punk-emo tunes of Ima Robot.  Instead, the ten tracks on Alexander fall more in line musically with the stylish makings of ESMZ.  Ebert’s musical influences appear obvious to any listener with even a shallow understanding of music history, and lucky for us he picked some of the best from decades past.  Timeless tones of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Beatles (later years), Bob Marley, and even Johnny Cash meander their way through these tracks, all the while feeling fresh and new thanks to Ebert.  Rarely do I listen to an album in a first sitting and enjoy it in its entirety, but such is the case with Alexander.

Most tracks are carefully laced with echos of ghostly background vocals that somehow find a way to complement an upbeat snap-clap cadence of each song’s message.  At moments, especially during the first track, Let’s Win!, it felt as if Ebert was the Pied Piper and I trustingly filed in behind other listeners to join his traveling circus.  I suppose that is one of the best ways to set an album’s tone and get the listener on-board.  Contrary to what listeners may initially assume, Ebert didn’t recruit his 12 ESMZ band members to play the instruments on this debut solo album.  Rather, he retreated to his bedroom between shows to play each and every instrument (including all vocals) himself.  The seamless melding of vocals with an arsenal of instrumentation is easy on the ears and light on the soul, perhaps leaving the listener a bit closer to enlightenment.  I suppose that is Ebert’s Pied Piper mentality again…lulling his audience into a peaceful trance.  Hey, in an ever more stressful world, it works for me.  Like other musicians who have taken on the enormous feat of creating a canon of songs entirely on their own (a certain Timothy Seth Avett as “Darling” comes to mind…), Ebert can now reflect on his first solo project with pride.  Do yourself a favor, take a listen and get enlightened.

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