Category Archives: Music

Wherein a middle-aged couple spends the weekend in Atlanta at the Shaky Knees Music Festival

Rockford and I gave each other three-day passes to the Shaky Knees Music Fest in Atlanta for our anniversary this year, and it was exhausting, exhilarating fun. We stayed at the Glenn Hotel right next to Centennial Park, where the festival was held. It was a quick walk to the gates, and we could hear the soundcheck for one of the stages from our bathroom.


Savages lead singer Jehnny Beth singing while crowd surfing at Shaky Knees 2016, in probably the best picture I'll ever take at a concert.
Savages lead singer Jehnny Beth at Shaky Knees 2016, in probably the best picture I’ll ever take at a concert.

I only knew one of their songs, but it’s a song that Rockford really likes so we went. Their performance was wild and intense, and the lead singer sang/yelled directly into Rockford’s face from about a foot away at one point.

Jane’s Addiction

Jane's Addiction at Shaky Knees 2016
All of my pictures at the Jane’s Addiction show were blurry.

I heard a lot of people afterward complaining that Perry Farrell didn’t sound as good as he used to, but I thought they were great. Also, he gave me an encouraging nod and a smile during “Mountain Song,” and I have the image tucked away in my heart for use in future instances of panic and/or anxiety. Thanks, Perry Farrell.

Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks at Shaky Knees 2016
Rockford is considering going as Strand of Oaks lead singer Timothy Showalter for Halloween.

It makes a show so much more enjoyable when the musicians are having fun, and these guys were clearly very happy to be there. The fact that their music is great didn’t hurt either. I’m hoping they’ll tour soon so we can see them again.

Deer Tick

Deer Tick at Shaky Knees 2016
The bassist for Deer Tick looks like Anthony Michael Hall.

I didn’t know anything at all about Deer Tick beforehand. Rockford wanted to stake his claim for the My Morning Jacket show, though, and that’s the stage Deer Tick was playing on. So we watched them. I’d classify them as Yacht Rock, which is a genre I am not opposed to. They were pretty good, and their wardrobe was amusingly quirky.

Huey Lewis and the News

Huey Lewis and the News at Shaky Knees 2016
I still can’t get over how great Huey Lewis and the News sounded.
I was most excited about seeing Huey Lewis and the News play the entire “Sports” album, but I was also a little nervous. Sometimes these nostalgia acts aren’t quite so sharp anymore, you know? But they far exceeded my expectations. They were on fire, and they seemed genuinely surprised and elated that a great field full of 20-somethings (and the occasional 30-something, ahem) was joyously singing every word along with them. It was my favorite performance of the weekend.

My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket at Shaky Knees 2016
I found confetti from the My Morning Jacket show in my purse when we got home yesterday.

This was the Main Event for Rockford, and they did not disappoint. It was very loud, the crowd was thrilled, and there were fireworks and confetti cannons.

It was a great weekend (despite the inevitable appearance of several Music Festival Ne’er-Do-Wells. I see you, Guy Who Holds Front-Row Spots For SIX Friends Who Don’t Show Up Until 30 Minutes Before The Show We’ve Been Waiting Five Hours To See, and you, Guy Who’s Been To Every Other Festival On The Planet And Found Them All Superior). The organizers did a great job keeping things punctual, the food-truck options were varied and reasonably priced — I mainly subsisted on King of Pops popsicles — and every act we saw in person or heard from afar was enjoyable.

We were both so tired after Friday and Saturday that we skipped everything on Sunday and came home. We’ve already decided that we need to book the hotel for Sunday night, too, so we can make it all the way through Shaky Knees 2017.

How was your weekend? What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?

This is what Gwen Stefani’s “Truth” sounds like

The first concert I went to with my friends was in February 1996. I was a senior in high school, and a group of us drove two hours to see Bush. We were all there to see Gavin Rossdale & company, but all we talked about on the way home was Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. By the next day we all owned copies of “Tragic Kingdom.” (I still have mine.) No Doubt was good, but Gwen Stefani was great. She was all energy and electricity, and it’s no wonder that Gavin fell for her.

Yeah, it was that tour. The one where No Doubt opened for Bush, and Gwen and Gavin fell in love. All of which paved the way for Gwen’s new album, “This is What the Truth Feels Like.” It’s all about old, broken love and exciting, scary new love, and it’s pretty personal stuff.

"This is what the truth feels like"Some of the lyrics on the new album — from “I don’t know why I cried, but I think it’s because I remembered for the first time since I hated you that I used to love you” to “I feel worthless, I’ve been hurt so bad, I get nervous you won’t love me back” — seem so personal that I felt a little weird listening to them. Like I was reading her personal emails to Gavin Rossdale or Blake Shelton. Of course, this isn’t the first time Gwen has written pretty transparently about a relationship. Most of “Tragic Kingdom” is about her breakup one of her No Doubt bandmates, but even 20 years after that album her lyrics strike me as shockingly frank.

“This is What the Truth Feels Like” is just as confessional as “Tragic Kingdom” was, but its sound is far less raw. Gwen’s look was more track star than movie star two decades ago, and her music now sounds more recording studio than garage band. A couple of tracks on the album, such as “Misery” and “Asking 4 It” (featuring Fetty Wap!), sound like they would be right at home on the soundtrack of a high school romance movie. I like high school movies, so that’s not a bad thing. Other songs are decidedly more post-graduate. I’m looking at you, “Send Me a Picture.”

For an album that came out of what had to have been a very upsetting and confusing time, “This is What the Truth Feels Like” is packed with danceable tracks. And when I say “danceable,” I mean I can very easily bounce around the kitchen to them while I’m making dinner. People who actually know how to dance would probably find songs like “Naughty,” “Make Me Like You” and the scorned-woman anthem “Red Flag” actionably danceable.

You can buy “This is What the Truth Feels Like” starting today at iTunes, Target and other retailers.

Disclosure: Nichole participated in this sponsored album review program as a member of One2One Network. She was provided the album to review, but all opinions are her own.

Joy Williams embraces new sounds and raw emotions on “Venus”

Joy Williams’ new record, “Venus,” is a breakup album — or, as Williams calls it, “a break-through album” — but it goes beyond heartache. You can almost hear Williams working through her emotions, dealing with the expectations placed on her specifically and women in general and meditating on what it means to challenge those expectations. It’s about picking up the pieces, reassembling yourself into something familiar but new and then moving along with your life on your terms.

The imagery in some of the songs — the ghostly whispers and raven’s feathers in “Before I Sleep,” for example, and the thorny crowns of the broody, atmospheric “The Dying Kind” — would be right at home on an album from Williams’ now-defunct duo The Civil Wars. Aurally, the strongly syncopated “Venus” is largely a departure from the duo’s old-timey, folksy sound.

Williams says she initially played the songs on the album with an acoustic guitar before her “love of Massive Attack, Annie Lennox, Portishead, Kate Bush and hip-hop” moved her to try out some different production styles. I’m not sure where Portishead fits into the mix, but I can hear a little Annie Lennox and even a very light bit of hip-hop in the production.

“The Dying Kind” in particular kind of sounds like Galadriel left Middle Earth and teamed up with Justin Timberlake to make a record. Which isn’t a coincidence, exactly, as Timberlake introduced Williams to her co-writer and producer Matt Morris and thus left what she calls his “invisible fingerprint” on the record.

In addition to the eerie-but-catchy “Before I Sleep,” I was particularly drawn to “Welcome Home” and “You Loved Me.” “Welcome Home” is an achingly pretty song. Williams has a beautiful, lilting voice, and the song is all strings and lyrics like “come inside from the cold and raise your weary soul” and “you’re wanted, you’re not alone.” “You Loved Me” sounds like a lullaby, but it’s a very melancholy one; “I had all the answers; it was easier than facing the dark.”

Overall, it’s a strong, empowered record. But the album does have a couple of tracks I’m not crazy about. “Not Good Enough” is the record’s most pop-country sounding track, with a little bit of Celine Dion warble thrown in. Neither pop-country nor Celine is my favorite, and it’s my least-favorite song on the record. Likewise, while I appreciate the sentiment behind “Woman (Oh Mama),” I found both the lyrics and the production a bit overdone:

I can’t find links to videos for anything else on the album, but you can preview it at iTunes and/or Amazon. “Venus” comes out on June 29.

Disclaimer: I participated in the Joy Williams “Venus” album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.