Shaky Knees Diaries: Day 1

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7:15 a.m. – It is Friday morning. My alarm goes off and I am not quite ready to leave my bed, but I know I must because Atlanta traffic is a bitch and I’m coming in all the way from Athens for Shaky Knees. So, I haul ass out of bed. I shower, put on my first-day outfit, and pack a few last items. I make my coffee and head out the door. 

8:30 a.m. – I pick up my boyfriend and we are headed to Atlanta. For most of the ride, we listen to the artists we’ll be seeing this weekend and get hype. 

10:40 a.m. – We arrive in Atlanta with miraculously little traffic along the way, and we head over to pick up our wristbands at will call. 

(There is a brief intermission period here in which I take us in the wrong direction heading to the festival gate, which means we take a 20-minute detour going around the park. And then, I take us in the wrong direction inside the festival trying to find the first act we want to see. The sad part is I was looking at a map both times. Hereafter, I am no longer allowed to navigate anywhere, ever again.)

12:00 p.m. – Specialists

Even though my poor navigation skills cost us a good bit of time, we manage to reach the Criminal Records Stage just in time to catch the Specialists kick off the festival. Hailing in from New York, Specialists have certainly brought the heat (and a few of their friends) for their first-ever show in Georgia. These guys are more than ready to party hard at noon. The energy they have on stage is insanely fun. Once the show ended, I couldn’t help but think “what a perfect way to kick off this weekend.”

12:45 p.m. – Tejon Street Corner Thieves

Then, we walk over to the Ponce De Leon Stage to catch Tejon Street Corner Thieves. Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect from this show. (Looking back on it, I still have no idea what I witnessed.) Tejon Street Corner Thieves gave the audience Americana galore, and they loved it. Much to my surprise, I also loved it. One of them was playing what they called a “washboard skateboard,” which is (get this) a skateboard with a washboard and cymbal attached to the bottom hanging around someone’s neck. There were so many songs about whiskey I lost count. Before ending their set, Tejon Street Corner Thieves ask the audience to circle dance and the audience quickly forms an oval in front of the stage and dances away. Perhaps the most unique act of the day?

1:30 p.m. – It’s been a long day already and having skipped breakfast, I am hungry. For lunch, we turn to the festival food stand, and today, we settle for chicken tenders and fries (at an exorbitant price I would never pay in any other scenario – except perhaps at the airport). The fries are so salty they burn my lips but I’m still happy to be here. 

3:00 p.m. – After lunch, we decide we want to sit down and map out the rest of our afternoon and evening. We walk across the grounds and head towards the main stages. Right as we are about to walk away, the next act at the Peachtree Stage begins. A few seconds in, my boyfriend and I exchange a look that says “damn, this sounds good.” So, we sit on the hills that look out towards the Peachtree Stage and find out who it is that made this killer entrance. Turns out to be Noga Erez, an Israel-based electronic musician and producer. 

After a few short minutes on the hill, we decide it’s too good and we must get closer. I am immediately glad we do. She looks up close as cool as she sounds from afar. She knows how to occupy the stage so well that I am shocked when she says this is the biggest stage she’s ever performed on. During her set, she covers Kenrick Lamar’s Black Friday and makes it entirely her own. I was surprised that such a small international artist on her first U.S. tour landed on the biggest stage, but whoever made that call behind the scenes at Shaky Knees knew what they were doing. It was clear from my surroundings and the reactions online that everyone who overheard Noga’s charismatic performance would return home and stream her songs (and I certainly did).   

4:30 p.m. – The Cults have 15 minutes left on Zelle on Piedmont before the next act is up. I can hear them perform Always Forever in the background as I snack on some Oreos and search for the best place to sit for the next act I am excited to see. 

4:45 p.m. – Dermot Kennedy

Like clockwork, Dermot Kennedy takes the Peachtree Stage as soon as the Cults fade out. He establishes a powerful presence immediately. His live performance sounds a lot more rock than his records, but the intensity remains the same. His voice is clear and strong. Enjoying his poetic lyrics with the warm Georgia-November sun shining down, sitting on the grassy hills, and a lively frisbee game happening on the field in front of me, the show was nothing short of perfect (but I might be biased). 

5:45 p.m. – Dominic Fike is up next on Zelle on Piedmont. For the life of me, I could not figure out what genre this man was trying to convey, and I am not sure he knew either. When introducing his band, he very pointedly fawned over his “sexy ass drummer” who was “looking so good tonight.” This prompted my boyfriend to say, “this guy sounds like he wants to fuck his drummer.” And that’s really all I can recall from this show. 

6:45 p.m. – St. Vincent

St. Vincent came prepared with an hour-long Broadway performance for her sunset show complete with a city backdrop, backup dancers in costumes, props, and spoken interludes. It was the most theatrical performance I had seen on the stage so far and incredibly fun to watch. Even from a distance, it was clear to me that she was a performer in every sense of the word, missing no details at all. 

7:45 p.m. – Amigo the Devil

We left St. Vincent’s performance a couple of minutes early to catch the beginning of Amigo’s set over at the Ponce De Leon Stage, and it did not disappoint. The whole reason I wanted to be there was that I got the general vibe that he was very weird, and I needed to see him live. Amigo proved to be as theatrical as St. Vincent except that he was a one-man show – just a guy, his guitar, and his guitar pedalboard. It was violently graphic and humorous at the same time – perfect for a guy named Amigo the Devil. He fooled most of the audience with a slow take on the classic “Pina Colada Song” (not me though), sang (multiple) songs about murder, and dropped nuggets of wisdom like “life is like a sewer. You get out of it what you put in.” Remember when I called Tejon Street Corner Thieves the most unique act? Amigo definitely gives them a run for their money. I think it’s no coincidence they’re signed to Amigo’s label, though. 

8:45 p.m. – The Foo Fighters

The weekend’s biggest headliner takes the stage right on time. We hang back for this one too but that’s because we know we’ll be fighting for that front-row seat tomorrow. The Foo Fighters are pros at this point and know how to work a crowd. Everyone is having a blast and it is a wonderful end to the first day of Shaky Knees 2021. 


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