Shaky Knees Diaries: Day 2

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Shaky Knees Diaries: Day 2

Make sure to check out my recap of Day 1 if you haven’t already!

1:00 p.m. – Carlie Hanson

We get to Central Park with the rest of the early birds to catch the first few shows of the day. I really appreciate that all the events start after noon at Shaky Knees, because damn, did I need to sleep in. First up is Carlie Hanson on the Peachtree Stage. Hanson walks out on stage with her freshly, freshly = three weeks ago, shaved head, and I am bemused by the thought that I would hate to perform bald with the sun beaming me during the hottest part of the day (Can you get sunburnt on your scalp?). From where I’m watching, this doesn’t seem to slow her down at all. Her performance is energetic and dynamic. She shows sincere love for the people of Atlanta. Meanwhile, I am sitting on the grass feeling slight to moderate levels of existential dread after realizing she is younger than I am.  

1:30 p.m. – Kid Sistr

We leave Carlie Hanson’s show a little early to catch the end of Kid Sistr’s performance on the Criminal Records Stage. I had not previously listened to the all-women band before then, but so many friends recommended the act that we had to check them out. Happy to report that I’m pleased we got to see them perform. The trio clearly consists of seasoned and charming musicians, who are tremendously down-to-earth. Kid Sistr gained a steady following using TikTok during the pandemic and released a six-song self-titled debut EP. To me, it was obvious they were grateful to be back on stage, performing their first festival show. 

2:15 p.m. – Arlo Parks

We arrive at Arlo Parks about 15 minutes early and take our places near the stage, which is set up with vibrant flower decorations and a simple yet elegant banner with her name on it. As the show begins at 2:30 p.m., I glance behind me. The field has gotten significantly more crowded. To be honest, I’m surprised Arlo was placed at such an early slot with only 45 minutes of stage time instead of a full hour. She certainly has the streaming numbers to justify a longer set; and although I couldn’t see the full extent of the crowd from the front, it seemed like a big one. Her performance was striking and endearing to witness. During the middle of the set, she plays three of the biggest crowd-pleasers back-to-back, going from “Too Good” to “Caroline” to “Eugene”. It was definitely a set worth seeing all the way through. 

3:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. – During this three-hour period, my boyfriend and I don’t really commit to any of the shows. We catch a little bit of everything from Neal Francis to The Collection to Mercury Rev to Larkin Poe. We enjoy the pleasant October weather, thankful for a fall Shaky Knees, which is as perfect as the weather in Georgia can be. It’s warm but breezy. I almost wish it was in October every year, and I think a lot of people would agree. 

For all the acts so far, we have enjoyed the show from a distance or in a sparse crowd by the stage. Tonight is going to be different. We’re going to get as close as we can to see today’s headliner – Run the Jewels. But this is a marathon, not a race. Getting front row at a festival requires perseverance and a little bit of prep. 

So, first up: dinner. This time we go to the main food truck area by the two bigger stages where the food options are grand. They have everything from noodles to pizza to smoothies. Luckily, the food lines are pretty short compared to the lengthy bar lines. I settle for a chicken gyro and my boyfriend gets a pulled pork sandwich. These are much better than yesterday’s chicken fingers and salty fries. I grab a few lite snacks (Oreos and Nutter Butters) from the press lounge for the road (AKA holding our spot). 

Before we stop by Peachtree Stage to scout the situation, I finally cave and use a porta-potty. I managed to go without them yesterday, but I know today I can’t risk it. But hey, here I am, I survived to tell the story. 

6:30 p.m. – Garbage’s set on the Peachtree stage ends in 15 minutes. We sit by the grassy hills once again and watch everyone rock out to “When I Grow Up” (no, not the Pussycat Dolls’ song sadly). The set ends at 6:45 p.m. As expected, there’s a good crowd by the stage that doesn’t seem to be moving. So, we decide to join them and make our way down there to wait for the next set. At this point, we’re about six people away from the stage so things are looking good. There’s a group of women in front of us who say they’ve been here for six hours to see Portugal. the Man from the front row – that’s festival life for you.    

7:45 p.m. – Portugal. The Man

Before Portugal’s set begins, one of the band members steps out onto the stage. He explains that for every place they get to perform, they ask someone from the indigenous community in the area to begin with an Indigenous land acknowledgment. So tonight, a member of the Atlanta Indigenous Peoples Association joins us over a video to acknowledge that the land originally belonged to the Cherokee and Muscogee communities. She goes on to say that for many Indigenous communities land is considered sacred. She asks for a moment of silence. Once it’s over, a video clip starts interloping Portugal’s hit single Feel It Still with other various clips. It gets the crowd going immediately. Their set is minimal except for a projector that plays various psychedelic images and videos for the entirety of the show. They range from declarations of love from the band to their fans to lots of naked dolls. Not once did the band stop to talk, except for maybe four words I don’t remember anymore. They played songs non-stop. It was a show that was immensely fun to see so up close and personal.   

8:45 p.m. – Portugal the Man wraps up right on time. Promptly, Alice Cooper takes the stage at the Ponce de Leon, but unfortunately, we cannot make it. We’ll have to settle for hearing it in the distance. (From the looks of it though, we missed quite the show. Alice Cooper seemed to have taken the Halloween theme to heart.) Anyways, back to me. Shortly after Portugal’s set ends, their fans dutifully leave the crowd. I weasel my tiny self from the sixth row right up to the second. The girls in front of me say they’re not staying for the full set for the headliner and that we can take their place once they leave. Everything is going according to plan.  

For the next hour, we watch as the stage is broken down and set up again. At this point, it’s gotten colder, and I’ve put on the new hoodie my boyfriend bought at the merch stand. It’s fluorescent pink with an image of the iconic Run the Jewels logo. On the stage, the crew suspends a larger-than-life version of the same logo above everything else. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check it out below. 

9:45 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. – Run the Jewels

Alice Cooper fades out in the distance and the anticipation where we’re standing picks up. Right at 9:45 p.m., the crowd begins to chant “RTJ” repeatedly. Then, the DJ steps out onto the stage for the introductions with a remix of “We Are the Champions” playing in the back. The crowd responds by putting up a fist with one hand and a pistol with the other. Killer Mike and El-P step out onto the stage and the show picks up. The speakers in front of the stage are so loud, I can see the cardboard trash can in front of me vibrate. I have a lot of regrets in my life. Getting to the front of the stage for this show is not one of them. Neglecting to bring earplugs is absolutely one of them. There’s so much that happens during the next hour and 15 minutes that I’m not sure I can even do it justice, but I will certainly try. 

El-P lovingly jokes that he never sees Killer Mike get nervous to perform, but tonight it seemed as though Mike was in fact nervous to perform for his home city of Atlanta. On top of that, this is the duo’s fourth show in three years. Needless to say, it certainly feels like a special event for everyone. Thirty minutes in and the girls in front of us leave as planned and so, I am now at the barrier still wearing the pink RTJ hoodie.

Run the Jewels, who are known for their politically charged lyrics and activism, interlace a lot of it into their shows. Like when the crowd chants “look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar.” At another point, during “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” I raise my camera up to record the show, and right at that second Killer Mike spots me and performs his lines pointing directly and me and my camera:’) – an absolutely unforgettable moment. 

Later on, somebody behind us throws their shoe on stage and security immediately jumps over the barrier to find the culprit that everyone is already pointing at. On the stage (unrelated to the shoe incident), Killer Mike preaches “developing empathy and compassion is gold. Love is gold. And every woman in this crowd deserves to be loved and cherished.” The audience responds sincerely to his sentiments.

Then, the duo does something unusual for a festival. They say their goodbyes ten minutes early and leave the stage. A minute passes, the “RTJ” chant starts back up, and they burst back out for an encore. They perform a few more songs. Finally, Mike takes a moment to bring his kids out onto the stage and asks them to stay for the final song. The show is over but Killer Mike and El-P come back out after the lights go out to thank everyone, but the mics were already cut so we couldn’t hear them. We join the crowds and depart after a second successful day at Shaky Knees.

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  1. Pingback: Shaky Knees Diaries: Day 3 – Vinyl Mag

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