It has long been known that spring officially begins in the South the weekend of The Masters tournament in Augusta. The ‘tradition unlike any other’ offers new beginnings with each dirt cheap pimento cheese sandwich and $3 domestic draught. However there’s a growing argument that spring doesn’t quite get rolling until Shaky Knees takes over whichever plot of Atlanta real estate its founders find suitable.
In four short years, this festival has risen to the top of the region’s music scene by offering up 3+ days of consistently solid lineups. Like most festivals, Shaky Knees offers full weekend passes, single day tickets and VIP treatment, but the biggest coup here is the late night sets at local clubs throughout the city. After each headliner finishes pouring it on at the Peachtree Stage, music spills over into some of Atlanta’s most happening spots including Terminal West, The Masquerade, Variety Playhouse, Center Stage, and The Earl. The late night sets allow further examination of a day’s new find or simply a chance for non festival-goers to see a huge act in an intimate setting. It’s the perfect ending to a sunny spring day.
Though in it’s fourth year, the festival has yet to find a permanent home and I can’t figure out why the festival keeps jumping around…Are the coordinators trying out every venue until they find one that sticks, or do they just keep getting kicked out for noise complaints? I know the Old Fourth Ward Park and Atlantic Station were too small, but I thought Central Park was a great host last year. The sports fields and parking lots provided plenty of room to spread out and shade trees were plentiful. This year’s installment was housed in Centennial Olympic Park and and on the lawn in front of the Georgia Dome. Atlanta’s Olympic memorial handled the large crowds well but didn’t provide much in the way of sun relief. Drinks were easy to get, restroom facilities were clean, and food options were great. I especially admired the incorporation of local restaurants into the various food courts. Food trucks were again front and center but one could also snag a BBQ sandwich from Fox Bros or a burger from the Grindhouse tent. Nice touch. I do wish festivals would take a page out of Augusta National’s book and stop charging $7 for a Dos Equis…but I digress.
Overall it was a well coordinated endeavor, aside from the pedestrian bridge over Marietta Street connecting the Peachtree, Ponce de Leon, and Buford Highway Stages to Boulevard and Piedmont in front of the Dome. At peak times the bridge became a log jam and forced 10-15 minute wait times to get to the other side of the park. Next time just pay whatever the city wants to shut down two blocks of traffic…
Now here’s a rundown of our favorite (and not so favorite) acts from this year’s fest:
The Front Bottoms
The hot afternoon sun didn’t stop the crowd from enthusiastically singing along to the catchy tunes of “Au Revoir (Adios)” and “The Beers.” With their earnest lyrics and witty banter in between each song, catching The Front Bottoms was like catching up with old friends over a few cold beers. – Camren Skelton
Finn’s laid-back, confident style and thoughtful lyrics made for a performance that was more introspective than other acts of the weekend. Although taking in Finn as a solo act is different than hearing him with The Hold Steady, the performance is still just as captivating and intense. – Camren Skelton
Although they were playing an early set, I was impressed at the large, engaged crowd these punky newcomers attracted. After taking requests from the crowd and making jokes throughout, Beach Slang put on an entertaining show that kept the crowd singing along until the very end. – Camren Skelton
Heading over to the main stages, I was able to catch British alt rockers Wolf Alice, and they did not disappoint. As people made their way into the gates, they trickled into the area around the stage, just as enthralled in the band’s folk/grunge/electronic elements as I was. Despite the hot Atlanta sun, the band brought a big crowd and put on a performance that was a favorite of the weekend. – Camren Skelton
The acoustic set Courtney delivered made for a performance that was unlike any other I saw throughout the weekend. Although he was standing on stage alone with his guitar, he filled the stage with a big sound and proved that he earned his spot on our Artists to Watch list. – Camren Skelton
This freak-folk/grunge-pop outfit from Philadelphia absolutely blew me away. Emotive vocals, angsty lyrics, and intricate guitar licks fuel their heavy pop sound. I love how lead singer Frances Quinlan’s voice perambulates the spectrum of screech-scream to delicate whisper through each song.
Catchy, painful, even epic at times. The soundtrack to your next breakup. – Chris Hunkele
If Weezer, Washed Out, and Real Estate were puréed in a blender, you’d end up with the smooth synth sounds of Day Wave.
Soundtrack to your next road trip. – Chris Hunkele
Sirens, man…These Swedish sisters were everything of which Circe warned Odysseus. The self-proclaimed “banjo punks” commanded the stage with infectious, foot-stomping energy. It was impossible to look away as they flawlessly harmonized their way through the mid-afternoon Atlanta heat.
Your girlfriend’s favorite band, your new guilty pleasure. – Chris Hunkele
Holy Crap! – who thought shoegaze could be so intense? The plan was to watch through “Lazy Eye” and head over to see Huey Lewis & the News, but an hour later I found myself trying to shake Brian and Nikki’s fuzzy guitar tones from my ears. I never expected a performance that good. – Chris Hunkele
The unexpected dig of Silversun’s set made me late for The Decemberists, which honestly wasn’t a bad thing – ’twas damn near impossible to slide into melancholy after such an energetic performance. It was kind of a bummer as I was really looking forward to seeing the Portlanders for the first time, but my gut tells me they’re the kind of band that requires four walls to really lock you in. – Chris Hunkele
My Morning Jacket
I made my way over to the big stage (aka Peachtree) looking to get sucked into an epic Jim James performance, but all I saw were a lot of theatrics. I was hoping to hear something to make me fall in love with MMJ again, but the half a dozen or so songs I stuck around for only served as affirmation that my ears will never hear anything the way they first heard 2005’s Z. – Chris Hunkele
Murder By Death
The second night of Shaky wrapped up with a late night Murder By Death set that absolutely rocked. As tired as I was, it’s never hard to get in the mood to belt out “Lost River” or “I Came Around”. I Scooped up these tickets the day it was announced and am really glad I was able to power through to the 1am start time. – Chris Hunkele
These guys rip. Saw ’em at the 40 Watt last year and was curious to see how their sound would translate to the great outdoors. I definitely recommend seeing them in a club, but if all you have is a festival chance, get there early and try to move up front. – Chris Hunkele
I was so looking forward to this I sat through their sound check. The heaviness of their new record was replicated on stage, but the vocals were…well…just bad honestly. Almost cringeworthy. Though they did do a pretty sick cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. – Chris Hunkele
Completely blown away by Chino and the boys. Any heaviness or on point vocals I was hoping to get from Nothing, I received tenfold from Deftones. If this year’s Shaky Knees was an episode of Supermarket Sweep, their set would’ve been the Farmer John golden wrapped hams. – Chris Hunkele