Shaky Knees Makes a Grand Return to Atlanta

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Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Music Festival, now in its ninth year, has quickly grown into its status as one of the premier music festivals in the country. Shaky is somewhat of a purist’s music festival — there aren’t massive attractions or camping like you’d see at Bonnaroo or Firefly, as the festival instead carries a focus on providing a weekend-long festival experience to just kick back and enjoy the music. After their 2020 edition of the festival was cancelled due to COVID, this year’s edition was a first in that it was lovingly dubbed “Spooky Knees”; many attendees were in costume for the entire weekend as great weather and even greater bands took the stage in Central Park. There’s a vibe at Shaky that’s unmatched around the rest of the country’s festivals, and fans of indie and alternative music need to make it a mission to get to Atlanta for the next edition going down April 29-May 1 of 2022. Below are some of our favorite acts that we caught over the weekend and our photo gallery of the festival:

 

The Aces

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The four-piece alt-pop group out of Provo, Utah seemed like a strange booking for the festival, as it’s rare that Shaky books anyone as pop-forward as The Aces. However, their Sunday set at the tented Ponce De Leon stage was an hour-long dance party, with their enthusiasm and their fans’ energy bringing the festival to a thrilling level of optimism and happiness. Lead singer Cristal Ramirez was incredibly dynamic on stage, leading fans in sing-a-longs of tracks like “New Emotion” and “Stay”. We’ve covered The Aces for a long time, and if this set meant anything, it’s that they are really going to make a dent on festival lineups in 2022.

 

Orville Peck

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The masked country singer was one of the greatest highlights of the entire weekend. Armed with a bolo-tie-wearing trio behind him, the mysterious showman that is Orville Peck took the main stage on a journey on Sunday through his rolicking brand of nostalgia-imbued country. This band was tight, which was particularly impressive considering how little touring they’ve done as a unit due to COVID-19. To categorize Peck as merely a country singer would be a disservice to his incredible talent; there’s a level of theatricality to his performances that completely justifies the hype surrounding him. His booming tenor rattled across the festival grounds as they made their way through tracks off of last year’s Show Pony EP, but the highlight of the set was easily the crowd-uniting cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” that he unleashed towards the end of his set. I initially walked into this set doubting if Peck was ready for the limelight, and I was proven incredibly wrong — he’s legit, and he’s here to stay.

 

Portugal. The Man

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After beginning their set with a powerful land recognition ceremony featuring members of a local Native American tribe and an intro video featuring the beloved Beavis and Butthead proclaiming them “the greatest rock band in the world”, Portugal. The Man’s set made a great argument that they are, in fact, the greatest rock band in the world. The set was a marathon run through their entire discography all while blending their songs with classic rock standards like Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” and Nirvana’s “In Bloom”. Behind them were projected psychedelic visuals that made this set the most visually memorable of the weekend. This band is so much greater than their biggest hit, and if you aren’t a fan or aren’t familiar with them, you just need to see them live. (Which, conveniently, they’re launching an arena tour with Alt-J next year that should be a must-see.)

 

Geese 

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Brooklyn’s Geese had the unfortunate distinction of beginning the day on Saturday, meaning that a lot of people didn’t get to catch their incredible set. However, this band has the potential to break really big; their debut album Projector that was released over Shaky weekend is a thrilling blend of Parquet Courts-esque post-punk with tighter songwriting that recalls The Strokes, and the young band’s energy and electric attitude on stage was remarkably impressive in the early morning. Keep an eye on these guys, because we doubt they’ll be playing the early slots at festivals for much longer.

 

Arlo Parks

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We caught the Mercury Prize-winning singer-songwriter Arlo Parks at Firefly this year and were blown away at how well she was able to bring her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams to life. Her set at Shaky Knees was a similar experience; with her backing band in tow, she put on a sweet Saturday morning set at the main stage that had the entire crowd in a lovely trance. Parks is effortless on stage with a calm and collected energy that’s simply a joy to watch, and she, similarly to other bands on this list, is bound to keep growing and play much bigger festival spots.

 

The Hives

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Festival-goers already caught a glimpse of The Hives and their wild late-night show on Friday evening, but those uninitiated to their brand of chaos were caught off guard at Saturday night’s set for one of the most explosive sets of the weekend. Playing a near-identical setlist, the Swedish rockers closed out the Piedmont Stage on Saturday playing through their whole discography with lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist making his way to the back of the sound booth several times. They’re a blast of a band, and one that we hope to see on more festival lineups going forward; this was an out-of-left-field booking by Shaky only because of their dormancy over the past decade, but they couldn’t have fit the vibe better.

 

Run The Jewels

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Shaky Knees caught some unfortunate heat in this headliner’s booking, only because of how strongly the festival has leaned towards rock-oriented artists for their existence. However, Run The Jewels put on a fiery and incredible headlining set on Saturday that seemed like a massive “fuck you” to any haters that doubted them. Taking the stage underneath giant inflatable hands signifying their logo, the duo of El-P and Killer Mike (an Atlanta native) tore through songs off of last year’s RTJ4 with a massive crowd hanging off of their every word. Their set was simple, and honestly a little short considering the 135 minutes given to the Foo Fighters the night before, but the duo made every moment count and seemed blown away by the reception given to them on that Saturday night in Atlanta.

 

black midi

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What more can be said about black midi that we haven’t said already? Their set, closing down the tiny Criminal Records stage on Sunday, was one of the most chaotic and mosh-heavy sets of the weekend. At this point, they’re not even playing their recorded material; rather, they’re playing heavier unreleased material that makes them one of the most thrilling live acts in the world right now. Just go see them — trust us.

 

The Backseat Lovers

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This band has blown up in the past year, and it was evidenced by their massive crowd at the Ponce de Leon stage on Sunday — it was easily the largest on that stage all weekend, which is impressive when you consider that vets like Idles and Ty Segall also took that stage. The upbeat indie-poppers put on a set to remember, and strangely dropped “Kilby Girl” (which is easily their biggest hit) in the middle of the set, almost to test those who were just there to hear that one song. However, the plethora of people stuck around, exhibiting the staying power of this young Utahn band. Their music seems designed for festivals going forward, and we should expect to see The Backseat Lovers on all of the bills in 2022.

 

The Strokes

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Ah, what would a Strokes headlining set be without a little controversy? After a fifteen minute wait, the legendary New York five-piece took the stage to Is This It’s “Hard to Explain”. However…something was way off. Julian Casablancas’s voice didn’t have the signature voice-box sound, instead sounding like Alvin and the Chipmunks singing through auto-tune. There was a palpable fear in the crowd, and I saw multiple people around me text their friends “What the HELL is going on?”

After that brief technical snafu, The Strokes led the large Sunday-night crowd through an absolute hit parade, playing their most recognizable tracks alongside songs off of last year’s return-to-form The New Abnormal. The band was in tight, impressive form, which made up for Casablancas’ general sloppiness that some have attributed to being intoxicated on stage. From my vantage point, they sounded pretty wonderful, especially for fans that had been waiting to see them for over a year as they were booked to headline Shaky Knees 2020. The Strokes might be reaching the point of phoning it in again as they did around the time Angles was released, which is sad to see considering how impressive TNA was last year. However, it’s easy to set that aside as you shout along to “Reptilia” with twenty thousand of your closest friends — because of this, their set was an interesting taste of the popular band from which a lot of people took away wildly different opinions. 

 

Check out our photo coverage taken by Terence Rushin below, and purchase early bird tickets to next year’s Shaky Knees here.

 

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