By Max Stewart
Shaky Knees Music Festival once again brought a perfectly-curated vibe to Atlanta for a superb three-day musical event. Taking place in October instead of earlier in the year, some were dubbing the event ‘Spooky Knees,’ and I must say that the cool weather, fall backdrops, and intermixed costumes were all welcomed addition to this year’s event. It was an unbelievable festival yet again, and we tried to narrow down a few of our favorite moments below. Please check them out and also peek our full photo gallery from the event too!
If you were unable to attend this year, the good news is that we are only about five months away from the next installment of Shaky Knees in April, which already has a stellar lineup announced. Go check it out and get tickets now!
Neal Francis: Chicago’s Neal Francis has quickly established himself as one of the highest-rising musicians on the scene, and his retro and authentic style is about as cool as it comes. With comparisons to The Meters and Allen Toussaint, Francis’ soulful approach to keys arrangements made for an exceptional Saturday afternoon experience and late-night set on Friday at The Masquerade. Go check out his most recent release, In Plain Sight, if you happened to miss the set this year.
St. Vincent: St. Vincent has an other-worldly presence on stage and she was certainly one of the most captivating shows of the weekend. St. Vincent’s swagger, guitar chops, outfits, phenomenal back-up singers and stage design all contribute to the riveting live experience. Her performance leaned heavily on 2017’s MASSEDUCATION (“New York” into “Los Ageless” was perfect) and her most recent release, Daddy’s Home, but definitely felt perfectly balanced.
Foo Fighters: All rock, pure joy. Dave Grohl and the recent Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famers Foo Fighters were a kickass way to roll out the festival’s first headliners on Friday. It is clear that this band never phones it in, bringing all of their heart, sweat, and screams for 2.5 hours. It was great to hear the new “No Son of Mine,” 1999’s “Aurora,” as well as some covers of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” (with drummer Taylor Hawkins on vocals) and Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing,” all with Hawkins’ kick drum cover honoring the late Rolling Stone’s drummer, Charlie Watts.
Parker Gispert: Singer-songwriter of The Whigs and local Georgian Parker Gispert played a fantastic set with a full band on Friday afternoon (which included drummer from The Whigs, Julian Dorio.) The setlist was a great mix of solo material, Whigs tunes, and even an excellent cover of “Dead Flowers.” Look out for Gispert with some more local dates in Georgia in January.
Larkin Poe: Native Georgians Larkin Poe were jaw-droppingly impressive, with a bluesy and roots sound that brought some welcomed twang on a fine Saturday afternoon. It is truly inspiring to see such raw talent and emotive songwriting from sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, who are exceptional musicians that actually cut their teeth in a family bluegrass outfit called the Lovell Sisters.
IDLES: England’s IDLES was most absolutely the biggest takeaways of this year’s event. Their show is a full dose of passion and energy –a truly immersive live experience. We heard great things about this band from Atlanta local legend ‘English Nick’, who has been a rock radio DJ in Atlanta for years (now on 97.1) and emcee of the unbelievable live band karaoke at the Virginia Highland bar, 10 High (we heard of his IDLES recommendation on comedians’ Andrew Stanley and Aaron Chewning’s “No Worries If Not” podcast. Also, check that out). Wow, was English Nick right. IDLES is unreal. We saw them on Friday night at the Masquerade and at their Saturday early evening set. Go see them live if you have the opportunity to do so, but be prepared for some headbanging, sweat, and a rip-roaring good time.
The Hives: Always-effervescent, Sweden’s The Hives are simply the best. They give it all every time they perform, and Shaky Knees was no different. Singer Pelle Almqvist going out into the crowd and serenading the fans in ‘Atlantis, GA,’ this was one of those cathartic sets where the fist-pumps and smiles made it clear the crowd was so truly elated to see great live music again (it was also cool watching IDLES enjoy the show from a distance).
Alice Cooper: Alice Cooper and his theatrical live show felt oh-so-right the week before Halloween on a crisp fall evening in Atlanta. Cooper commits fully to bringing a badass show to his fans, complete with a two-level stage, superb cast of surrounding musicians, and a massive zombie who makes a few stage appearances. Feed My Frankenstein!
Run the Jewels: It was maybe the most ATL moments we may ever experience. The festival put the game-clinching Braves-Dodgers game on the screen (a game which determined the Braves going to the World Series — which they ended up winning) before ATL royalty Killer Mike and his group Run The Jewels took the stage. The crowd went wild as the Braves’ Eddie Rosario hit a 3-run homer, which dovetailed perfectly into the first song RTJ’s epic set. Killer Mike and his co-contributor El-P were a welcomed variation to the rock-focused lineup, and it worked incredibly well. We look forward to hopefully hearing more hip-hop in future years.
Phoebe Bridgers: Bridgers was one of the highly anticipated performance’s of the weekend, as droves of skeleton jumpsuits graced the festival grounds all weekend. With 2020’s Punisher having been one of the most prolific releases of the last couple of years and a recent guitar-smashing SNL performance making waves in the mainstream media (we loved it, of course), Bridgers delivered. After opening with “Motion Sickness” and running through a number of tunes off of Punisher to a crowd that waited hours at the guardrail, Bridgers played a heartfelt “Georgia” which will go down in Shaky Knees all-time moments.
The Aubreys: There were lots of fans of the show Stranger Things lined up to see Finn Wolfhard’s new band The Aubreys, who proved to be a cohesive indie unit during what was one of their first performances. Keep an eye out for additional releases and dates from this band, as they definitely have the makings of something special.
black midi: A true gem of a discovery of the weekend, England’s black midi had an early evening set at the Criminal Records stage that was a complex and glorious display of how to blow up the traditional ‘rock band’ live show. The core of the band was joined by a keys and sax player, and it felt like Miles Davis meets King Crimson meets Primus. Experimental improvisations, wild time signatures, and a wildly good time.
White Reaper: Kentucky’s White Reaper is a no-fuss, good timin’ rock ‘n’ roll band that perfectly kicked off the festivities on Friday. We look forward to seeing them out on the road again.
Mac DeMarco: Mac DeMarco has such an excitable and childlike stage presence (which became evident right of the gate as he tossed the mic goofily from hand-to-hand in his opening tune while wearing a bucket hat). It is refreshing to see an artist enjoy their success while it is happening, feeding good energy to fans during a live show. Playing his eclectic brand of ‘jizz jazz’ (his term, not ours), DeMarco played tunes such as “On The Level” and “My Old Man” off of This Old Dog as well as some old favorites such as “Salad Days” and “Another One.”
Orville Peck: With a covered face and cowboy regalia, Orville Peck brings a top tier musical acumen to match the western style. His Roy Orbison meets Lou Reed sound and fully-twanged band was a top-notch Sunday show, and we look forward to seeing him in more theatre or club atmospheres for years to come.
Modest Mouse: Isaac Brock and Washington’s Modest Mouse have been indie rock mainstays since the Nineties, and their set proved why they have remained stalwarts in the scene for so long. Albert Hammond Jr. and Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes watched in amazement side-stage as Brock (wearing an ‘ATLiens’ hat) melted faces.
Ty Segall & Freedom Band: Ty Segall served up a full tilt, fuzz-driven, heavy rock ‘n’ roll performance on Friday of the festival, with Harmonizer being well-represented for the ground scorching afternoon set.
Full gallery below, check out the lineup for next year’s Shaky Knees and we will see you in 2022!