Shaky Knees kicked off a 3-day weekend starting Friday, October 22nd at Central Park in Atlanta, GA. Normally held in May, the festival was rescheduled because of Covid. Although it had been 2 years since the last Shaky Knees, the festival took place in possibly the best time of year in Atlanta. The October weather was perfect with no rain in sight and temperatures never exceeded 75 degrees. For a city with a moniker like “Hotlanta”, depending on the time of year, an outdoor festival may be met with a little trepidation. However, the cool weather lent way for concertgoers to celebrate the upcoming Halloween holiday with a plethora of creative costumes. Some of my favorites included the character David from Schitt’s Creek, (which had me do a double-take because I legitimately thought it was the actor Daniel Levy), Wayne and Garth, and then a staggering amount of skeleton onesies on the last night. The festival also donned Halloween-themed merch cleverly dubbed “Spooky Knees” which was perfect for the season.
The excitement was palpable during the first day. Most of the concert-goers headed into the park grounds on foot, as there was not a designated parking area for the festival. Central Park is a 17-acre park in the 4th ward area of downtown Atlanta. It is surrounded almost entirely by residential areas. That of which is incredibly interesting to me – considering the dynamics of sound and how loud it must be to have a music festival so close to homes and apartment complexes. It had to be my favorite parking situation for a festival, as it was free to park on the street in nearby neighborhoods and walk directly into the park. I barely walked a full mile in and out each day, which saved me probably about $150+ in Uber fees. As you approach the festival gates, there is a checkpoint for your vaccine card/proof of negative test and ID. I don’t know if I got lucky all three days or if it was just a well-oiled machine, but there was virtually no wait to get through security and vaccine checkpoints. Kudos to Shaky Knees promoters for not only providing a safe way for concertgoers to enjoy live music but also making it run so smoothly.
Once inside the festival, you didn’t have to walk far before you were at one stage. For the weekend, there were four stages and the layout was well done. There wasn’t a huge trek from the main stages to the smaller stages. Some of my favorite performances from day one were Local H, Ty Segall & Freedom Band, Dermot Kennedy, and Mac DeMarco. Sadly, there was a limited hand-selected photo pit for Foo Fighters and St. Vincent’s sets. While I could not capture photos for those performances, I stuck around to watch the show.
St. Vincent had a beautiful stage set up with a colorful New York cityscape backdrop. Annie Clark donned a platinum blonde wig and wore a 70s inspired outfit. An obvious-themed aesthetic to stress the groovy funkadelic sounds off of her most recent album, Daddy’s Home. Foo Fighters closed out night one with a bang. Dave Grohl ran from one side of the stage to another constantly throughout the 18 song set. He barely slowed down for moderate tempo songs like “Aurora” and “Best of You”. Grohl took a break from lead vocals and guitar to take over the drum kit, while drummer Taylor Hawkins sang a cover of Queen’s “Somebody to Love”. The night ended perfectly with Foo Fighters finishing out their set with their biggest hit, “Everlong”.
Saturdays tend to be the meatiest regarding how stacked the lineup will be, and the second day for Shaky did not disappoint. Early in the day, Mammoth WVH performed on the Ponce de Leon stage. I was really excited to see this band, fronted by the late Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen. Despite having to wear a walking boot because of an injury sustained on his ankle a week prior, Wolfgang still brought a lot of energy to the fans. Triple threat model/actress/singer Suki Waterhouse took to the smaller Criminal Stage. Her sultry performance captivated the packed-out crowd. Later in the day, Garbage performed on the Peachtree Main Stage and it was the ultimate highlight for me – being an avid Garbage fan since the 90s. Shirley Manson is always one to have fun banter with the crowd and gave props to fellow festival lineup mates, Idles and Run the Jewels with Atlanta’s own Killer Mike stating “Atlanta, you make good ones”.
Swedish garage rock band The Hives had one of the most energetic sets out of the entire weekend. The band, who has sold millions of records worldwide, brought a sizable crowd to the Piedmont stage. If you didn’t make it to their set, I’m sure you heard about it from someone else who did. Lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist hyped up the audience when he jumped down into the crowd; giving high-fives as he ran up and down the center of the pit. This was all while never missing a single note. If he wasn’t interacting with the crowd, he was up on stage throwing his microphone around like a lasso. It was truly a sight to see and honestly, their sound is unmatched.
As if on cue, the night grew dark as Alice Cooper was set to perform. He definitely brought the spooky factor with a creepy castle stage set. Alice did not skimp on theatrics as he made sure the Shaky Knees crowd got the full production he is known for; which included towering monsters, dollar bill confetti with his likeness, and, of course, the infamous guillotine. Closing out the second night were hometown favorites: Run the Jewels. Killer Mike and El-P took to the stage with larger-than-life inflatable versions of their famous mummified hands logo above them. The duo surprised fans by bringing out Greg Nice of Nice & Smooth for their collaborative song for “Ooh La La”. Killer Mike proudly brought out his kids to the stage for the closing song.
Sunday was the proverbial bow that wrapped up an amazing weekend, and even though it was the last day of the festival, there was no shortage of star power left to take the stage. Starting off strong, the Criminal Stage hosted indie newcomers, The Aubrey’s. The band consists of Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard and drummer Malcom Craig. The two were previously in the band Calpurnia together, which dissolved in 2019. The band brought a huge crowd to the smaller stage and Wolfhard’s face was beaming with delight as they finished their short set with a roar of applause. As evening enveloped the festival, indie-pop quartet The Aces took to the Ponce stage. With lyrics that are deeply personal and easily relatable paired with catchy dream-pop riffs, it was easy to see why the band drew in such a large crowd. If you haven’t had the chance to check out this band yet, I highly recommend giving their latest album, Under My Influence, a listen.
Next up was Phoebe Bridgers, who, in my opinion, stole the night with her performance on the Piedmont stage. She had announced that this was the last stop on her “Reunion Tour” to support her Grammy-nominated album Punisher. Fans came out in full force for her set sporting the aforementioned skeleton onesies, a fashion statement that has become synonymous with Bridgers. There were a multitude of signs displayed throughout the crowd. Some examples included “The Gays Love U” and “Play Georgia for Georgia.”
The Strokes were the last act of the weekend. They stoked the crowd’s anticipation for their set as they took the stage about 15 minutes later than scheduled. Other than having a small snafu with singer Julian Casablancas microphone in the opening song, the band (that includes Casablancas, Nikolai Fraiture, Albert Hammond Jr., Fabrizio Morettie, and Nick Valensi) had a solid performance. The crowd went wild for the New York City-based band as they ended the night with a bang. It was a truly memorable experience for all that were in attendance.
This was my first Shaky Knees experience, and I can honestly hope that it won’t be my last. The entire weekend ran without a hitch, which made for a super enjoyable concert experience. One thing I loved the most was how eclectic the lineup was, which would easily satisfy any music lover. If you get the chance, I highly recommend putting Shaky Knees on your radar for April 2022.