This year’s Shaky Knees festival was memorable for several reasons. It was the last year they allowed people to register their SK tattoos which inspired Natalie to get one. With Natalie armed with a tattoo she dropped Ewan off in Alabama with Granddaddy and Noni for a weekend at the lake. That left Natalie and I childless and her with the first real feeling of freedom and celebration since finishing school. We spent the weekend with Scott with frequent stops at the bar that Andrew was working at. Natalie had a really great time the two days she went, both of which including at least one after show (Saturday included two!).
Just the Festival
A few things stuck out to me in particular about the festival this year. Good and bad, it was overall a great festival with some glaring flaws.
Not enough of everything.
The lines for the bar were insane. I think the fact that they had far fewer bars and bartenders than years past (at least it seemed that way) was the main issue. There were two water stations at opposite ends of the festival. There should’ve been at least one in the middle. Also, am I crazy to expect more things to do? How is there not an organized corn hole torunament or something like that? This festival isn’t lacking for space but it is lacking in things to do.
I thought the design of the Shaky Knees stuff was really great, better than years past. I ended up grabbing a pin and kept egging Natalie on into buying a ttank, but it didn’t happen. The one exception was the poster which featured some cool art but the bands were listed very small at the bottom. I prefer when the bands are part of the focus or at least large enough to read from more than a foot away.
No Local Acts
Besides having Songs For Kids, a charity created by a group of musicians in Atlanta who do all kinds of great work, there is zero focus on music from Atlanta or even Georgia. Why not? If there is one thing I always want to see it’s support for the local scene. When a local band makes it big I feel like that is something that the scene can take pride in. Shaky Knees could easily put a local band in front of thousands of people but instead they do nothing. Host a contest and have the top three winning groups open the show each day, let people vote online or using the Shaky Knees app (gives it more use beyond the three days of the festival. Or just pick three bands, one for each day and have them sprinkled in. They could help several bands each year get to the next level in their careers.
Writing this a few days out is interesting becaue only a few bands really left a strong impression on me.
Cage The Elephant
These guys kick ass. The band is great but the singer just owns the stage for as long as he wants. This show including a costume change for him where he point on this skin tight near naked fishnet bodysuit and then proceeded to slither across the stage while abssolutley owning the crowd. The crowd seemed into it despite the fact that it was pouring down rain the entire show. We ended up leaving a few songs from the end, but I did get to her the live debut for House of Glass, which was awesome. I don’t know what’s up with their guitar player though. I think he changed outfits three times and sometimes he would ust abandon his guitar and run into the crowd. That seems fun and all but… like… aren’t you thee to play the guitar? I bet he is a interesting guy to talk to. Their stage set included flames, great lights, multiple levels of stages and surprisingly decent sound considering the weather.
I only remember this set because of how much it annoyed me watching a band of very little talent play to a huge crowd on an afternoon festival set. Practically half of their set was covers, which they performed poorly, often times not knowing how to finish a song resulting in multiple members doing their own thing or trying to match each other but just not quite nailing it. There is a woman guitar player in the band who can actually really play. I wouldn’t be surprised if the drummer started plaing last year. Same for the guitar player/singer. The kids loved it because the singer (who shouldn’t be singing) is in the show Stranger Things. When he said it was like playing a hometown show because he had lived in Atlanta last summer (presumably while filming Stranger Things) my eyes almost rolled out of my head. I’m getting old and jaded.
Beck’s stage show was excellent, he commands the stage with a fun flair. His band was excellent as well, each deserving of their own solo moment during an encore band introduction period. He played a fairly wide variety of songs from his 25+ year career. I imagine for an artist like him it’s hard to choose what goes on the setlist. He had some fun and psychedelic imagery on a giant screen behind the band.
Grouplove were there to have a good time and they wanted every person in the crowd to come along for the ride. Their stage set included giant teeth in front of the drummer and at the top of the stage, mimicing that the band were in a mouth. Written on the teeth was the band name. They claim to have retired their cover of Sabotage during this set. Their energy alone ensured their presence on the main stage was a good idea.
I watched some videos of Idles playing a few months back but I guess Ihad forgotten about how much fun they were because I ended up feeling surprised at how hard they brought it. One thing I love about punk music is that it doesn’t matter how you look and Idles proves it. These guys just look like dudes. One dude stomping around in his underwear while playing guitar. Another dude with a mustache yelling into a microphone, cord wrapped in a clenched fist around the mic. Another dude wearing a baseball hat battering methodic murder melodies from his guitar.
Tears For Fears
Although everyone says the two guys in the band dislike each other, the music they play sounds great. I’m willing to overlook the personal drama because of how good the songs are. They nail every note and their band is just as on point. They remind me of when I saw The Police and every song was another hit. This was the set that reminded me of my Dad this year. David Byrne last year. Some really great alternative songs from the 80s.
We ended up going to one official Shaky Knees after show and a few other places with live music to cap off the first two nights of the festival.
FIDLAR & Lilly @ Variety Playhouse
This was an official Shaky Knees Late Night show and I’m so glad we went. Lilly opened with a set that tok the crowd a little while to get into, but after about 5 songs everyone started to get into the heavy, crazy punk sound they bring. They put on a great performance and I’m glad to have caught them at this show because they played at 1 pm on Saturday and we didn’t make it to the festival in time to see them there.
FIDLAR always brings a great setlist and to my surprise the Variety Playhouse ended up being one of my favorite places I’ve seen them. The floor was tight, it felt like 40 feet max between the stage (no guard rail, no security) and the first row of seats. The pit was rad, the set was long, and I grabbed a beer soaked setlist which was torn.
Wasted Potential Brass Band @ Northside Tavern
This show was unexpectedly awesome. Northside Tavern is not a terrible venue for an intimate, sweaty up tempo New Orleans jazz show but they could really get rid of the giant tables right in front of the stage. The band killed it. Everyone was dancing and it was so fun.
DJ Baby Yu @ District
The DJ wasn’t great. The fact that he had all kinds of people in the DJ booth and there was a photographer taking tons of photos (he’s a DJ, he’s just standing here staring at his PC basically) made it seem kind of lame, especially since the club wasn’t packed or anything. I still had fun dancing though.