Shaky Knees solidifies its place in saturated festival landscape
In five short years, fest has stood out by sticking to rock roots
On the second weekend in May, thousands of indie/alternative rock fans will descend upon Centennial Park in Atlanta, this time for the fifth installment of the Shaky Knees Music Festival. Billed as a festival catered to real music fans, Shaky Knees again boasts one of the premier lineups in what has become a very congested market for such gatherings. Standing apart from the crowd is no small feat in the current festival landscape, but since its inception in 2013, Shaky Knees has featured vastly diverse artists from around the world. These have ranged from the solid and seasoned vets to the well known and well loved, but they’ve also included tons of new, up-and-coming talents.
Shaky Knees hit a home run in 2017 with the announcement of a lineup featuring LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix, The xx, Pixies, Cage the Elephant, The Shins and Ryan Adams to name but a few. This is not a festival that promotes strange art installments, beer gardens or any such distractions; rather, it sticks to 3 to 5 stages of unadulterated music, beginning at noon and lasting until 11 p.m. for three days straight – much to the music lovers’ delight. Also, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention the aftershows that occur at various venues throughout the city during the festival run. In this feature, we are going to hit upon a few can’t-miss shows for each day, as well as some newcomers you’ll want to check out should you be making the trek with the 40,000 other folks slated to attend. (And you should.)
Friday, May 12th
Top to bottom, day one of Shaky Knees looks to be the most stacked of any of the three days of the festival. Here are some of the highlights.
LCD Soundsystem – This is a no brainer. LCD started touring again in 2016, hitting most of the bigger festivals of last summer. This year, the New York City-based, indie dance-pop darlings have showed no signs of slowing down, as they again are headlining several festivals this season. This set might prove to be particularly interesting, as a new album is in the works and the band began debuting new material when they kicked off their tour in their hometown early this month. Again, this is a can’t-miss show and a big-time get for Shaky Knees.
Pixies – Returning to Centennial Park for a second time after performing at the fest back in 2015 is the Pixies. A huge legacy act, they began producing legendary indie rock in the ‘80s and haven’t looked back since. While we’re sure to hear many of the standout tracks from such landmark albums as “Surferosa” and “Doolittle,” their 2017 Shaky Knees set surely will feature tunes from their last two efforts, 2014’s ” Indie Cindy” and last year’s “Head Carrier.” It also should make for the perfect table setter for LCD Soundsystem.
Temples – Hailing from Britain, Temples have risen to widespread fame (at least in indie circles) rather rapidly in spite of having only two albums to their credit. In fact, the band has been together for only five years. Touring off their latest effort, “Volcano,” which was released last month, they bear a psychedelic trait that seems to be gaining traction these days with such contemporaries as The Growlers (also on this year’s bill). In addition to performing on the first day, Temples will make a late-night appearance at The Earl on Saturday night with Lo Moon, giving fans double the opportunities to catch these unique rockers.
Preoccupations – Some may remember the post-punk outfit Viet Cong from a few years ago. Frequent controversy precipitated a name change, and they reemerged as Preoccupations. These Canadians have put the past behind them; already they’ve released two albums under the new moniker, the second of which was self-titled and which came out last year. Their Shaky Knees should show fans how far they’ve come and how much they’ve matured in five short years.
Saturday, May 13th
While not as top heavy as either Friday or Sunday, the festival’s middle day looks to showcase several up-and-coming acts, providing a breath of fresh air in between the other days’ heavy hitters.
The Record Company – A relatively new act we’ve discovered, it’s one we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in a festival setting. Bringing old-fashioned, no-frills, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll to Centennial Park, this power-pop trio’s brand will be a much needed change of pace to the indie-punk stylings of many other acts on the bill. Being such a “traditional” rock band steeped in blues makes them one of the more unique acts at this year’s fest.
Mariachi El Bronx – You just might be a riotous punk band if you boast song titles like “White Guilt,” “Shitty Future” and “History’s Strangler’s.” What sets Los Angeles’ Mariachi El Bronx apart from the rest of the bands in the genre, though, is the Latin flair they add to their hardcore punk tunes, as evidenced by their name. They have quite the following, too, having appeared on David Letterman’s prestigious late-night show and having achieved many thousands of views on YouTube.
Fantastic Negrito – If you’re seeking another change of pace, look no further than blues and contemporary R&B maestro Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, better known as Fantastic Negrito. Playing what he describes as “black roots music for everyone,” he has roared back with a vengeance after a near-fatal car wreck saw his label, Interscope, drop him from their roster and caused him to quit music altogether for several years. Luckily for us, he has returned and will be performing songs off his Grammy award-winning album “The Last Days of Oakland.” We’re very excited to see this act live and in person.
Sunday, May 14th
The final day of Shaky Knees goes out with a bang with blockbuster performances by the likes of Phoenix, Ryan Adams, Whitney and Warpaint.
Phoenix – These French synth-poppers are back touring the U.S. for the first time since 2014. The band even has been teasing new music on social media platforms. Needless to say, all of this makes for one of the most anticipated sets of the 2017 version of Shaky Knees. Never a band to disappoint live, Phoenix always gives 100% no matter the stage. Also, the fact that they have hooks for days doesn’t hurt.
Hamilton Leithauser – Former frontman for beloved heroes of the early aughts, The Walkmen, Leithauser brings his distinct, haggard croon to Shaky Knees for a Sunday performance. Collaborating with Rostam Batmanglij (formerly of Vampire Weekend) on last year’s critically acclaimed album “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine,” the duo scored with solid rock ‘n’ roll spiked with a variety of stylistic influences. We’re hoping that they’ll reconnect for this Shaky Knees set, but more than likely it will feature just Leithauser performing tunes from his last three solo albums, which is just fine by us.
Saint Motel – One of the more interesting acts performing at Shaky Knees, Saint Motel’s sound is nearly impossible to define. Possible descriptions range from dream pop to indie prog, if that’s any indication. No two songs sound alike, and they run the gauntlet from ballads to upbeat rockers. Saint Motel might just be the most complete band going today, as they have proven they can craft well-thought-out songs while adding an ever-changing back beat to accompany their writing.