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Shaky Knees Festival 2016 Recap

I just got back from one hell of a weekend in Atlanta, for a music festival that was one of the best experiences of my life thus far. The music was incredible, the people were awesome, and I even found some time for self-reflection. The self-reflection was probably just a result of the music and the atmosphere, but that goes to show that Shaky Knees Festival successfully did its job. Here’s my recap of the weekend, broken down by day and then by artist. I’m going to try my best to include any pictures I may have taken and a little description of the performance. I didn’t take all that many pictures, because for one I don’t have a nice camera and two, I’d rather just enjoy the show. That being said, I’ll have plenty of words to say about many of these bands.

Day 1 – Friday, May 13th, 2016

Ah, day one. It’s all about getting the jitters out and finding your way into the groove of the festival environment. Lots of hopping around, seeing different acts, and of course plenty of beer. I arrived at Centennial Olympic Park around 12:45pm, and immediately made our way to the far end of the grounds, where the Boulevard and Piedmont stages were found. This included crossing a rickety and poorly built bridge over the busy Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta. Right away I knew that bridge would be a problem, but since there weren’t so many people there yet, it was fine for my first crossing.

Beach Slang
I was only present for the last two songs in this set, but hearing those last two songs made me wish I could have gotten there just a bit earlier. They played a late night show with Foxing, which I’m sure was a blast but unfortunately I wasn’t able to be in two places at once. Maybe one day that will be a possibility, but I really hope not. Either way, Beach Slang is now on my list of bands to see whenever I get the chance (quite a large list).

Foxing was one of the bands that I most wanted to see at Shaky Knees, and they certainly did not disappoint. Being the first full act that I was able to witness, it was a great way to get pumped up for the rest of the awesome weekend. They played a blend of songs from their two albums Dealer and The Albatross, including an epic performance “Rory” to finish up their set, which also happens to be my favorite song by them. The performance left my friend and I shouting “whyyyy don’t you love me back?” for the rest of the weekend. That’s how you know Foxing killed it.

Don’t have much to say about Kaleo because I only stayed for two of their songs. We got to their set and weren’t really feeling it so we bailed to go watch Craig Finn. I’m sure they played well, it’s just that coming from Foxing they didn’t have quite the balls of steel that I was looking for, so we went to pursue something a little more badass.

Craig Finn
This guy was cool as hell! I didn’t know much about him before seeing his performance, but his songwriting was definitely noteworthy, and his stage presence was great. He had the crowd laughing at his dance moves, while at the same time pondering his lyrics and being sucked in to his storytelling. I wish I didn’t waste time walking over that bridge to the other side of the park during his set, because I would’ve loved to have seen the whole thing and wouldn’t have minded missing Kaleo.

The Front Bottoms
I saw The Front Bottoms after a recommendation from my buddy Eric, and I’m really glad I did. They were full of energy and the crowd was awesome. It seemed everyone around me knew the words to all their songs, and even the people who didn’t know the lyrics were jumping around like they did. I’ve been listening to their albums so the next chance I get to see them I’ll be able to sing along like the rest of the crowd. Plus, Brian Sella and the gang seem like a bunch of cool dudes.

Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice was another band that I absolutely loved. I had listened to their album, My Love Is Cool quite a few times before seeing them at Shaky Knees, and almost all the songs they played came from that album. Not to mention I got to meet them in the crowd later in the day, smoked a cigarette with the drummer, and gave them each a Spread the Werd sticker. If anyone from Wolf Alice is reading this, you rock, and I hope to hang with y’all again soon. Keep kicking ass. You gained a big fan this weekend, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Crystal Fighters
Here’s a band that I wasn’t exactly pumped to see, and whose performance didn’t exactly impress me. It was high energy and very upbeat, I just feel that their music just doesn’t have enough depth to it for my liking. They did throw out a bunch of beach balls during the set, which was pretty cool, but other than that I’d say this was my least favorite performance of the whole weekend. If you like deep, dark, eerie music, then avoid the Crystal Fighters at all costs.

Cold War Kids
The Cold War Kids were about as good as I expected them to be, which is pretty awesome. They played all their hits, and even some songs that I had never heard before, off their new album which isn’t really all that new anymore. The crowd at this show was full of a lot of “Hang Me Up To Dry”ers, as in people who were only there because they knew about the Cold War Kids’ most popular song, and left as soon as they were finished playing it. Something about that just bothers me at a festival, but I guess that’s just the way it is. I guess I can’t really talk because there were plenty of acts that I only stayed for half the set, but it was never because I only cared about one song. If you only know one song by an artist, do the rest of us (including the band) a favor and don’t call yourself a fan. Listen to some more, then you can talk.

Bloc Party
I had heard nothing but good things about Bloc Party, and after seeing them I can confirm that the good things I’d heard were all completely true. I didn’t know many of their songs, but I was certainly impressed by their performance, and of course at the end they rewarded us with a killer performance of “Helicopter”, which really pleased the old guys in the crowd, who were complaining that they wanted to hear the old school Bloc Party. According to the old guys, Bloc Party took too much of an electronic direction in their later years, and would have been better off if they had stuck to their roots. It’s tough for a band to stick to their roots. You just can’t expect bands to repeat the same old formula when it comes to making music. Everyone needs to switch it up a bit to stay fresh and current, or else people would complain that their music was just the same old stuff.

The Kills
Yet another band I hadn’t heard much of before Shaky Knees: The Kills. The main thing I took away from this concert was that their singer, Alison Mosshart, makes smoking cigarettes look cool as hell. She stood on the edge of the stage, looking out over the crowd, while bandmate Jamie Hince rocked out on guitar, smoking cigarettes like an absolute boss. Not to mention her awesome singing voice and the overall vibe that The Kills brings to the stage that made their performance one to remember. Definitely one of the stand out sets of Day One, and if I ever see them on a lineup I’ll be that much more likely to buy a ticket. Go see The Kills if you know what’s good for you.

The 1975
I’m not into The 1975 at all, and for that reason I only stayed for their first three songs. I know this isn’t a very popular opinion, but there’s something about them that just screams “LAME” to me. Their stage set up was really cool, though, but other than that they left something to be desired. I’m sure the hordes of people who flocked to their set will disagree with me, but I don’t really care. In my opinion, the 1975 is overrated and wack.

Jane’s Addiction
Ah, Jane’s Addiction. The headlining show for the first night of Shaky Knees 2016. I guess a common theme through this night was that I didn’t know the music of most of the bands I saw, but was impressed by most of them. I listened to their Ritual De Lo Habitual album in the car on the way to the festival, and I didn’t think it was the best, but some old guys in the crowd at Bloc Party told me I would seriously be missing out if I didn’t see Jane’s Addiction, and they were right. These guys really know how to have a rockin’ good time.

To explain in more detail, by the end of the set they had four hot strippers on the stage. The strippers were grinding on the band members, and towards the end they even found themselves suspended in mid-air and swinging around on flesh hooks. Perry Farrell, the lead singer and front man, seemed to be pretty intoxicated on stage, at one point freestyling his way though the middle of a song. This went hand-in-hand with the overall vibe of Jane’s Addiction. Plus, Dave Navarro (who used to be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers) had both of his nipples pierced and absolutely shredded it on guitar. It was definitely a party performance, and a great way to kick off the epic weekend.

There was one point where Perry talked about having a “hard curfue”, and then said something along the lines of “you know what we think about a hard curfue?” before proceeding to flip everyone off. That was pretty badass, except for the fact that they walked off the stage far in advance of the curfue, around 10:30pm, when they were allowed to play until 11. If I had to find one disappointing thing about the show, that would be it. Other than that, it was awesome.

After Jane’s Addiction we headed over to The Loft for a late night show with Diet Cig and Highly Suspect. My friend had convinced me to go to this with him, but I can say I’d rather have gone to see Beach Slang and Foxing’s late night show, and better yet the sold out Silversun Pickups and Foals late night show. The crowd at The Loft was a mix of people all wired from the full day of festivities and Atlanta locals who were just trying to enjoy a night at the bar. We stayed for Diet Cig’s show and bounced before Highly Suspect came on.

Day 2 – Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Back in Centennial Olympic Park for Day Two, weary-eyed but ready to rock, the first thing I did was grab a Dos Equis from one of the vendors. Then we went over to chill by the Boulevard stage in preparation for Barns Courtney. I chilled in the shade while I waited and wrote a bit of poetry, feeling like a weirdo with people all around me, sipping my beer and sorting out my head for the day.

Barns Courtney
This was a really chill, short act, and I didn’t know much of his music but definitely enjoyed it. He only played about 25-30 minutes of his allotted 45 minute set, but that’s alright. He’s a young artist who only has a few songs out, and I respect him for not standing up there and trying to fill the time with covers. Maybe in a few years he’ll be back with plenty of original material to fill a full set.

Hop Along
Hop Along was a true gem. The lead singer, Francis Quinlan, has a voice that resembles the late Janis Joplin, minus the drugs. Her and the rest of the band have some serious potential to go far in the music world, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them blow up in the next few years. Her vocal range is incredible, and the band that backs her up has some serious talent. I’m really glad I got to seem them play. For a young band with an early set, there were a ton of old guys in the crowd rocking out. If you haven’t heard of them yet, check out 2015’s Painted Shut. It’s dope.

Day Wave
These guys are a really chill band from California, playing some laid-back indie rock, as the name suggests. They did a great job, but I’d love to see them do something that sets them apart from the rest of the music that’s coming up right now. Of course, they are just getting started and have plenty of time to find themselves. As far as bands go, they are worth checking out but nothing to write home about. Not yet, at least.

Shakey Graves
This was one of my favorite performances of the entire weekend. Shakey Graves had a terrible situation to work with, the power being out on his stage for the first half of his set. The people in the crowd stood there patiently waiting as he and the Shaky Knees staff worked to get the power back on before the mishap ate away all of his time. After 30 minutes with no sound, he decided to come out with an acoustic guitar, no microphone, and sat down on the very edge of the stage to get the crowd involved with “Dearly Departed”, his most popular song. It was tough to hear him from way back in the crowd, but everyone was singing along with the parts they knew, and it made for a really intimate performance.

After playing “Dearly Departed”, he left the stage again for about ten more minutes, while the crowd dwindled but not that much. He returned to the stage with an electric guitar and yelled into the microphone, “f*ck yeah!” and went right into his set. After playing one song he stood up and said “as thanks for your patience, I am going to sacrifice this guitar”, and proceeded to smash a guitar on stage and throw the pieces into the crowd. From there he played an awesome set and the crowd was pumped, ending with a two-song encore that brought him well past his allotted time, but nobody seemed to car, especially because the technical mishaps were not his fault. It was awesome, and in a few years I wouldn’t doubt if he was headlining a festival like this. I will see him again if I ever get the chance, and you should, too.

Wild Nothing
Wild Nothing was a band that I was looking forward to seeing, and they did not disappoint. Their music is laid-back, trippy indie rock, and it was the perfect way to chill after the excitement of the Shakey Graves set. My only complaint was that the previous set cut into their time and I missed a good portion of their set, which was cut into even more by the line to get over the bridge. That bridge was easily the worst thing about Shaky Knees, and I hope next year they figure out a better way to do it. Two bridges, maybe, one going each way for twice the traffic flow.

Silversun Pickups
The Silversun Pickups performance was so awesome that they instantly became one of my favorite bands. Brian and Nikki really know what’s up, how to make the crowd feel at ease and allow them to truly get into their performance. Before they played “Circadian Rhythm”, Brian hopped on the microphone and told us that Nikki gets nervous every time they play it, so we should all stare at her. Not only was that hilarious, but it also got everyone involved in the set and feeling comfortable with those around them. They understand the overwhelming nature of a music festival, especially on Saturday night when the drugs are flowing and people are going crazy. This upbeat and unique rock band is a must-see, and if they’re on a lineup you can bet your ass I’ll be more likely to buy a ticket. They deserve to sell out arenas.

I stayed at Foals for a few songs, and they were great, but I couldn’t bring myself to miss My Morning Jacket. Foals was upbeat, dancy, and epic. They are a killer band and I would love to have stayed for the whole set, if I had the time. Their music has such a unique vibe and energy to it, and Brian of the Silversun Pickups called them “the best f*cking band in the world.” I wouldn’t go as far as saying that, but they definitely know how to do it right, get the crowd involved and make everyone feel some type of way.

My Morning Jacket
Wow, where do I begin? My Morning Jacket’s performance at Shaky Knees Festival 2016 was the single most epic performance I’ve seen in my entire life, even topping the two times I saw Brand New. They just know how to put on a show, and they played an amazing set complete with a dope light show and Jim James acting like a total boss. If anybody knows a better live band than My Morning Jacket, please do tell me, because I don’t think anything can ever top that. I would be willing to travel miles upon miles for a My Morning Jacket concert, and I know that there are many people out there who feel the same way.

There were two moments during their set that stand out in my memory. First was their performance of “Steam Engine”, when they shot TONS of confetti out of cannons on the stage into the air above the crowd. The confetti was all different shapes and sizes, and it was literally snowing confetti for the next twenty minutes or so, while they played a completely awesome version of “Steam Engine” and shot red, blue, green, and purple lights at the confetti in custom patterns that caused the sky above to be filled with geometric shapes and patterns that I can’t even describe here. I tried to take a picture, but my crappy iPhone camera wasn’t able to capture the details. It was so cool, I would do anything to see it again.

The next awesome moment in the My Morning Jacket set was when they went straight into a cover of “Purple Rain” by the late Prince, not long after the confetti settled. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and I know I’ve said that already but I really can’t say it enough. The feeling of being in that crowd while they sang Prince’s beautiful song and played an emotional guitar solo while the people around me vibed on the exact same level was incredible. It was like witnessing history. I’ve included a video of the performance that I found on Youtube, and although it doesn’t do the performance justice, you can get the general idea.

My Morning Jacket – Purple Rain (Shaky Knees 2016)

Day 3 – Sunday, May 15th, 2016

On Sunday we were tired and not so interested in many of the early acts, so we took our sweet time getting to the park, saving our energy to survive through one last night. Once there, though, I resolved to get as drunk as possible, coming off a great time the night before, all I wanted to do was drink beer. I was slugging Dos Equis like water, pouring tequila down my throat and adding floaters to my beers. Thus, my memories from this day are among my most hazy from the weekend, but I still have some words to say about these bands.

Atlas Genius
We showed up for the last three songs of the Atlas Genius set, and they were much better than I expected them to be. They were high energy and not as electronic-dancey as I had thought. I was glad to hear some rockin’ guitar sounds coming from them, especially because I had only listened to one or two songs, and was not impressed. Now that I’ve heard them live, they have moved up a few notches for me.

The Orwells
The Orwells were a band that I was really excited to see, and they were great. It was punk rock at its finest, and I jumped around, headbanging and chugging beer like I was getting paid to do it. They were on stage doing the same. Great party band that played a great set, and I would love the chance to see them again. They didn’t play “Never Ever”, which is my favorite song, but that’s alright. They took a much more upbeat and aggressive approach to this set than I’d expected, and I love them for it.

Diet Cig
Diet Cig was pretty cool, although they only played about a 30 minute set, when they were allowed an hour. I think the main reason why people like them is because Alex Luciano is adorable and her lyrics and guitar style are reminiscent of Blink-182. She sings about sex and growing up while dancing around the stage and looking cute. It’s entertaining and fun, and I dig that about them, but I think they’d be better off with a full band. Perhaps we’ll see them add a few members to their lineup in the coming years, and if that happens I’ll be glad to see them again.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones
At this point in the day, I was on my own going to shows that I wanted to see, since my buddy who I went with wasn’t into these next two or three bands. St. Paul & The Broken Bones impressed the hell out of me with there instrumentation and the lead singer’s awesome dance moves. He even ripped his pants crawling around on the ground. My favorite part had to be when they played a cover of “I Want You” by The Beatles. The cover was, in my opinion, more fun than the original song. I would have stuck around for the whole set, but they started in with some religious crap and I had to bail.

Houndmouth was one of the main reasons I bought my ticket to Shaky Knees in the first place. I’ve listened to their newest album, Little Neon Limelight countless times. I was still alone when I saw them, but I didn’t mind one single bit. I went into the crowd and belted out the lyrics to every song, dancing and jumping around while chugging beer and tequila. I was so energetic that I got the people around me more involved just from my presence, or at least that’s what I like to tell myself. They played a cover of “Motion Pictures” by Neil Young, and it was so awesome. Right after that they went into “Sedona”, and of course after that a good portion of the crowd bailed and missed “My Cousin Greg”, which in my opinion is their best song.

Their lineup was quite a bit different than I had expected, and I guess I must have missed the announcement that Katie Toupin had left the band. The dude behind me in the crowd had mentioned that she was dating the drummer, and they broke up, so she left the band. I’m not sure how true that is but we’ll roll with it. I thought they sounded great, and they’ll be alright without her. I’m sure they’ll find another girl to join the band and take her vocal parts, but even if they don’t this new direction is cool with me, and I’m looking forward to their next release.

The Head And The Heart
This was the final show for my solo time, with my friend joining me halfway through with some random kid he had met in the crowd. He had mentioned that The Head And The Heart was “acoustic depressing crap”, but I said he didn’t know what he was missing, and once he was there he totally enjoyed it. They played all the hits, and even some new songs off their upcoming album. “Lost In My Mind” was great, with everyone singing along and enjoying the hell out of it. They’re a great band, and I’m excited to see their next album.

Explosions In The Sky
These guys really know how to play the guitar. I stayed for about half their performance, and met some really cool people in the crowd around me. Even ended up in a random picture with some people who I will probably never see again, including a girl that my friend fell in love with after talking to for fifteen minutes. If you’re reading this, girl, contact me, and I will connect you with my friend. If only I could remember your name, that might make this a bit easier. Either way, Explosions In The Sky is a really cool band, and I would definitely see them again at a smaller, indoor venue, so I could really get the full experience of their show.

Florence + The Machine
Florence, you are super cool, and it took me until seeing you live to realize that. When I saw Florence + The Machine was the third headliner, I almost went ahead and sold my ticket, but I’m really glad I didn’t. For some reason, I wasn’t able to get into her music until I saw her live performance. She really knows how to rock a crowd, and she is a lyrical genius. I guess it was a classic case of hipsterism, where I thought she was too popular to be cool, but in the past I had grouped her right in there with The 1975, but now I know that she far exceeds the skill level of The 1975, and she is in her own category of awesome. Thanks for being patient with me, Mrs. Welch.

Anyway, now that you’ve read this super long post, my concluding notes are that I will probably be going to Shaky Knees Festival 2017. This year I bought early bird tickets, but next time I’ll probably wait until the lineup gets released. Although this year if I had waited for the lineup I probably wouldn’t have gone, if I didn’t buy a ticket I would have missed out on this epic weekend. We’ll see what happens, but until next time, stay chill, and Spread the Werd.

Up next: A Beginner’s Guide to the Charleston Music Scene