Shaky Knees Music Festival | 2015

shaky knees_preview_75Every major festival has a few conflicts when the schedule comes out, but this lineup was so good that most timeslots had at least one.           



Photo provided by Matthew Wallin

In an Atlanta festival market that is competing for attention, Shaky Knees is the leader of the pack. Even taking into consideration size constraints and differences in genres, Shaky Knees is consistently taking it to the rest of the area’s festivals (including Music Midtown, A3C, and Counter.Point). This year, Shaky Knees’ impressive lineup, new location, and well-organized event only further separated them from the other festivals in the Atlanta area.

Every major festival has a few conflicts when the schedule comes out, but this lineup was so good that most timeslots had at least one. Friday featured powerful but conflicting sets from Haerts and Halsey, The Kooks and Wavves, Mac DeMarco and Zella Day, TV on the Radio and Death from Above 1979, and Pixies, Brand New, and James Blake. Whew. Making a choice between opposing sets could leave you exhausted and wondering whether you had made the right decision, but the depth of the lineup meant that there usually wasn’t a bad choice to me made. If the internet was to be believed, then the night’s headliners, The Strokes, could be a bit hit-or-miss live. Luckily for us, their show was a lot more “hit” than “miss.” The guys from NYC pushed through a 20-song set that included highlights such as the live debut of “All the Time “(from 2013’s Comedown Machine), their first time playing “You Talk Way Too Much” since 2004, and singles “Last Night,” “Under Cover of Darkness” (for the first time since 2011), and “Heart in a Cage.” The Strokes were Shaky Knees’ top-billed band for the entire festival, and they lived up to their billing.

Photo of The Strokes provided by Matthew Wallin


Saturday’s lineup featured a lot of bands that were peaking at the perfect time to play the festival, including Speedy Ortiz, Viet Cong, Metz, and Fidlar. The back-to-back-to-back Viet Cong>Metz>Fidlar shows were loud, fast, and sweaty, and comprised possibly the best three-show run of the weekend. I don’t know if it was a shock to the system or just a welcomed change of pace to jump right into Built to Spill, a band that has never been as famous as they should be. The day’s next conflict snapped me back into reality when I had to choose between indie rock giants Interpol and Neutral Milk Hotel. Since I was at Interpol’s last show in Atlanta, and since I think Neutral Milk Hotel will end their three-year reunion tour soon, I chose them. They did not disappoint. The band seamlessly shifted between slower emotional songs and faster, louder songs that worked the crowd into a frenzy. They ended their 17-song set with “Two-Headed Boy, Part Two” and “Engine.”.  Saturday ended with fun sets by Oasis founder Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (who, along with The Strokes on Friday, voiced their confusion over what a “Shaky Knees” actually was), Wilco, and The Avett Brothers. It’s amazing to see the growth of The Avett Brothers, who started out playing tiny venues with a smaller, rougher sound that was produced by just three band members, and who now have expanded their sound by adding several other musicians to their live shows such that they can now headline an event as big and as important as Shaky Knees.

Photo provided by aLIVE Coverage


Matthew E. White and Nikki Lane played very different sets on opposite sides of the festival to kick off Sunday. Those who had the energy and the foresight to get up and into the festival early were rewarded with smaller crowds and intimate shows at both stages. Even though it didn’t compare to their late-night show on Saturday night, Spiritualized’s Sunday afternoon set was one of the day’s best. One of the strengths of Shaky Knees lies in bringing bands that generally please a lot of people (Modest Mouse, The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes) and bands like Spiritualized that extremely pleased a smaller, niche group. It was a surprise to see bands like Spiritualized and Ride on the lineup when it was announced, but to no one’s surprise, both of their Sunday sets were impactful and memorable.

Shaky Knees saved the best two sets of the weekend until late Sunday, when Ryan Adams and Tame Impala put an exclamation mark on the weekend. Adams was billed above Tame Impala when the lineup came out, but ended up acting as an opener for them. The change in schedule spots meant that Adams’ show would be a little shorter, but he made the most of it as he worked through 12 of his best songs to form a nearly perfect setlist. Adams opened with “Gimme Something Good,” the beautiful single from his self-titled album, and one of our favorite songs of 2014. Other highlights included “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” “New York, New York” with photographer Danny Clinch sitting in, and, since it was Mother’s Day and he was playing a rock ’n’ roll festival like Shaky Knees, a cover of Danzig’s “Mother.” Adams ended his show with a passionate version of “Come Pick Me Up.”


Photo of Tame Impala provided by aLIVE Coverage

There was some intrigue surrounding the day’s headliners, Tame Impala. It was a bit of a gamble to book a band that doesn’t have the name recognition that might usually be necessary to close down a festival, but it was something that Shaky Knees’ creator Tim Sweetwood didn’t shy away from, but in fact looked forward to.  Since their psychedelic music and light show were more suited for a nighttime show, and since Sweetwood believed in them, they got the chance to close down the festival with Sunday’s headlining spot. Tame Impala made the most of the opportunity. They got the tired crowd involved from the beginning, opening with a long version of their new song “Let It Happen” that started everybody moving, swaying, and bobbing up and down.  They grabbed the crowd from the start and never let go. The crowd was as responsive to new songs as they were to older hits like “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” At one point, a fan from the audience even asked to hear a new song, which momentarily confused the band. Throughout the course of the night, they proved that they weren’t given the headlining spot, but that they earned it. Tame Impala was the perfect choice to close out a festival that had chosen such a great lineup and provided such a great weekend.

Shaky Knees is the festival to attend in Atlanta; we’re already excited about going back in 2016. | Matthew Wallin

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