For the last five years, Shaky Knees has taken over various green spaces in the Atlanta area. On Monday, I returned from the fest: three amazing days of performances, laughs, food, and plenty of great moments to go around. To celebrate this unique and emerging festival, we’re bringing you the top ten best sets from the festival. Enjoy, and I hope that you were there!
10. Preoccupations; Friday, Ponce de Leon
Previously, the band—under the name Viet Cong—played the festival in 2015. And much like that early morning show two years ago, they came prepared this weekend and killed it to a raucous and connected crowd. Shout-out to the red headed fella clearly on something but having a ball. He knew every word, and the joy coming from his face was a reminder of how much someone can just let go and enjoy the moment.
9. Temples; Friday, Peachtree
I’ve gradually come to appreciate Temples, and for this, my first time seeing them, I am walking away a bigger fan. Even the darkness in the clouds overhead didn’t likely stop these dudes—decked in all black at the ungodly hour of two in the afternoon—from getting very hot. Regardless, the set was laid-back and fun. It felt very much like how you would expect a perfect day of enjoying music to be. They were clearly having a good time throughout, and that translated to a very watchable show for the gradually building crowd.
8. Wolf Parade; Friday, Peachtree
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what this band would be like. I genuinely dig them, although I’ve listened to “Soldier’s Grin” from At Mount Zoomer far more than anything else they’ve done, and they didn’t disappoint. The crowd wasn’t huge, but they were enjoying what they were given. Though I wasn’t super well-versed on the band, it was worthwhile, especially considering I never thought I’d get to see them.
7. Pixies; Friday, Piedmont, Friday
This was my third time seeing them (second time at this festival, also), and the Pixies have become a sure thing when it comes to live performances. Starting very strong with “Gouge Away,” the crowd was putty in Frank Black and company’s hands by the time “Where is My Mind?” hit, around the 25-minute mark. Also, major cool points for the most diverse crowd of the weekend, from what I could tell. I saw, like, a 70-year old woman totally digging it, singing all the words. Who sees that every day?
6. Cage the Elephant; Friday, Peachtree
Cage the Elephant is like that friend who you just met yet you feel like you’ve known for years. I never really cared about them, and then suddenly, I am obsessed with them. Being my second time to see the band in the last year, I was hoping for a varied set, which we got. They opened with “Don't Mess Around,” in a full-blown dance party of a song, followed by nearly all of their other hits. It was staggering. I can’t think of many other bands these days where you are continually surprised to learn that all these popular, different-sounding songs are by the same band.
5. The Shins; Sunday, Peachtree
After waiting for countless years, the moment had finally come. It was time to see, with my own two eyes, the James Mercer lead the Shins. Opening with “Caring is Creepy” was a stellar surprise, but the track selection was on point for the duration of the set. All the hits were covered, and although “New Slang” near the end suffered a little from lack of sound, sending us off with “Sleeping Lessons” was a brilliant choice, and one that made my night. I didn’t think they ever played it.
4. Portugal. The Man; Friday, Peachtree
Up until a few days ago, I never really enjoyed anything I heard from these guys. I have no idea why, but it took countless years and many missed festival appearances for it to make sense. But they killed it today. It was intense, focused, and very ornate in the world they created. At moments, the intensity surprised me. I had no idea they were so adamantly rockable. It was great, and a new love was born. That’s part of what I love about bands you’ve dismissed. It’s all about the time and the place.
3. Warpaint; Sunday, Piedmont
On the final day, under an unfortunately hot sun beating down over the crowd, Emily, Theresa, Jenny, and Stella of the Los Angeles-based band swooned the crowd with their mix of emotional and ethereal music. It wasn't the best time of day for the set, as the band admitted early on, but it was also rare and cool to see them without the darkness and shadows of the light show. The music is dark enough that it can still suck you in. This was my second time seeing them, and while I can’t say which performance I preferred more, I can say that the women of Warpaint are worth checking out if you have the chance. Read the interview with Jenny I conducted if you’d like some insight into the members of the band.
2. LCD Soundystem; Friday, Peachtree
Probably the only reason James Murphy and company aren’t number one is because I had seen them before, whereas I hadn’t seen our number one choice. LCD closed out the first night with the same intensity they’ve always had, playing a staggering, entertaining, and dance-worthy set for nearly two hours. Tracks came from all the records, including what I’m assuming are tracks from the new, as-yet-to-arrive album. It was simply wonderful and the band was in good form, so it made for an easy-to-enjoy concert. They will likely keep touring until the new record is released, so keep an eye out and see this band with all your friends.
1. Phoenix; Sunday, Peachtree
Being 30 minutes late is very frustrating—for everyone, I’m sure. But in the end, this performance came together—even if it was a little late to start. Once Phoenix arrived with their unreal-stage-setup of a screen, under the band, projecting onto a literal wall of glass, all bets were off. The crowd quickly forgot as the Frenchmen roared through highlights like “Entertainment,” which got the band and crowd alike manic, and all of the other obvious cuts. “1901” was the closer, but one of the other major highlights was “Love Like a Sunset 1 & 2,” which I was as pumped about as I was surprised. All in all, they closed the fest in a joyous and profound way. Now I also know not to miss Phoenix if they end up at Voodoo Fest or somewhere else in town.
Overall, Shaky Knees Fest was an amazing experience, and if you’re ever in doubt of the festival, you should reconsider. It’s one of the most consistent fests I’ve ever been to. It’s a joy to say I have been there, and I can’t wait to go back.