The Shaky Knees Festival returned for its third straight year in its third location, Atlanta’s Central Park in the Old 4th Ward. The new festival grounds are the same as the last few years of Music Midtown in the early 2000’s, with the main stages in the park, connected to the secondary stages set up in a parking lot behind the Atlanta Civic Center. The new venue provided more opportunities to sit and relax in the shade than the concrete jungle of Atlantic Station last year.
Food for the weekend was provided by a host of food trucks, both local and regional. Pro tip: eat before 5:00, as the lines at every food truck in the park looked to be longer than one hour once the patrons got hungry. A BBQ Pork Bahn Mi sandwich on Friday was the perfect combination of cool, crisp veggies and warm bbq pork between a fresh baguette. Shaky Knees proved once again that they have a handle on the restrooms as the lines were never longer than five deep.
The festival opened on Friday to sunny skies and warm temps, another welcome change from the rainy past. Brooklyn’s indie-pop darlings Haerts got the crowd in a dancing mood early, as lead singer Nini Fabi owned the stage in sexy pants while the kick-drum kept up the steady beat. D.C. power-pop trio Jukebox the Ghost was an early favorite of the kids. Up next was Denver’s Tennis playing low-key surf-pop, again featuring some sexy outfits. The Kooks returned to Atlanta after a long hiatus to a welcoming crowd ready to dance to their classic brand of brit-pop, and made sure to break out some of the classics. English punk-rockers Kaiser Chiefs kept the party going back on the pavement, then back to the park for some vintage indie-rock from Brooklyn’s TV on the Radio. During a break to grab a late lunch I stumbled upon Zella Day, who owns the crowd under the tent with powerful vocals and real on-stage swagger - my favorite discovery of the festival so far. American Football tease the crowd by announcing themselves as Wilco when they take the stage. Influential psychedelic / indie / pop / rock band The Pixies are next. Langhorne Slim is spotted at the soundboard with Bob Crawford of the Avett Brothers, and Langhorne pronounces the show glorious on Facebook. But The Strokes are the main event, and their blistering set shows why they were once hailed as the band that was going to save rock-and-roll, including such classics as Last Night, Is This It, Hard to Explain, and closing the set with the b-side classic New York City Cops.
Saturday starts out with a fun set by Brooklyn’s Mariachi el Bronx, followed by Canadian post-punk rockers Viet Cong who pack in the tent. New Jersey indi-rockers Real Estate play to a large crown and give everyone a chance to relax and enjoy lunch, this time a delicious pulled-pork sandwich by one of Atlanta’s best bbq joints, Fox Brothers. Home-town punk-rock favorites The Black Lips are next, and the crowd lets them know how much they are loved, with plenty of crowd surfing and beer-cans flying. Idaho indie rock staples Built to Spill play to a lively crowd, followed by Louisiana native Jeff Mangum’s Neutral Milk Hotel, playing again after a long break. Social Distortion plays the crown favorites, followed by the real Wilco. Finally, The Avett Brothers close out the night with a 2 hour set of favorites old and new, including a stirring rendition of The Battle of Love and Hate.
Sunday featured New Orleans own Preservation Hall Jazz Band going up against the Old 97s, both playing to the crowd. Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls got the crowd rocking again, and after a short break for lunch, Trumbone Shorty worked everyone up into a good sweat while folks catching Panda Bear got to cool off under the tent. Ryan Adams (who should have headlined) played an all-too-short set including a special song in honor of Mothers’ day. Everyone sings along with Old Crown and Wagon Wheel before Tame Impala takes to the big state to close out the weekend.