Now in its 7th year and truly hitting its stride, the Shaky Knees Music Festival returned to Midtown Atlanta’s Central Park this past weekend. Launched in 2013 as a humble 2-day festival in downtown Atlanta by local concert promoter Tim Sweetwood, Shaky Knees has evolved into a three-day event with more than 60 artists playing on four stages. Despite the growth and improvements, Sweetwood, who is first and foremost a music fan, has remained dedicated to his original vision and continues to curate the lineup focused on a musical core of indie, alternative rock, punk, pop, and soul. By staying true to its roots, Shaky Knees has continued to resonate and thrive in a landscape where other large established music festivals have stumbled.
Last weekend’s Shaky Knees was the second consecutive year the festival was hosted in the tree-laden confines of Midtown’s Central Park. The location is absolutely ideal, providing a compact footprint that limits long time-consuming treks between stages, supplies abundant shade from the bright sunshine, and affords some great viewing areas to catch the bands including this year’s headliners, Beck, Cage the Elephant, and Tame Impala.
With advanced weather forecasts predicting a rain-soaked and possibly stormy weekend, the opening day Friday crowd was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a mix of warm sunshine and random clouds. Eager to dive into the festival, we made a beeline to the covered and cozy confines of the Ponce de Leon stage to kick off the weekend with up and coming 19-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, Taylor Janzen. Having already garnered a fair amount of buzz from the likes of NPR, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and more, Janzen impressed the early crowd with a confident performance that finely balanced her warm vocals with folk-tinged indie rock guitar. Her set was well received and turned a few heads.
Having broken the seal on the weekend, we were eager to keep rolling, and the highlights started stacking up with standout sets that included:
• Blues/alt-rock trio Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones delivering an electric set of guitar-driven blues-soaked rock anchored by Hannah’s powerful vocals that soared from the Peachtree stage.
• Philadelphia-based rockers, Low Cut Connie turned the Ponce stage into a makeshift honky tonk. Their ferocious performance that featured frontman Adam Weiner channeling his inner Jerry Lee Lewis as he didn’t just play the piano, he played on it, under it, and belted out songs from on top of it. This was definitely a potential set of the day… And we were just getting started!
• Once again, the smaller Ponce de Leon stage delivered a performance the defied its diminutive stature. This time it was highly buzzed British punk rockers, IDLES who morphed the confines into a sweaty mosh pit. Singer Joe Talbot prowled the stage throughout the set, but was almost overshadowed by lead guitarist Mark Bowen, who clad in nothing more than his underwear, was all over the stage and at one point was out on the shoulders of the crowd. We staggered away from Ponce stunned by the succinct by wildly ferocious performance.
• Recovering from the fury of IDLES, Sharon Van Etten provided the perfect transition in the bright afternoon sun with her atmospheric songs centered around her powerful and emotional vocals.
• Liz Phair, who is enjoying a bit of a renaissance with the release of the 25th Anniversary edition of her iconic debut album , Exile in Guyville, played a solid sun-soaked set that featured beach balls bouncing around the crowd. She sounded fresh and vital, putting smiles on the faces of her long-time fans and winning over a new generation.
• Australian singer-songwriter, talented multi-instrumentalist, and captivating performer Tash Sultana built a full an impressive sound by layering loops around her expressive guitar playing. It was easy to see how she has been earning critical acclaim, and building a dedicated following.
• Incubus, led by the still powerful and emotive vocals of Brandon Boyd showed that they have not lost a step. Their genre-defying mix of influences fueled a wildly well received set and cemented their current relevance.
• Tears for Fears delivered one of the most anticipated sets of the day. It was tough to tell who looked happier, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, or the fans taking in the show. The duo played an hour long set of greatest hits that was met with louder and more euphoric cheering with each new song. They even included a curveball, by including a cover of “Creep” by Radiohead.
• Putting a cap on Friday night fell to headliner, Beck, who wowed the crowd with songs pulled from across his vast catalog. Hits like “Devil’s Haircut” and “The New Pollution,” fit solidly next to newer songs from 2017’s Colors. Unfortunately, at the artist’s request, photography was limited, So we don’t have any images of Beck’s performance to share, but we did manage to capture tons of action… Check it out below:
Day 1 at Shaky Knees Music Festival 2019
Photos © Dan Kulpa // Clashdan Photography