“We now resume your normal programming.” Now in its ninth year, Shaky Knees Music Festival returned this past weekend to the confines of Midtown Atlanta’s Central Park. After taking 2020 off in deference to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then returning for a special Fall edition this past October, playfully dubbed “Spooky Knees,” the festival has returned to its traditional Spring weekend. Despite the familiarity of returning to its traditional scheduling, there was a bit of a twist… The Sweetwater 420 Festival, which normally runs a week earlier than Shaky Knees, was scheduled to run the same weekend in Atlanta’s Centennial Park. In spite of the dual music festivals running simultaneously at nearby parks, Shaky Knees marched forward and once again owned the weekend with a solid three-day lineup that primarily focused on its core mixture of indie, alternative rock, punk, and pop. While many music festivals these days seem to be relegating guitar-based rock to side stages, Shaky Knees founder Tim Sweetwood, has continued to stay true to the rock roots of the festival and once again curated a stellar lineup that balanced impressive headliners like Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, and My Morning Jacket, with plenty of up-and-coming talent as well.
Back in the Fall, all attendees were required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test result before entering the park. This past weekend, there were no such restrictions, and fans filed orderly and quickly into the festival on a gloriously sunny and temperate Friday afternoon. Once through the gates, familiarity and excitement mingled. We could not wait to explore this year’s offerings and after a brief re-orientation to the festival grounds, it was off to the Piedmont Stage to start the day with Florida-based indie-rockers, Flipturn. The buzzworthy young band has been making a name for themselves on the smaller club stages, but they seemed right at home on the big Piedmont Stage. Their fun as Hell, hooky, upbeat sound got the early crowd up and moving and set the ideal mood for the day. We were still bouncing as we made our way to the headlining Peachtree stage for Midwestern indie-rockers, Motherfolk. Their lighthearted high-energy performance cemented the Sunny Friday party vibe and set us on our way for a day of highlights that included:
After the one-two punch on vibrant indie-rock, we downshifted a bit for the ethereal country flavored dream-pop of Atlanta-native Faye Webster. While it may sound like an odd mixture of influences, Webster’s genre blending is both unique and satisfying. It was readily apparent that she has earned the acclaim that she has been generating.
Canadian singer-songwriter Jordan Edward Benjamin, better known as Grandson, delivered a no-holds-barred set from the Peachtree Stage that slapped down an early claim for one of the best sets of the day. Benjamin was all over the stage and at one point even scaled the scaffolding at the side of the stage. The only let off to his energetic performance was a medical related incident that occurred in the crowd, resulting in a pause of the show ensuring that medical staff could respond.
Massively popular on the other side of the pond, Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro played the intimate confines of the Ponce stage. Biffy Clyro have won multiple awards and play to massive audiences in the UK, so it was both a shock and a privilege to see them on such a relatively small stage. Playing opposite the resurgent Spoon was a bit of a scheduling headscratcher that found many choosing the familiar Austin-based indie rockers. Biffy Clyro are a massive band, and the Ponce stage struggled to contain them. They absolutely melted the faces off those who caught their set. Do yourself a favor, check out this band, and kick yourself later for not seeing them in an intimate setting.
Closing out night one fell to the monumental punk trio, Green Day. Having emerged from the Bay area in the 90’s, Green Day took the leap from the DIY punk scene to the masses, and never looked back. While Billie Joe Armstrong, Tré Cool, and Mike Dirnt are less the uncontrollable wildmen of their youth, and more the elder statesmen of rock these days, they are still able to cut loose and delivered a 23-song set unsurprisingly skewed heavily toward their hits and fan favorites, providing a bit of something for everyone.