Live Review: Day 3 @ Shaky Knees Music Festival – May 7th 2023

Sunday brought the warmest temps and the most sunshine of the weekend.  Traditionally with Shaky Knees and other multiple day music festivals, there is a level of fatigue that sets in by day 3 and attendees move a bit slower.  The acts also tend to skew toward a more chill vibe.  But this year, Sunday defied tradition and the energy and momentum never flagged.  The crowd filing into Central Park was already buzzing over the myriad of performances that lay ahead.  We certainly still had plenty of pep in our step as we made a beeline straight to the intimate and shaded Criminal Records stage to start the day with an early afternoon performance from Atlanta’s own NRCSSST.  Formed by the indie music forces of Stephanie Luke (The Coathangers) and Dan Dixon (Dropsonic, PLS PLS), NRCSSST are a bit of a local DIY supergroup.  They got our day going with upbeat soaring guitar rock rooted in a layer of gritty synth.  With our musical motor now humming, it was a short hop over to the Ponce stage for a dose of indie rock and modern psychedelia from another local Atlanta band, Trash Panda before returning back to the Criminal stage for another supergroup, OFF!.   Consisting of Circle Jerks/Black Flag singer Keith Morris, Burning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats, and anchored by bassist Autry Fulbright and drummer Justin Brown, OFF! delivered a condensed blast of nostalgic SoCal hardcore punk flavored with a touch of metal and stoner rock that energized the afternoon crowd. 

Still bristling from the spirited performances that kickstarted the day, we rounded third and managed to take in a number of highlights on our way toward homeplate and the culmination of a great anniversary festival weekend with the final headliners the Lumineers.  The late afternoon highlights included:

  • 90’s alternative rockers Live on the Piedmont stage.  Frontman Ed Kowalczyk, the lone original band member, sounded every bit as iconic as he did during the band’s heyday.  Classic hits like “Selling the Drama,” “Lightning Crashes,” and “I Alone” were every bit as good thirty years later.
  •  Future Islands led by the charismatic and emotional performance of singer Sam Herring.   
  • A set frontloaded with crowd favorites from Joshua Tillman, better known by his performance moniker Father John Misty.
  • Tim Sweetwood took to the Criminal Records stage to introduce FIDLAR, whose garage punk party anthems really connected with the eager crowd.
  • The Flaming Lips playing “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” from start to finish, with frontman Wayne Coyne performing the first few songs between giant inflatable pink robots from within a clear plastic bubble.  The Flaming Lips always put on a fun show and large balloons made an appearance bouncing over the crowd until they burst showering everyone below with confetti.

After three days of memorable performances, festival founder Tim Sweetwood once again came on stage to introduce a band, this time it was the festival closing headliners, The Lumineers.  Sweetwood pointed out that the circle had been completed, not only were the Lumineers headliners for the sold out tenth anniversary of Shaky Knees, they were also headliners ten years ago at the sold out first Shaky Knees music festival, making their booking and performance feel even more special.  The Lumineers managed to make their performance feel intimate despite the huge stage and crowd.  Early in the set, they walked down long walkways out into the middle of the crowd where they performed several songs on a mini stage surrounded by their adoring fans.  It was a nice touch and the ideal closing to the weekend.

After ten years, Shaky Knees has continued to refine and improve the festival experience each year, and this year was no exception.  Despite consolidating multiple entrances down to a single entry point, the staff were able to usher festival goers through security and into the park without any noticeable delay from previous years.  Food vendors and bars were plentiful without some of the extended waits experienced at other festivals.  Most importantly the bathrooms were well spread across the park and the lines never got too long.  The only real growing pains experienced were due to the sheer size of the crowd.  Things felt a bit tight at times, especially during the headlining sets, and supplies seemed to be running slow by later in the day on Sunday.  We also heard a few grumbles that VIP felt a bit less exclusive as it was scaled to handle more attendees.  Hardly major complaints, and nothing that took the shine off another successful weekend.  We are sure Tim Sweetwood and his team will make some minimal adjustments and Shaky Knees will be back even better next year.  We are already counting the days…

Day 3 at Shaky Knees Music Festival 2023
Photos © Dan Kulpa // Clashdan Photography