Posted: 6:37 pm Friday, June 2nd, 2017
By Kyle Taylor
I had the privilege of attending the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. It was actually the third year in a row that I have been, and if that doesn’t speak for itself, I can tell you it’s a great experience, well worth the 6+ hour drive.
It’s doesn’t have the tight knit, family vibe of a camping festival like Bonnaroo, the see and be seen atmosphere of Coachella, or the prestige of a big city festival like Lollapalooza. And, with only 3 stages, it’s one of the smaller festivals with the capability of producing such impressive lineups. Shaky Knees is a niche festival. There are no EDM or rap artists. It is for fans of all types of rock music: punk, indie, alternative, and occasionally hard core. And that’s what I like about it most. It is not over produce, too spread out, or full of festival newbies who could care less about the music and more about partying.
Below are some of the best acts I was able to catch over the weekend:
I was a little skeptical of seeing them pop up on festival lineups in 2017, especially after playing almost every festival known to man last year. When it seemed as though Coachella had them pinged for a unique booking in 2016, they exploded back onto the scene. One year later, the result I feared was burnout. But, after releasing new music, something that almost seemed impossible a couple of years ago, James Murphy and company carefully sliced and diced their way through a nearly two-hour show Friday night at Shaky Knees. The perfectly scripted set had the entire crowd at Centennial Park jumping, bouncing, and jeering at all the right times. James Murphy’s brilliance was on full display, as he put on a clinic of how to make damn good music. Two hours quite frankly wasn’t enough. I left wanting more.
I would not have included Bishop Briggs as a must-see act considering this year’s impressive lineup. She honestly struck me as a one (or two) hit wonder pushed onto us by a record label whom would quietly fade away into a perpetually bottom of the bill act after the success of “River” wore off. My perception of her changed quickly at Shaky Knees. It changed even more so when I met her. You can read that interview HERE. Her stage presence reminded me of Florence Welch or Tyler Joseph, as she feels every lyric she belts out in front of a thumping band, which includes both of her producers Mark Jackson and Ian Scott. Her energy and passion is infectious. I don’t see a reason why she won’t continue to build a fan base, mature to larger venues, and creep up higher upon festivals lineups. The 24 year old London-born, Japan/Hong Kong raised, LA-based, alt pop singer is a star.
Portugal. The Man
The Alaska natives had one of the largest crowds of the day at the main stage, albeit an early evening set. It rivaled the size of LCD Soundsystem’s crowd, all the while with two competing bands playing at the same time. Their career has been primarily propelled by a grassroots effort of constant touring and almost annual album releases. Despite only limited commercial radio success, those efforts were objectified on Friday evening. There’s a reason such a large crowd gathered… to hear them play “Dayman” from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Well, maybe a little, but otherwise for a flawless set.
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Van McCann is a rock star, and Catfish and the Bottlemen is one of the most exciting rock bands in the world right now. They proved that on Saturday afternoon in front of an impressive crowd on the main stage at Shaky Knees. They still don’t get the same respect within the U.S. as they do in the U.K., but that has to change eventually. While they mostly play small and medium sized clubs in the US, their sound is totally ready for arenas.
Anyone with an ego would have been disappointed with having to play the smallest and most often overlooked stage of a music festival, especially early on a Sunday. Add to the mix numerous Juno awards, chart topping records, and the ability to sell out venues in Canada at the drop of a hat, and rest assured that this placement might seem disappointing. No, I’m not talking about Drake or Arcade Fire, but rather The Arkells, and it’s a great thing that they don’t have an ego. Front man Max Kermen threw a party for those in attendance, joining the crowd at one point, and even inviting a fan on stage to play guitar during “Private School”. The exuberance on Billy’s face and the fan’s won over the crowd and cemented The Arkells name in their heads.
From the opening note of “It Was a Sin”, The Revivalists had the large crowd gathered around the second stage in the palm of their hands. They’ve been around for nearly a decade, but recently got a jolt of energy thanks to the radio success of “Wish I Knew You”. That song, despite being excellent, doesn’t do the band full justice. Lead by David Shaw, they appear to be taking that song’s success in full stride. The countless miles and shows logged in their ten-year existence only added to their high octane performance. This was probably many fans’ first time seeing them live, myself included, and certainly won’t be the last.
I was also fortunate enough to conduct some interviews with select artists while I was there. Click on the artist below to learn more: