By Cameron Lee
Photo: Sydney Gawlik
May 14, 2019
Every year in the beginning of May, thousands congregate in Atlanta for what many consider to be the premier rock ‘n’ roll festival in the country. The sultry mid-spring Georgia sun plays the backdrop as bands of multiple rock-ish genres prepare for lightning performances throughout Central Park.
What makes Shaky Knees different than most music festivals, is its ability to mash the old with the new, the nostalgic with the fresh-faced, the electric with the acoustic. Shaky Knees cares about the music and it shows. The multiple stages feature robust sound, starting with the cozy (and shady) Criminal Records stage where you can catch gems like Natalie Prass in all of her bubbly blue spunk, and Deer Hunter’s reverberating experimental rock stylings. Across the way at the Ponce De Leon stage, you can see the always colorful Japanese Breakfast playing to a bustling and bouncy crowd, while Idles and Oh Sees (Thee Oh Sees) scratch your high-energy indie rock itch.
Many come for headliners like Tame Impala, Beck and Cage The Elephant, but may leave the festival humming songs from the slew of indie pop rock acts like Maggie Rogers, Electric Guest, and UK’s Honne. Need something to make you feel nostalgic? Tears for Fears and Incubus may be decades apart in their prime, but both are sure to bring back some school day memories for a crowd that spans a wide-range of age groups, all who love some sort or style of rock music.
Here are a few of our favorite moments from Shaky Knees 2019:
Tears For Fears
Kicking off an 11-song set as the Georgia sun eased on Friday night, the hill atop the Piedmont Stage cooled to a blue hue. The ‘80s new wave legends Tear For Fears strummed the shimmering first notes to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The crowd collectively took in the moment as phone lights and “woos!” rippled through the dense evening audience.
Cage The Elephant
Having their set pushed up due to inclement weather Saturday night, Cage The Elephant hit the stage with eager fans anticipating the hefty rain storm. If you’ve been to a Cage show, you know a thunderstorm wouldn’t slow the band down; most of their sets end up with frontman Matt Shultz running raucous around the stage and in the crowd. They didn’t disappoint, and it almost seemed fitting for a rock festival that features lightning bolts across their branding to end Saturday night in the glorious rain.
The high-energy Oxford, England indie rock outfit rifled through their set with vigor. Pulling from their healthy six-album catalog with the jubilant “Mountain at My Gates,” to their bouncy pop hit “My Number,” Foals showcased one of the tighter sets of the weekend.
Maggie Rogers has come a long way from the now-famous day she first played her song “Alaska” for Pharrell Williams at a NYU Clive Davis Institute masterclass. The catchy blend of folky synth-based dance music struck a chord with Williams, and crowds across the country at festivals and venues have been singing along ever since. Rogers has been touring extensively this year, and at Shaky Knees, her unique amalgamation of musical styles felt at home.
The Australian indie psychedelic rockers served as Sunday’s headliners and performed a set that culminated the three-day music escapade with the largest crowd of the weekend. Illuminating the Atlanta skyline with lasers that flickered throughout the Peach Tree stage field, Tame Impala engulfed the park with wondrous sounds. With the synths piercing through the still evening with “Patience” and the rumbling guitar riffs in “Elephant,” Tame closed out the festival in true rock glam fashion.