October 21, 2021
After suffering a crushing blow in the wake of Covid, festival season is finally making a triumphant return in 2021. While some major festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella couldn’t safely operate this year, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees will be returning this weekend to Central Park with an impressive lineup.
Since its inception in 2013, the indie-rock focused festival has managed to outdo itself nearly every year, expanding its range of artists both in style and popularity. This year is no exception, featuring Foo Fighters, Run the Jewels, and The Strokes as headlining acts. These three titans will be joined by a massive and equally eclectic host of artists and groups, including St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers, Orville Peck, Alice Cooper, and Portugal, the Man, among others. In true Shaky Knees fashion, there’s something exciting in store for just about everyone.
Even though the festival has persevered over enormous odds this year, it has not gone unaffected. For starters, the event date was pushed back quite a bit into the calendar year, changing its early-May date to late October. The festival will also be implementing new safety measures, requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result (within 72 hours of entry). Additionally, the lineup has undergone some significant alterations since its initial announcement, as the spread of the Delta variant changed the course of some artists’ plans for the year.
Of these changes, the most notable is the absence of Stevie Nicks on the lineup, who was replaced by Foo Fighters as the Day 1 headliner. Other acts who will no longer be appearing at the festival this year include the UK rock group, Royal Blood, as well as Jay Electronica, Kennyhoopla, and UK singer-songwriter Leon of Athens. Even with these losses, it will be difficult to notice any gaps. New additions to the lineup include ‘90s grunge legends Garbage as well as Florida rockers, Glove, and North Carolina’s own The Collection.
Even better still, some of the acts performing at the festival are also expected to make appearances at Shaky Knees Late Night Shows, taking place at some of Atlanta’s more intimate venues around the city including The Earl, Masquerade, and Terminal West. These performances offer a unique, up-close-and-personal chance to catch additional sets from IDLES, Dermot Kennedy, Modest Mouse, Portugal, the Man, and more.
With all of the artists performing this weekend, there’s far too much going on to miss out on any of it. However, since you can’t be in two places at once, we’ve highlighted some of the must-see performances we’re most excited for.
The Denver, Colorado pop duo is making their long-awaited return to Shaky Knees, after appearing at the festival in 2015. The soft, dreamy pop stylings of Tennis may stand out as an outlier on other festival lineups, but for Shaky Knees they’re a perfect fit. Having missed their chance at a major tour for the 2020 release of their latest record, Swimmer, this will be a fitting stage for most fans to see those songs played live for the first time. Catch Tennis on Sunday at the Peachtree Stage (2:45 p.m.).
Also returning to Shaky Knees for another round is the UK post-punk group, IDLES, who saw explosive success in the US with their 2018 record, Joy as an Act of Resistance. IDLES hasn’t had many large opportunities to unleash the frenzied-yet-focused anger of 2020’s Ultra Mono for American audiences in a live setting, but this weekend, they’ll have more than one chance. Fans will have their moment to see the fury in a big way on Saturday at the Ponce de Leon Stage (8:45 p.m.) or in one of the Late Night Shows on Friday at Atlanta’s famous Masquerade.
A Shaky Knees freshman, UK R&B artist and poet Arlo Parks will be joining the festival armed with her debut record, Collapsed in Sunbeams, which was released in January to glowing commercial and critical acclaim. While she may be new to Shaky Knees, attendees will find her to be a welcome addition to the lineup, balancing out the raucous rock groups and blaring speakers with a calm presence overflowing with soul and an irresistible funk to boot. Parks will be performing on Saturday at the Peachtree Stage (2:45 p.m.).
Another returning Shaky Knees fan-favorite, Ohio lo-fi rock outfit Cloud Nothings will once again bring their unique blend of post-hardcore and emo rock to Atlanta, ready to showcase their latest work. Released in February of 2021, The Shadow I Remember perfectly captures the gritty, aloof spirit of Shaky Knees. Since the past year also marked the release of the 10 year anniversary edition of Turning On, the band’s first album, fans should look forward to hearing a solid mix of their lengthy discography. Given the sheer volume of performances at Shaky Knees, Cloud Nothings can easily slip under the radar for attendees this weekend, but if you’re looking for what really defines an indie rock band, their set is not one you want to miss. They’ll be at the Criminal Records Stage on Saturday (4:00 p.m.).
Run the Jewels
Astonishingly, this will be the first Shaky Knees appearance for the famed Atlanta-New York rap duo, but it’s bound to be one for the books. Killer Mike and El-P have never failed to put on a stellar show and, with the 2020 release of RTJ4 being one of the best additions to their catalogue yet, a headlining festival set in one of the founders’ home cities is going to be talked about for years to come. If there’s one set you absolutely cannot miss this weekend, it’s this one. They’ll be capping the night off on Saturday at the Peachtree Stage (9:45 p.m.).
After headlining Shaky Knees in 2015 and missing their chance to do it again in 2020, The Strokes are back to set things right. Perhaps one of the only true modern rock bands left, The Strokes are iconic to see any time and place. This time, they’re coming prepared with something special after the 2020 release of The New Abnormal, the group’s first album since 2013’s Comedown Machine. Attendees should expect to see something extraordinary as The Strokes finish out the weekend strong on Sunday night at the Peachtree Stage (8:30 p.m.).
Portugal, the Man
This year’s Shaky Knees is clearly one for the festival veterans, as Portugal, the Man will also return to Atlanta for the weekend. Their psychedelic pop-rock style fits the bill effortlessly and they’ve already given attendees a possible hint of what’s to come with their latest release, Oregon City Sessions, a collection of live recordings featuring some of the group’s earliest music. If that release is a sign of what they have in store for Atlanta, then their Shaky Knees performance this year is sure to be memorable. Don’t miss them on Saturday at the Peachtree Stage (7:45 p.m.), or Friday night at The Earl.
Check out the full lineup and ticket info for Shaky Knees 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia happening October 22-24.