May 6, 2022
Photo: Roger Ho
Another Shaky Knees, one of the country’s best indie rock festivals, is in the books, and as attendees retreated to their home cities to nurse their hangovers, excitement for next year is already building. The headliners in 2022 made sure to make lasting impressions. Whether it was Green Day returning to the stage in a brilliant fit of adolescent rage and bubbling hormones, Nine Inch Nails quite literally blinding the crowd with a profound array of crushing strobes, or My Morning Jacket capping off the weekend with sultry jams and ripping guitar solos, fans left with some tremendous memories.
The three days had attendees reeling from a blistering lineup of genres between the four stages (Peachtree, Piedmont, Ponce de Leon, Criminal Records). One moment you’re relaxing in the sun to the smooth crooning of a generational singer, and the next, you’re covered in sweat being bounced around the pit while an up-and-coming punk band loses their mind on stage. These are the moments that make Shaky Knees such an enduring and beloved weekend in Atlanta.
Here are some of our favorite moments from Shaky Knees 2022:
Gracing the Criminal Records stage as the summer sun began to hang low against the Atlanta skyline was none other than the rising star from Chelsea, England, Nilüfer Yanya. Ideal for a late afternoon performance, Yanya and her band charmed the audience with a voice as silky as it is intentionally strident. With whimsical instrumentals leaping head first into more speedy jams oscillating between her saxophone-drenched ballads and snare-heavy, almost post-punk themed tunes, the crowd was captivated. With her debut record, Yanya has drawn comparisons to artists like King Krule and Parquet Courts, but seeing her in a live setting exhibits her truly unique style in a way that flies in the face of comparison. Yanya proved she’s a cut above the rest.
Whether you became a fan of Green Day from their classic 1994 album, Dookie, or their or their Grammy Award-winning 2004 album, American Idiot, Green Day’s set was one for the ages. Seeing the long-standing punk-gone-rock band play a fest in 2022 is a landmark experience, and the tenured veterans of the stage did not disappoint. Starting off their night with crowd favorites from 2004’s American Idiot, the band showed they haven’t lost a step. It’s rare to see an entire audience spanning multiple generations singing along to classic rock songs, but somehow, the Green Day fans did. It was a set filled with pyrotechnics, war cries for those suffering in Ukraine, and the loveable, irreverent charm of Billie Joe Armstrong.
Performing at Shaky Knees for their first time, Houston, Texas psych-funk trio Khruangbin certainly put on a show that attendees will remember. Despite not fitting the indie-rock mold of Shaky Knees, their hour-long dance party of a set dazzled the crowd as the group swayed back and forth between soulful jams complemented by psychedelic visuals on screen, and a stunning ode to West-coast hip-hop, tinged with the band’s hallmarked ‘70s funk style. It takes a special kind of group to take the music of Ice Cube, Warren G, and Dr. Dre to an entirely new sonic territory, but Khruangbin pulled it off effortlessly, maintaining their sleek, cooler-than-cool façade throughout as the crowd ate up every moment.
Perhaps one of the acts that attendees were most excited for this year was Scottish electro-pop trio Chvrches, a band that has dominated their respective scene in recent years, and for good reason. Lauren Mayberry has grown into an extremely adept performer and the live show blending beats, synths and guitars is rarely seen in today’s music landscape. Donning a shimmering gold sequin dress, all eyes were on Mayberry as they ripped through hits and deep-cuts alike, never once losing steam. In a brief refrain, Mayberry left the stage for a moment halfway through the set, returned moments later with both of her arms and throat soaked in fake blood. Mayberry lifted her arms to the sky and took a deep breath before launching into a pitch-perfect performance of “Asking For a Friend,” the opening track from the trio’s latest record, Screen Violence, followed by “The Mother We Share,” the first song on their 2013 debut album, The Bones of What You Believe.
Gang of Youths
Shaky Knees has always served as a proving ground for groups to really shine, and this year, that group was Australia’s Gang of Youths. The six-piece alternative rock band stunned the crowd at the Piedmont stage on Saturday with a performance that genuinely achieved what any rock band sets out to do on stage with the antics of frontman and principal songwriter David Le’aupepe. As the band lurched into one of their, “Let Me Down Easy,” Le’aupepe stopped the intro mid-beat several times to chastise the audience for their lack of dancing, citing “I thought Atlanta was a fun town?” before laughing it off and starting the song over, this time to much higher energy. Further leaning into the rock star persona, Le’aupepe took his chance during “Magnolia” to engage with the audience, walking from the barrier of the stage all the way through to the middle of the crowd. Hurdling over the guardrails so that he could dance and sing with the people, Le’aupepe didn’t miss a note. Gang of Youths may still be an ascending rock band, but with performances like theirs at Shaky Knees this year, they’re well on their way to international stardom.
Playing the Ponce de Leon stage to help close Sunday night out was none other than Canadian pop-punk all-stars, PUP, a band who has been revered in their genre for air-tight performances and raucous crowds. Their set at Shaky Knees lived up to the hype as swaths of people crammed together underneath the enormous metal tent to catch a good view of the young and obviously restless band. Starting things off with one of their bigger songs, “Kids,” sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy as the mob hurdled over one another crowd surfing. Opening up with the hit is a risky move sometimes, but PUP were confident that things would only get more rowdy, and they were right. The crowd’s energy only intensified as they played through more fan-favorites like “Waiting,” which featured vocalist Stefan Babcock abandoning his guitar for a more intimate performance, spinning around the stage with the mic before leaping into the crowd to join in the fun. PUP is a band that just makes sense on a Shaky Knees lineup, and after a very successful second year on the bill, it shouldn’t be too long before we see them again.
Death Cab for Cutie
Another genre giant this year was Seattle, Washington’s Death Cab for Cutie, the heroes of emo alternative rock are known for their soft, nuanced style and heart-wrenching lyrics. Death Cab’s set featured frontman Ben Gibbard behind a piano for parts of the show but made use of every inch of the enormous main stage, strutting back and forth throughout the set. Crowd-favorite “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” raptured the audience into a peaceful singalong, jerking tears from more than a few in the audience. Death Cab maintained a balance of material both new and old, keeping the energy consistent and the crowd captivated throughout.
In this article
- Ben Gibbard
- Billie Joe Armstrong
- Central Park
- Criminal Records
- David Le’aupepe
- death cab for cutie
- Gang of Youths
- green day
- I Will Follow You Into The Dark
- indie rock
- lauren mayberry
- my morning jacket
- Nilüfer Yanya
- Nine Inch Nails
- Ponce de Leon
- shaky knees
- The Mother We Share