The Shaky Knees Music Festival returned for its sixth run in Atlanta GA the weekend of May 4th through the 6th. After spending the last two years downtown at Centennial Olympic Park, the festival shifted back to the tree-laden confines of Midtown’s Central Park. The move back to Central Park was, by all accounts, a massive success and received favorable comments from attendees. The festival grounds hosted 4 stages in a relatively compact area that cut down on long hikes, provided abundant shade from the bright sunshine, minimized crowd bottlenecks, and afforded some great viewing areas, all while lessening some of the sound bleed between stages that plagued last year at Centennial Olympic Park. Festival creator Tim Sweetwood and the team at C3 Presents continue to change and evolve Shaky Knees each year to improve the overall experience for festival goers, and it shows.
Despite the evolution and continued improvements, the lineup was vintage Shaky Knees. Throughout the years, the festival has remained focused around a musical core of indie and alternative rock acts, and this year was no different. The headliners, including Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, and The National, are all solid Summer festival circuit performers worth the price of admission alone, but where the Shaky Knees lineup really shined was with the myriad of undercard acts including David Byrne, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rival Sons, All Time Low, Andrew W.K., Jimmy Eat World, Alice Merton, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, a reunited Distillers, and the massively buzzed up-and-comers Greta Van Fleet. The lineup was truly solid from top to bottom, which inevitably caused some consternation when conflicts arose, forcing some tough decisions…
The opening day Friday crowd was greeted with sunny skies and warm sunshine. We kicked off our weekend catching *repeat repeat on the smaller Criminal Records stage tucked away in a comfortable tree-lined corner of the park. Despite the early afternoon start, the Nashville-based band fronted by the married duo of Jared and Kristyn Corder delivered a wildly energetic set of surf-tinged garage pop that had many wondering if they had already seen one of the top performances of the weekend.
After witnessing the marker laid down by *repeat repeat’s early set, we had high hopes for the rest of the day, and we were not disappointed. From the straightforward rock of Welles, to the psychedelic vibes of female trio L.A. Witch, the artists continued to deliver. Day 1 at Shaky Knees provided highlight after highlight, with standout sets including:
• Long Beach California’s Rival Sons delivering a blistering high-energy set of thundering guitar-driven blues-soaked rock that shook the Piedmont stage and blew away the assembled crowd. It was an electric performance that got our nod as one of the top sets of day 1.
• Singer-songwriter Ezra Furman sporting a red flowered dress and string of pearls, and backed by his band the Visions, performed a storming set that included songs from his recent release Transangelic Exodus. The raucous performance confirmed why he is considered a compelling, must-see live act.
• The reunited and revitalized Jimmy Eat World kicking off their summer tour, playing a mix of new songs and fan favorites, including their massive hits “The Middle,” and “Sweetness.”
• Australian singer-songwriter and guitar slinger Courtney Barnett playing a solid and well received set that highlighted why she has received a mass of critical acclaim, and built a dedicated following.
• Scottish band Franz Ferdinand, led by the bounding energy of lead singer Alex Kapranos stirred the crowd with a mix of new songs like “Always Ascending” and early hits including “The Dark Of The Matinee,” and “Take Me Out.”
• Wearing matching gray suits, David Byrne, backed by a 12-piece band, performed a career-spanning set that mixed his solo work with Talking Heads classics. The stage was draped in metal chains, and the band remained mobile, joining in on the fascinating choreography, creating a performance that was every bit as visually appealing as it was sonically appealing.
• Fleet Foxes, who ended a six-year hiatus with the release of their third studio album Crack-Up last summer, played an expansive set of West Coast folk-rock that focused more on crowd pleasing than complexity. It was a fitting performance to accompany the first sunset of the weekend.
• Headliner Jack White closed out the first day of the festival with a set of solo material, White Stripes classics, and even some Dead Weather and Raconteurs songs. Singer Lillie Mae made a guest appearance joining in on “Love Interruption.”
While we were able to take in Jack White’s closing set, due to the artist’s request, we were unable to take any photographs. However, we captured plenty of action from Day 1 at Shaky Knees, check it out below.
Photos From Day 1 Of Shaky Knees Music Festival 2018