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Shaky Knees Festival

Rock is Dead? Shaky Knees, over 40,000 Daily Say Otherwise

Story: Brian Amick 

Photos: Cory Weaver

If you can’t go to a music festival and leave with a smile on your face and feeling a little better about the world, something went terribly wrong. And if you can’t leave the Shaky Knees festival without back, knee and ankle pain, you wouldn’t be this writer. It was more than worth it for three days of ecstasy in Atlanta.

Passing by a variety of booze booths and hydration stations meant to combat the sweltering Georgia heat, your walk through Central Park is guided by the sweet sounds of rock, punctuated by wailing voices, heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums. Shaky Knees was founded in 2013 in order to bring a proper indie music festival to the city of Atlanta and host enthusiastic music fans from across the country (and around the globe). What began as a two-day affair has blossomed like a Cherokee Rose into a three-day, all-out extravaganza featuring some of the top musical acts in the indie rock, indie folk, country music and alternative rock genres.

Del Water Gap, Shaky Knees Festival
Metric, Emily Haines, Shaky Knees Festival

(L-R) Del Water Gap and Emily Haines of Metric.

Greeted by the heat and the indie rock sounds of Ax and the Hatchetmen coming from one of the four stages located throughout the festival, we entered the grounds on Friday afternoon. We were not alone, as tens of thousands of music fans joined in on the fun. Some of the standouts from the earlier portion of the day included Pond, an Australian psychedelic rock band with a charismatic and energetic lead singer in Nick Allbrook; All Them Witches, a Nashville-based rock band mixing the best parts of heavy metal and blues; and Odie Leigh, an eclectic performer with an indie folk sound.

Some of the more well-known acts throughout Friday afternoon and early evening included Del Water Gap, Switchfoot, Metric, Interpol, Arcade Fire, Young the Giant, and The Revivalists. It all led up to the highly anticipated headliner of the night: the supernova of talent and folk-pop megastar who has taken the world by storm in the last year, Noah Kahan. Reader, please trust that this isn’t hyperbole when I tell you that I heard some of the loudest screams of my life from those in attendance for that performance.

Paul Banks, Interpol, Shaky Knees Festival
Daniel Kessler, Interpol, Shaky Knees Festival, photo: Cory Weaver
Win Butler, Arcade Fire, Shaky Knees Festival

(L-R) Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler of Interpol and Arcade Fire's Win Butler

Saturday maintained the momentum of the previous day. It was somehow even hotter, and that’s not just referring to the temperature. With the star power of Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Offspring to await them later in the evening, festivalgoers enjoyed an eclectic mix of artists from a variety of genres. Tigercub, a three-piece U.K. hard-rock outfit, set the tone for the day, while Quarters of Change kept up the energy using its alternative rock with a stadium scope and Chicano Batman placed its California psychedelic soul stamp on the proceedings.

English rock duo Royal Blood created enough power between the two of them to wake up the crowd during the early evening lull, and Norwegian singer-songwriter Girl in Red showed exactly why she’s the next big thing in indie pop. 

The masses of people awaiting the start of Weezer and Queens of the Stone Age were antsy, but held it together for what eventually would be more than their money’s worth. Queens frontman Josh Homme, guitar slung on his back, microphone in hand, and cigarette in mouth, nodding his head as a sea of people loudly sang the chorus to “Make It Wit Chu,” must have felt like a god that night. Weezer helped to make Shaky Knees live up to its name as the crowd danced along to hits like “Hash Pipe” and “Buddy Holly.”

Weezer, Shaky Knees Festival
Miike Snow, Shaky Knees Festival 2024
Quarters of Change, Shaky Knees Festival 2024
Royal Blood, Shaky Knees Festival 2024
Chicano Batman, Shaky Knees Festival 2024
Girl in Red, Shaky Knees Festival 2024

(Top, L-R) Weezer, Miike Snow's first US concert in six years. (Bottom, L-R) Ben Roter of Quarters of Change, UK's Royal Blood, Chicano Batman, and Girl in Red

Sunday was the culmination of the three-day musical celebration, yet almost got derailed by inclement weather. A rainstorm that lasted for nearly an hour provided a soggy midday surprise for attendees, who scrambled to find shelter. Yours truly (and his photographer + camera equipment) was lucky enough to get a reprieve from the precipitation courtesy of the charitable folks at Xyzal (shout-out to allergy relief!) and their well-placed tent.

What was left as the rain passed and the clouds parted wasn’t nearly as bad as Woodstock ‘94’s legendary mud fields, but nevertheless created some difficulties as people slid, crawled and sometimes faceplanted on their way to and from various acts. 

Before all of that, however, the early afternoon musicians brought their own storms to the stages. Southern California’s benches started the day strong with their infectious indie rock sound. Nova Twins, another in a line of stellar U.K. acts on the bill, showed why they’ve worked with some of the biggest names in modern rock like Muse and Bring Me the Horizon, and have been praised by legends in the music industry like Elton John and Tom Morello. The Struts, possibly the closest-resembling modern act to Queen in terms of the sound and aesthetic of lead vocalist Luke Spiller, may have stolen the day on Sunday, had it not been for the headliners that evening.

Nova Twins, Shaky Knees Festival 2024
The Struts, Shaky Knees Festival 2024

The Nova Twins and the Struts' Luke Spiller.

Following the rain, Billy Idol turned back the clock, performing a mix of new anthems and classic hits. Later on, Portugal. The Man and Matt and Kim simultaneously delighted the crowds with dynamic performances. These were the perfect lead-ins to what was surely the highlight of the weekend for most in attendance: Foo Fighters.

Billy Idol, Shaky Knees Festival 2024
Matt & Kim, Shaky Knees Festival 2024

(L-R) Billy Idol with guitarist Steve Stevens and the premiere party rockers, Matt & Kim. 

I’ll have to admit, my primary reason for traveling to Atlanta and enduring the physical pain I would receive over three days was to see these rock and roll hall of famers in action. Being able to cross off a musical bucket list item like Foo Fighters is an opportunity one has to take when presented with it. They did not disappoint—in fact, far from it, as they provided countless memorable moments over the course of their two-hour-and-15-minute set.

Dave Grohl is the ultimate showman. It’s truly a one-of-kind experience to see him in action, creating intimate, hilarious and awe-inspiring moments with an army of listeners that stretched back from beyond most people’s sightlines. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and nobody seemed to mind that they were standing in nearly a foot of mud in those moments. 

A band with a 30-year history has a lot of ground to cover in its catalog, yet Foo Fighters found a way to hit the highlights without making you feel shortchanged. For many who waited before the start of the show for a decent view of the stage, it meant standing in one spot for over three hours. For me, and I would imagine a lot of those people, it could’ve been five or six hours, and that still would’ve been worth it for the memories that were made that night.

This was the theme of the weekend. Endurance is key to getting through a massive festival in one piece, but the energy generated by the Shaky Knees lineup was there for attendees and left them more than satisfied.

Sore backs. Achy joints. Huge, beaming smiles. 

Tiger Cub, Shaky Knees Festival 2024

Tiger Cub fresh off of a red-eye from the UK

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