Shaky Beats Festival 2017 Puts On For Atlanta
Day 1 - Friday
ARMNHMR was playing on the Ponce stage, the smallest of the three, as I arrived on Friday, throwing down a really hype set that got me moving and energized for the festival ahead. I didn’t stay long, though, as I wanted to make sure to catch Boombox Cartel over at the Piedmont stage, set in the middle of the festival grounds. They’ve become really influential names in the trap scene over the last couple years, and their set was a fairly predictable mix of bangers that made sense for their time slot. As my crew and I made our way down to the Peachtree main stage at the bottom of the hill, Claude VonStroke was easing his way into one of the best sets of the weekend. The Dirtybird bossman played out some great tracks I’ve never heard before, and he continues to maintain his reputation for having one of the best ears for house music curation. With his Barclay Crenshaw side project, he has begun to dip into some weird bass territory, but this set was all about the house, and everyone really got on the same page as the sun shone down on the green grass. I danced with friends and strangers alike to the thumping bass, and even though we were at a festival main stage, it instantly felt like a house party.
Party Favor was up next with an energetic but unsurprising set, while Alison Wonderland pretended that DJing is really difficult on the main stage. I have no problem with emotionality in a performer, but all this hair-in-the-eyes slack-shouldered moodiness that comes from DJs who are doing little more than pushing buttons at the right time is a bit much. The music scene is already melodramatic enough. I quickly hurried back to the Ponce stage for Ganja White Night (read my previous interview with them here), where a packed crowd of headbangers was tearing up the rail and generally going apeshit for dubstep. This was real dubstep, with wobbles and clicks galore, and at every drop, the audience got rowdier and rowdier.
Snails was busy raining bangers on the Piedmont stage, though he didn’t go quite as hard as at his after-party later that night at the Masquerade (read my review of that event here). The Knocks played a lively set of vocal house and indie dance at the Ponce stage while RL Grime lit up the mainstage with trap, starting off with his new track “Reims.” The rain started to set in half-way through his set, so it was an easy decision to head to Bonobo to catch a wonderful set of downtempo, space rock, and deep house. I have been wanting to see him for a long time, so catching him with the full band and vocalist was a real treat. Griz closed out the day, kicking things off with “Welcome to Atlanta” and keeping things nice and heavy for his full set. Daring to get a bit political at times in his set, the Colorado funk king made his opposition to the current administration clear, and wasn’t afraid to back it up with some serious dubstep heat. Griz is a continual favorite in the electronic scene, and he didn’t disappoint as he sonically weaponized his saxophone and was joined by Muzzy Bear on guitar.
Day 2 - Saturday
Gramatik is always a don, and his performance at the Peachtree stage was exemplary. He effortlessly moved from funk to hip-hop to trap and dub with energy and positivity. Flatbush Zombies got things moving on a trippy level over at Piedmont with some of the best acid rap I’ve seen. Hopefully, it’s only a few more years before these underground wizards and their kind take over more of the game. Speaking of success stories, Mija burned down the Ponce stage with a set that spanned every possible genre of dance music. She started off with some house and techno, but quickly dropped into some dirty trap and ended her set with blazing dubstep and future, all blended together seamlessly. She was absolutely one of the best sets of the weekend.
Flosstradamus, now a solo act, took over the main stage in his newly constructed prism setup. We got one of the last interviews with them as a duo (read that here), and even though they’ve now split up, much of the sound was the same. Heavy trap and EDM bangers rained down on festival attendees while Galantis pushed out the feel-good vibes to the Piedmont stage. They were performing with their new “live” setup they showed off at Coachella, though that appeared to be little more than drums that they played along with the music. To close things out, Kaskade delivered a clean, professional set; kicking off with “I Remember.” I’m not a huge Kaskade fan myself, but his production level was very high, and it was a seamless set for those who are into his sort of vibe.
Day 3 - Sunday
Music started around 2 PM, but I didn’t make my way into the festival until Slander and Grandtheft were playing the Peachtree and Ponce stages respectively. Grandtheft played an amazing set, with relentless energy and a vast array of classic trap bangers and some undiscovered treats. Little Dragon moved the main stage into gear with some dreamy, jazzy electronica and pop sounds (read our interview with them here). Loudpvck took over the Ponce stage from Grandtheft, but they were quite disappointing while Getter released his angst at the Piedmont stage. Rumor is he’s quitting EDM soon, so this may have been one of the last times we’ll see him in Atlanta. We’ll see.
I had been fortunate enough to interview Rezz before her set, and it was my first time seeing her perform, so my whole crew and I hurried to the back corner of the Ponce stage. Totally worth it and she had us all dancing and headbanging as she delivered an onslaught of bass music from all genres, but all with a heavy, grinding undertone of aggression and power. Even in broad daylight, she still wore her signature LED glasses as she released crunchy beats from the speakers.
Back at the main stage, Girl Talk was playing one of the most fun, down-to-earth sets I’ve seen in a long while. Rather than having a big video display to accompany the music, he was just surrounded by 20 of his friends and the Atlanta Hawks mascot, as they all threw toilet paper around the stage and drunkenly partied behind the DJ. Girl Talk made his name on pop remixes in the 2000s, but he’s making somewhat of a comeback now and played a very updated mix of mashups that incorporated a lot of his classic pop sounds along with more recent trap and dubstep anthems. Be sure to keep an eye on him in 2017, as I have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of him this year.
Back at the Piedmont stage, Zeds Dead delivered a fantastic set to remind us all what a festival is supposed to feel like. As the sun went down, we were taken through a blend of old favorites and new tunes that had the stage packed and everyone moving. I’ve seen Zeds Dead several times now, and this was one of their better performances in my opinion and was the perfect hand-off to The Chainsmokers.
Wow, The Chainsmokers. I’m embarrassed at how much I enjoyed their set. I have been talking so much shit about them just being a pop act, but those guys throw down so hard live. Effortlessly dropping trap and dubstep bangers in between lip-syncing their pop hits, they definitely kept everyone’s attention while still meeting their contractual obligations and pleasing their fans from the radio.
Overall, Shaky Beats came together as what will probably be the best electronic festival in Atlanta this year, though we will have to wait for Imagine Festival to decide a true winner. As far as lineups, Shaky Beats held its own against every other national brand, and the venue was perfect with easy access to late-night parties and all that Atlanta has to offer. For residents of the city or visitors, home beds and hotels made the weekend comfortable; and despite a little rain, the weather was excellent.
The food vendors offered plenty of choice and variety, and the quality was high on everything I had to eat. Security was reasonable, and I didn’t see anyone getting into any fights or having to be dragged off to the medical tent. I heard a few folks got rowdy at RL Grime, but that’s to be expected, and it was immediately handled. A huge thanks to the organizers for putting Atlanta on the map with the EDM festival scene and making the weekend as full of fun and new experiences as I could have asked for.
Photos by Ryan Purcell for Bullet Music.