Note: Forgive me for this tardy review. But when you’ve been going hard and the doctor tells you to sit your ass down somewhere, you sit your ass down somewhere. Enjoy!
Shaky Knees is in full effect by the time I arrive early Friday evening. I like to consider myself a festival veteran at this point in my life. I’ve attended four back-to-back years of Bonnaroo, traveled to Counterpoint, Hulaween, BPM in Mexico, among several others. This is my first time at Shaky Knees, however, and it’s a special festival for me. It’s the only festival I’ll be attending all year. At seven months pregnant, there will be no trip to the Farm or down to SOSMP in 2016. My little unborn Hulaween, surprise festie child and I will be waiting until next year.
I make my way to the Peachtree Stage to catch the end of the Cold War Kids’ set and sit down in the lawn. The lead singer’s face stares into the crowd through the giant screens on either side of the stage. He’s wearing circular black and white glasses and the sun rays are reflecting off of him into the audience. The guitar player is creating beautiful melodies drifting through Centennial Park. I begin to think about how it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday and none of us are sitting in traffic and none of us are watching the clock wind down. We’re all sitting here with amazing friends, thankful for summer’s enchanting arrival.
The crowd at Shaky Knees is quite diverse. I see folks with dreadlocks and also couples who look like they left Alpharetta for a night out of the house. It’s the first time since October that I’ve sat on a blanket in the grass listening to music. It feels amazing. I look around and notice other moms with their daughters and it makes me excited to bring Kaya to festivals with me one day.
Bloc Party comes on the main stage next and hands us one of the most upbeat shows of the night. The lead singer yells into the crowd, “I can smell your weed from here.” I sit and take in seeing this band for the first time, then meet some new friends all the way from Indiana and Detroit. Hunger begins to make its way into my belly and I wander over to the food trucks. There are so many choices, but the lines are all so long so I keep going until I reach the end. My patience is the real MVP tonight because the last food truck is Roti Rolls out of Charleston, S.C. I’m not sure if it’s the short line, or the woman with dreadlocks serving the rolls that attracts me in the first place, but I find myself with two delicious rolls. When I dive in I see why these guys have been the awarded the “Best Food Truck” in Charleston for several years in a row.
Jane’s Addiction is up next. They open up the show with cage dancers singing “Stop!” and “No One’s Leaving.” Perry Farrell’s eyes are wide with excitement when he starts talking to the crowd, “Why does everything so good have to be so bad, and everything so bad have to feel so good? I need to talk to God about that.” At this point, it looks to me that everyone’s acid has kicked in full force and these prolific thoughts are raging through their brains. I quite enjoy watching Dave Navarro absolutely shred out guitar solos. At 48-years-old he still looks amazing. We’re all in awe as they display his shirtless body on the large screen focusing on his pierced nipples and tattoos. As I make my way to the exit, I wave goodbye to Dave’s nipple. Thanks for the memories.
I start off my Saturday with JJ Grey & Mofro. I watch the lead singer on stage with grey slacks and a black shirt singing to the crowd with soul. When I say soul, I mean real soul. Tambourine in hand, he preaches to the crowd with his choir. At one point I hear someone say, “Wait, that guy is white?” and I chuckle to myself a bit.
Shakey Graves is up next, but a power outage on one of the stages pushes back his 3:45 p.m. performance time. During the wait he comes out and sings “Dearly Departed” with no sound equipment, straight from the heart. The crowd is pleased with his genuine effort to show us generosity, and we patiently wait while the hot afternoon Georgia sun hits us in the face. At 4:30 p.m. Mr. Graves finally enters the stage, a cloud covers the sun, and everyone is rewarded.
I begin to make my way over to the other side of the universe and across the rickety bridge where the Foals are playing. My one complaint about this festival is climbing up these four flights of metal stairs to cross over Marietta Street in order to end up next to the Georgia Dome. The Foals come out in a dramatic entrance, one by one they take the stage. The backdrop of trees glistens in the sunset and the entire audience is captivated by Yannis Philippakis’ perfect beard and incredible voice. As he sings "Spanish Sahara," the crowd joins in and I am mesmerized by the band’s undeniable talent.
My Morning Jacket closes out the evening with a two-hour set. Their loyal fans crowd the main stage as Jim James hypnotizes us with his voice, that hair, those glasses and that shirt. All of it. Some say Shaky Knees is named after one of of MMJ’s songs, “Steam Engine,” where they sing, ‘Your skin looks good in moonlight, and goddamn those shaky knees.’ During their last few songs, I watch as a giant glitter bomb overtakes the crowd and fireworks light up the Atlanta skyline. Day 2: Success.
By Sunday I am a very tired pregnant girl going on day three of a festival. I head over to catch Atlas Genius’ set and I’m thoroughly entertained by the duo. They perform a cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and their hit “Trojans.” The crowd is buzzing. I’m surprised at the large amount of people who have come out on a Sunday for the early afternoon show.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones is one of those bands that once you see them, you are instantly hooked and become a lifelong fan. Paul Janeway and I become best friends as he serenades me like I’m in the coolest, most awesome outside church ever. His energy is unmatched by anyone at Shaky Knees. He ventures out into the crowd until the microphone cord is almost pulled out of the sound system. Then he proceeds to roll around on the ground in a full suit belting his heart out and not missing a beat, except the one where he rips his pants. They end their set with the Beatles’, “I Want You (She’s so Heavy).”
Florence and the Machine is the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend. Florence was born to perform. She doesn’t stop moving the entire time she’s on stage. Her movements are deep and meaningful. Her energy shines over everyone who is watching her do what she absolutely loves doing, singing. Tears begin to stream down my cheeks as the fierce and powerful inner woman is awoken by this performance. I am enamored with this fiery, red-headed rock star. My festival weekend is complete.
Photos by Ryan Purcell.