Shaky Knees Festival Review
May 8-10, 2015
written by Courtney Fisher
photos by Dakota James Craig
A few short weeks ago I had no clue that on May 7th I would be hopping on a Greyhound bus headed towards Atlanta, GA to begin my journey to Shaky Knees Festival. The lineup was released earlier in the year and was filled with heart-wrenchingly wonderful bands, that perhaps made me tear up (but I won’t disclose that here). After finding out that Shaky Knees was held in the heart of Atlanta, GA my hopes were ultimately let down…how was I ever going to afford that trip from Frederick, MD?! So I pushed the thought of going straight out of my mind and swore it would be impossible…but sometimes the universe has a different plan. Not but a week before the festival I was asked by my friend Dakota on behalf of Appalachian Jamwich (whom is responsible for the gorgeous photos that accompany my article) if I would be interested in writing a review on the event. Of course my heart instantly said yes, yet my head became swarmed with a million things that could go wrong. After talking to my parents, a week of decisions, and a brutal night of incessant planning and hotel booking, somehow everything worked out. So there I was at 5:30 AM on May 7th, waking up for a long day of travel…it still seemed so surreal.
I’ll spare you all the boring details of a 17 hour Greyhound bus ride but let’s just say I’ve sworn off public transportation for about a year. After what seemed like a week of travels, Dakota and I finally arrived in Atlanta at 4 AM on Shaky Knees Day One. We eventually settled in at a fairly upscale Holiday Inn, unpacked and each washed the bus gunk from our skin. The excitement was racing between us both as we hailed a cab to take us to Central Park, our new festy home for the next three days.
Shaky Knees can only be described by me as a beautiful indie-oasis. The 17 acre park was filled with every type of hipster known to man, and this is from a regular old hipster herself. My first order of business was to locate affordable food because, let’s be honest I was super hungry. I ended up eating at TexTacos “The tightest tacos in Atlanta” and it was, in fact THE tightest taco I’d ever had.
Finally the music was beginning and I made my way to see the first artist of the day: Halsey. This beautiful woman skipped onto the stage with a strong energy and attitude. The minute she opened her mouth to sing, the audience was mesmerized as they sang out her haunting lyrics. Halsey’s beautiful, unique voice had me amazed throughout her entire performance. She created a strong connection to the audience, holding direct eye contact and making everyone listening feel as if they were a part of the show. Overall Halsey was astounding with her seductive stage presence; simplistic and beautiful.
Our next stop was at Peachtree (the main stage for the festival) to see the Kooks, a longtime favorite band of mine. When we arrived the band began playing one of their new songs “Bad Habit” and the crowd erupted. Everyone is the field began dancing and belting out “Oh-whoa-oh-ohhh” in unison. Dakota and I rhythmically moved our way to the front right where we stumbled upon a circle of girls dancing like their lives depended on it. Of course we joined in merrily as we sang all sang aloud.
We sadly we had to leave the Kooks mid-set in order to get a good spot for Mac Demarco. I have to admit that this show was my personal favorite of the day. All of the members of the band were very attuned to one another. Their interactions as musicians were very remnant of a late sixties soft rock band. Throughout the show they would trail off from a song and go into a full blown jam session which was truly refreshing to see. Many bands in this scene simply play their songs and hop off the stage so uniformly. Seeing Mac Demarco put on such an entertaining show full of humor, wonderful music, and even an impromptu cover of “Yellow” by Coldplay, was what drove me to deem them Best Performance of the Day.
After Mac Demarco finished up his set, I made my way over to see James Blake. I was extremely ecstatic to be able hear his soulful voice and intense bass live. Sadly, I could only stay so long before heading to the main stage for the last show of the night put on by the Strokes. The band opened up with one of their most well known songs “Reptilia” and proceeded to blow all of our minds. The night ended with a bang and Day One of Shaky Knees was a success.
I started out the second day of our festival weekend with Kevin Devine & Goddamn Band. Seeing this man perform live was amazing. Right as I approached the stage they began playing “I Could Be With Anyone”, my personal favorite song of his, and my heart grew happy. Kevin Devine’s endearing soft spoken voice becomes so powerful when put into song.
There was a decent break before the next band I wanted to see so I walked around soaking in the different music and festival atmosphere. Finally the time rolled around to see Neutral Milk Hotel, one of the original folk-indie bands of their time. Earlier that day I found out that Shaky Knees was one of the last stops of their final tour. This show was the most emotional of them all. There was so much love and warmth radiating from the audience as Neutral Milk played beautiful, entrancing songs.
The headliner of Shaky Knees Day Two was one of the most exciting for me: the Avett Brothers. After years of listening to their music and picking out each wonderful harmony I was finally going to see them live. With the help of my trustee photographer, Dakota, I weaseled my way to meet him right in front of the stage. What a show these artists put on. The energy they all gave off was incredible! Each member had such presence on the stage and the more they interacted, the better it got. The Avett Brothers proved their immense talent as musicians and performers.
On Shaky Knees Day Three there weren’t many bands we wanted to see until later in the day. So we explored around Atlanta a bit and found an awesome, quirky coffee shop (I definitely needed the espresso). After fueling our caffeine tanks we headed back to Central Park to enjoy the final day of the festival. Immediately we went to get good standing for Best Coast. Their fun surfer-rock sound and awesome female lead create a beachy nostalgic feel.
After a few hours of resting and walking around the festival grounds it was time to go see Tame Impala end the music packed weekend. This band has truly mastered the psychedelic-rock sound of the 60s-70s, with a modern touch of deep synthesizers and spacey vocals. Overall the performance was a mesmerizing experience and a perfect end to Shaky Knees Festival 2015. It still amazes me that this weekend happened out of pure chance and luck. The plans came together so quickly and the three days passed by in the same manner. I had an unforgettable time in Atlanta and hope to return to the indie-oasis that was Shaky Knees…just not on another Greyhound bus.