Shaky Knees: A steamy three days in Hotlanta


Shaky Knees by Sydney
Piedmont Stage, one of the five stages at Shaky Knees with performances from bands such as The Pixies and Best Coast.

Taking place in Atlanta’s Central Park, this year’s Shaky Knees Music Festival turned heads yet again with notable headliners such as The Strokes, The Pixies, The Avett Brothers, Wilco, Tame Impala and Ryan Adams.

Two years ago, Shaky Knees was a two-day festival with a line-up that headlined The Lumineers, Band of Horses, and Drive-By Truckers. The festival caught the attention of locals and out-of-towners proving it could make a successful return the following year.

In 2014, the festival became a three-day event, moving into a larger venue at Atlantic Station and swiping popular bands such as Alabama Shakes, The National, Modest Mouse, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and a reunited The Replacements. Despite last year’s weather issues, the vast parking lot accommodated large crowds with ease, but the lack of aesthetic value did not go unrecognized as neon “Old Navy” signs lit up the lot.

Now in its third year, event promoter Tim Sweetwood decided to make some changes to the festival yet again.

“You want to grow aesthetically,” Sweetwood said. “You have to make sure your booking is on point so fans are just as excited as they were the year before.”

The quest to find a proper home for Shaky Knees was finally resolved this spring as it nestled its way into the heart of Atlanta’s Central Park.

According to Consequence of Sound, this year’s festival resembled that of Lollapalooza in how it takes over Chicago’s Grant Park. Shaky Knees was separated in sections, creating what resembled a small community within a large urban city. There were street signs directing crowds to their respective stages, food trucks, and merchandise stands, as well as signs directing people to other music festivals around the United States.

The layout of the festival forebode much longer treks to the five sprawled out stages, but it was efficient enough and also suggested that Shaky Knees may be even larger than Sweetwood ever intended or imagined.

Sweetwood has created a city within a city, much like one sees at other well-known music festivals —his vision has inevitably outgrown itself as the festival becomes not just another music festival, but a sought-out event.

“Know that we are committed to getting better each year, and not necessarily bigger either,” he said. “The end goal is to sell out as a festival, but at half the capacity of the Bonnaroos and the Coachellas so that everyone there can enjoy it. We want the guy who is standing 20 feet back from the stage to enjoy it just as much as the guy who is standing 200 feet back from the stage.”

Thesis student Aric Smith has attended the festival two years in a row. “I would say my favorite part of the festival was probably getting to see The Pixies, TV on the Radio and The Strokes,” Smith said. “They managed to fit five stages into an area that wasn’t too large to easily walk around, which was nice.”

The crowds at Shaky Knees were never too dense (except maybe for The Strokes), and the food truck lines, though long, were never unbearable, proving the efficiency of Sweetwood’s design. Various flavors of ice pops proved a refreshing and popular during the festival as well as the Dos Equis sponsored beer tents. The screens at the headlining stages were state-of-the-art, detailing every bead of sweat dripping from artists such as Ryan Adams and Julian Casablancas’ faces.

“They didn’t have a large selection of beer and what they did have was more overpriced than beer usually is at music festivals,” Smith said. “It’s disappointing to see that they’re sponsored by Dos Equis when Sweetwater is a big local brewery there in Atlanta that sponsors other music festivals like Gasparilla Music Festival.”

Whether or not growth is what Sweetwood is looking for in his festival is his decision to make, but it is safe to say many people will be more than ready to participate come next year. Throughout the three days, the mood was spectacular even under the blistering sun, and was supported by a music-hungry sea of people. If Sweetwood is smart, he will feed their appetite, and he will feed it well.

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