by John A. Zara
In just its second year, Shaky Knees is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier multi-day festivals in the Southeast. This year was anchored by top indie-rock acts The National, Modest Mouse, and Alabama Shakes. While we weren't able to see every act, here's some of what we caught in photo-diary form.
Rain on Friday and Saturday didn't slow things down much, although it was tough to find cover in what amounted to a mall parking lot. Expanding from two to three days, the fest was moved this year to Atlantic Station. Tucked into Midtown on the northwest side of Atlanta, the venue was within easy walking distance to MARTA and a plethora of hotels.
Attending a music festival in a concrete jungle may not be the first choice for some sonic lovers, but once the rain rolled in, the ground below reminded us that at least we weren't up to our necks in mud. There were a smattering of vendors and food trucks, including Charleston's Roti Rolls.
The crowds were a bit smaller on Friday and after a couple hours of rain, the clouds broke just in time for The National to take the stage for their headlining slot. Earlier standout sets were dished up from the ever soulful Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, indie-rockers Man Man with their wardrobe changes and skeleton body suits, and the puddle-stomping set from Dropkick Murphys.
The night was capped by The National who put on an emotional and mesmerizing show that won't soon be forgotten. By the end of the set frontman Matt Berninger wound up in the audience belting out crowd pleasers like "Mr. November."
Saturday saw the crowds pack in to catch indie darling acts such as Conor Oberst, Iron & Wine, and Lord Huron. Austin, Texas-rockers Spoon got gritty right before what was possibly the best surprise-guest sit in of the festival. Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong strapped on his axe to play with alt-rock-punker legends The Replacements.
Highlighting the night's whirlwind of music was Modest Mouse. It has been six-plus years since the Washington-based band's last album, and while there have been talks of a forthcoming LP, it might be awhile. After all, founding member and vocalists Issac Brock's record label is called Glacial Pace. Nonetheless, they zig-zagged their way through tracks like "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" and the hit "Float On," which seemed appropriate considering the soaking endured earlier in the day.
The sun came out to play Sunday. And it was hot. Fresh off his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Benjamin Booker wowed those who found the courage to pull themselves out of bed. Langhorne Slim & the Law turned in a raucously fun set that concluded with lead-man Sean Scolnick jumping the barricade for an up-close-and-personal finale. Jason Isbell kept a large crowd raptured with his honest songwriting, meanwhile Jackie Greene was churning rock grooves and Grateful Dead covers on the opposite stage.
Overall, Shaky Knees did indeed get our joints a-wobbling. Despite some rain, organizers brought together great bands and pulled off a seamless, large-scale city festival. We're left wondering how organizers might top themselves in 2015.