We here at Jasper had our eye on Shaky Knees Festival last year when it launched in downtown Atlanta—for rock fans, it was a nice mix of marquee indie talent mixed with a host of accessible names all the way down the bill, and for a decent sticker price ($99 for a two-day ticket). By all reports, last year’s effort, despite colder-than-expected temperatures and a rainy Saturday, was largely a success, a well-planned event that sold out by Sunday afternoon. That, it seems, was enough to embolden the organizers to up the ante.
This year the festival expands to three days and moves to a new location—Atlantic Station—to accommodate a much larger crowd and a serious line-up that is anchored by such beloved (and commercially successful) indie rock bands as Modest Mouse, The National, and Alabama Shakes.
Those names alone made the advance 3-day pass (at $150) quite the steal and, although those have now sold out, 1-day passes are still available for $85 a pop, and each day features some high-quality acts that, along with the day's headliner, make for a great day or two of music-seeing for any serious fan. We'd like to highlight a few of the supporting acts each day who we think make this year's festival such a draw.
Friday – Headliner: The National
Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires @ 4:00pm
Bradley is a James Brown impersonator-turned-retro soul revival leader who dropped his first album at the ripe age of 62. Since then, he and his Menahan Street Band collaborators have wowed audiences with their vintage sound and Bradley’s emotionally charged performances which take the theatrics of Brown and fuse them with something even more powerful and harrowing. The man has to be seen to be believed, but curious fans should check out the documentary on the singer available on Netflix, Soul of America.
Spoon @ 8:00pm
These well know rock and roll soul minimalists could probably have swapped headlining spots with The National without much of a fuss, given that their tight-pocket grooves and elegantly simple pop hooks are practically direct-engineered to get a large festival crowd grooving and swaying.
Other Friday Acts: American Aquarium, Mutual Benefit, Blood Red Shoes, Sleeper Agent, Wild Belle, The Whigs, White Denim, Bright Light Social Hour, Band of Skulls, Man Man, Dropkick Murphys, Foals, The Airborne Toxic Event, Graveyard, Cage the Elephant, & Gaslight Anthem
Saturday – Headliner: Modest Mouse
Hayes Carll @ 2:15pm
One of several under-the-radar alt-country talents on the festival’s line-up, Carll writes in the finest traditions of the Texas troubadour, crafting clever honky-tonk rambles and wizened and heartbroken ballads with aplomb. With a near-literary eye for detail in his character sketches and elegantly wrought metaphors, Carll is just the kind of singer/songwriter to check out early into a festival day.
The Replacements @ 8:00pm
I’m actually more excited about this recently-reunited band of college rock ruffians than any other act at the festival. Although only frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson remain of the original members, this is still a chance to hear an avalanche of classic tunes that formed much of the early canon of indie rock.
Other Saturday Acts: Wake Owl, Fly Golden Eagle, Packway Handle Band, Apache Relay, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Districts, Tokyo Police Club, Lone Huron, The Lone Below, Phox, Dawes, Portugal the Man, Cold War Kids, Houndmouth, Conor Oberst, and Jenny Lewis
Sunday – Headliner: Alabama Shakes
Jason Isbell @ 3:45pm
This former Drive-by Trucker doesn’t need much to sell him to Southern rock fans—he’s penned sprawling guitar brawl classics like “Decoration Day” and has the kind of soulful delivery that allows him to effortlessly cover both Van Morrison and The Band, so his ability to deliver a first-rate live show is never in doubt. With the release of last year’s Southeastern LP, though, Isbell has also firmly established himself as a songwriter of what could be timeless quality, with songs like “Elephant,” “Live Oak,” and “Cover Me Up” sounding damn near like classics that will still be in circulation among songwriters generations from now.
Violent Femmes @7:45pm
Although far more of a cult band than even The Replacements, Violent Femmes were also a hugely influential band that also boasts their fair share of counter-canon classics, none more so than the over-played (but still awesome) “Blister in the Sun.” Their set is worth it to hear thousands of fans shout these zany lyrics together in unison. It will likely be the kind of pure musical moment that you can only get in a festival setting.
Other Sunday Acts: Benjamin Booker, Paperbird, San Fermin, Langhorne Slim & the Law, Mason Jennings, Deer Tick, The Weeks, Blitzen Trapper, Jackie Greene, Iron & Wine, Trampled by Turtles, The Hold Steady, Local Natives, Kopecky Family Band, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros