This past weekend (October 22-24), I had the privilege of attending Atlanta’s best music festival: Shaky Knees. It’s a three-day festival with a consistently fantastic lineup of famous and up-and-coming artists alike, ranging from indie and punk to pop and hip hop, and everything in between.
The first day of the weekend already had such a stacked lineup, with performances from St. Vincent, Mac DeMarco, Foo Fighters, and more. I had been nonstop listening to St. Vincent’s and Mac’s discographies for months to prepare, and it was well worth the wait.
My partner and I got to Central Park in Atlanta (the festival grounds) just before 2:30p.m. where I picked up my media wristband and went through bag check to head into the festival. We were just in time to see Noga Erez at the Peachtree Stage. Erez is an Israeli singer/songwriter, rapper and producer who has gained popularity over the past few years for her hard-hitting, genre-bending style that fuses hip hop vocals with pop melodies and electronic-inspired production.
She had so much energy for her whole set and played banger after banger, primarily from her latest album, KIDS, which came out this year. The bass was rattling through the crowd for every song, and everyone was dancing and having a good time. At one point, she asked us to “shake the earth,” and the whole crowd started to jump to the beat. Noga’s energy radiated throughout the crowd, making for one of the most fun afternoon performances of the weekend. A few of my favorite songs included “End of the Road,” “Bark Loud” and “Fire Kites.”
Once her set was over, we got some food, and I went to check out the press lounge area, where I waited to get some radio tag-lines from Specialists, a New York band whose performance I was unfortunately unable to catch earlier that day. While waiting, I saw Noga Erez being interviewed and Frankie & the Witch Fingers hanging out at a table.
This being my first time in a press lounge area, it was a pretty surreal experience. I was honestly fairly nervous, but once Specialists got there, I went up to say hi and they were incredibly nice and alleviated all my anxiety. We introduced ourselves and got right into recording some fun tag-lines, which you can now hear on WUSC! Once we finished, we talked about bands we were excited to see at the festival, then went our separate ways.
After this, Dominic Fike was performing at the Piedmont stage and Ty Segall at Ponce De Leon, both of whom I heard put on great shows, but we decided to hang out by Peachtree to get the best spot possible for St. Vincent. And it paid off. She came on at 6:45, first bringing to the stage her band, three backup singers, and a look-alike St. Vincent. Then, the real Annie Clark came out in a bright red jacket and bright red shorts to the hit “Digital Witness” off of her 2015 self-titled album. We had such a clear view of the stage, only a few rows from the barricade, and her performance was electrifying.
I felt like our section of the crowd could have been dancing a bit more, considering how bouncy much of her setlist was, but I was probably doing enough dancing for all of us. Clark grabbed a new guitar every time she played, and at a couple points she even got into what looked like a solo-off with her fellow guitarist, which was very fun to watch. Her setlist was primarily made up of newer songs, which I can’t really complain about because they’re all great, but I do wish she had more time to do some of her older stuff. We got one song off of Marry Me, one off of Strange Mercy, two from St. Vincent (self-titled), and nothing from Actor.
The rest were from her latest two studio albums (MASSEDUCTION and Daddy’s Home), which are still very good, though I do prefer her older works. She ended the set with “The Melting of the Sun,” right after the sunset. St. Vincent was a born performer, her band was fantastic, and the backup singers tied everything together in a perfect bow. The only thing that could have improved this was a longer set time, but it was still jaw-dropping for the time they had. I honestly teared up a bit towards the beginning; I was just so happy to finally experience live music again, and her performance was absolutely breathtaking.
After that set, my partner and I sprinted to the Piedmont stage to see Mac DeMarco. We got there in the middle of his opening track, “On the Level,” from 2017’s This Old Dog (an unexpected but welcomed choice for an opener). We were pretty far back but still managed to get a solid view of the stage. After that, it was hit after hit, with what may be the best setlist of the entire weekend. Mac DeMarco has such a great catalogue, and he pulled from all of his studio albums (besides Here Comes The Cowboy, which isn’t a fan favorite anyway) to form the best setlist imaginable, truly giving the people what they wanted.
He even played “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans,” which he claimed to have not played in almost 10 years. On top of this, he had such an infectiously fun stage presence; the man was always yelling or dancing or hyping up the crowd; it was impossible to not have a huge smile across your face the whole time. The way he would talk to us between songs and introduce what he was playing next made the performance feel so intimate despite the sea of people in the crowd, and he seemed to be having the time of his life.
He expressed how grateful he was to finally be able to play shows again, and by his stage presence alone you could tell he truly meant it. The crowd was great too, dancing and swaying to just about every track, occasionally screaming lyrics. “Freaking Out The Neighborhood” especially had people going crazy. For his final track, “Still Together,” he had everyone get low and then jump around for a truly beautiful finale.
Unfortunately, by the end of his set, we realized we had lost a pair of sunglasses somewhere along the way, probably when we were running to see Mac (see Advice for Future Attendees.)
Once Mac left the stage, everyone fled to Peachtree to see Foo Fighters. My partner and I had to leave before seeing them, but I can imagine they put on a great show.
Later that night, I took MARTA down to The Masquerade, where I saw one of my favorite bands of all time: IDLES. See my IDLES Shaky Knees Late Night Show Recap for more about that!
This show is all over the place. Punk, pop, electronic, rap, various duck noises; you never know what you're gonna get, so there's bound to be a little something for everyone! (except for my grandfather, who hates all of it)