by Hadley Schaffer // DJ Duckington
2021’s Shaky Knees had one of the best lineups I’ve ever seen out of an Atlanta music festival. It was impossible to see everybody, but here is a list of my top 10 favorite performances I was able to catch at this year’s festival.
Israeli singer/songwriter, rapper and producer Noga Erez took the stage early Friday afternoon for one of the most fun sets of the weekend. The bass was rattling, the crowd was bouncing, and Noga crushed every song. She definitely gained some new fans in that crowd just off of how fun her energy was alone.
Arlo performed early Saturday afternoon and had an incredibly vibrant performance. Although her music is often fairly calming and ethereal, something you’d want to listen to while lying in bed with your eyes shut, her band helped transcend that sound perfectly into a live setting, making for one of the most soothing and uplifting sets of the weekend.
Although they didn’t perform many songs, Mercury Rev took the crowd to a whole different planet with how psychedelic their set was. With by far the most atmospheric set of the weekend, they tore up every song, somehow managing to sound even more lush live than in headphones.
Phoebe just knows what she’s doing. Her music tends to be pretty sad and introspective, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of her in a live context, but she did a fantastic job of bringing her audience to life. Her personality between songs made the performance feel so intimate, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Plus the mosh pit during “I Know The End” was undeniable.
I was not overly familiar with The Hives before this festival, outside of a few of their hits, but man did they blow my expectations out of the water. The lead singer was hilariously cocky, and he controlled the crowd like no other. There was a mosh pit for every song, and people were absolutely losing it. Constantly telling us how much we love The Hives, referring to Atlanta as “Atlantis,” coming into the crowd, and having the time of their lives performing “fast rock and roll music” in all white suits, The Hives’ set was more fun than I could have imagined.
The Backseat Lovers have a bit of a cult following, and it shows. From the very first song, everyone in the crowd was losing their minds. With mosh pits to songs I never dreamed of moshing to, gleefully bouncing up and down alongside hundreds of strangers, and hearing stunning vocal and instrumental performances from the whole band, The Backseat Lovers’ performance somehow made me like them even more than I already did.
One of the most iconic and recognizable acts at this year’s Shaky Knees, St. Vincent delivered the performance of a lifetime. Performing a variety of tracks from across her catalogue, getting into hardcore guitar battles with her fellow bandmates, and giving her backup singers the spotlight, St. Vincent exceeded my every expectation, which were high to begin with. This was the only performance to genuinely make me tear up. The one thing that could have improved this set would have been to make it longer (and also to have played some stuff from Actor.)
I had been wanting to see these guys for so many years. And now that I finally have, all I want is to see them again. They played just about everything I wanted to hear (aside from “Call Ticketron,” which I am still sad about) and brought so much undeniable energy to both the stage and the crowd. Mike and El-P raved about how much they love Atlanta, making everyone in the audience feel grateful just to be there. As much as I wish I had gotten a chance to see “Call Ticketron” live, all the other incredible tracks I had the privilege of moshing to will hold me over until the next time.
Oh Mac. This man was outrageous. His music is so mellow, and his personality is so chaotic; it made for such a fun juxtaposition for the entire hour he was on stage. His setlist included all the best songs from all his best albums, he looked like he was having the time of his life on stage, and the crowd matched every ounce of his energy. Every second felt so special, and I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced it.
I was able to see IDLES twice this weekend, and both performances were extraordinary. No other artist or band brought out as disorderly a crowd, in the best way possible. Band members moshed with fans, countless bodies were tossed up to crowdsurf, and the passion never stopped for even a second. Phenomenal setlist, phenomenal performances, phenomenal crowd. Literally a perfect show. Far and away the best act at this year’s Shaky Knees. I cannot wait to see them again.
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)