This year’s Shaky kicked off on Friday, April 29 and lasted through Sunday, May 1. Even on the very first day, the lineup was already unreal. Not only did they have Pop-Punk legends Green Day headlining, the lineup also featured iconic bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Spoon, up-and-comers like Faye Webster and Nilüfer Yanya, and so many others.
My partner and I arrived at Central Park around 2:15pm to pick up my wristband and made it into the festival with plenty of time to spare before Faye Webster’s set at 2:45. The very first thing I noticed was just how hot it was this time around compared to October’s festival. Luckily, we remembered to bring sunscreen and a hydration pack, but it was definitely much hotter than last year. The layout was the same as before: Ponce De Leon and Criminal Records stages right next to each other, with Peachtree and Piedmont stages less than a 5-minute walk away. Only two stages hosted performances at a time (one on either side of the park), and there was never any overlap in hearing one stage while at another, so they were perfectly spaced out. Another thing I noticed was that there were quite a few more children at this year’s festival, possibly due to getting rid of the vaccine requirement.
Once 2:45 came around, we were already near the front of the Piedmont stage, waiting for Faye Webster to come out. The band did a little sound check, and then out came Faye in a flowing, bright blue dress. The first couple songs they played were off of her latest studio album, I Know I’m Funny haha, and they translated beautifully onto the stage. She had an excellent presence live, moving all around and interacting with her bandmates in a way that felt really natural and fun. I was already having a great time, but the third song they played really hit me. I heard the very first notes of “Right Side of My Neck,” from her 2019 record Atlanta Millionaires Club, and was already in tears. The song itself means a lot to me, and I’d had a particularly rough week leading up to this festival, so hearing this live for the first time felt so impactful and made me all the more grateful to be there. The rest of the set was great as well, though that song was definitely the highlight. There were a couple tracks, namely “A Dream With a Baseball Player,” that were sorely missing the presence of horns, but besides that I had no complaints. They played pretty much everything I wanted in just 45 minutes and did a damn good job. I also want to go ahead and give props to the festival camera operators, as they were absolutely crushing it with the angles here and deserve all the appreciation they can get.
After Faye’s set, we migrated over to Peachtree, where we saw Grandson, a rap/rock artist who I had never heard of. He kicked things off by saying “My name’s Grandson, what’s your name?” which really set the tone for the zaniness we were in for with this set. Throughout the performance, this man slapped himself in the face, took off his shirt to reveal his sunburnt chest, and literally climbed up the side of the stage. The music was fine, but it was definitely Grandson’s own shenanigans that sold this performance. Near the front of the crowd was the very first mosh pit of the weekend; it wasn’t anything special, but it was nice to see that people were already down for some moshing. Some people even tried to crowdsurf, though I don’t think there were quite enough people to do it successfully yet. Eventually, somebody in the crowd passed out, so they had to stop the show for medical help. It felt pretty early in the day for this, but then I remembered just how hot it was and it all made sense. Even though some people were disappointed by the show stopping, it definitely provided for a teachable moment on staying hydrated and knowing your limits, as well as how to properly handle a medical situation as an artist.
After that whole affair, we went down to Ponce De Leon for our first real pit show of the weekend: Mannequin Pussy. I wasn’t overly familiar with their music beforehand, but I knew they fused hardcore punk with power pop, which is right up my alley. As soon as we got into the crowd, it was obvious just how much crazier these fans were than Grandson’s. The music was very loud and noisy, and everyone in the crowd was more than ready to match that energy: the moshing was insane, everyone was jumping around, and there were crowd surfers at every turn. I even ran into the pink cowboy hat guy who I had met at the last festival. The community at Shaky Knees is unlike anything else I have ever experienced; there is so much love in every single crowd, and you consistently run into the same people in every pit and make so many new friends along the way. The fact that I was able to recognize people from one Shaky to the next speaks so much to the loving environment Shaky has cultivated across its nine years of existence.
Once I was fully destroyed by the Mannequin Pussy pit, I grabbed some food and went to sit at the Criminal Records stage for Nilüfer Yanya’s set. I got a Gyro from Efe’s Greek Kitchen for $16, and it was able to sustain me for the rest of the day. Nilüfer Yanya, whose latest album was actually featured in WUSC’s rotation, was a fantastic performer. The horns in her band absolutely stole the show and made for such a nice, chill set. My favorite songs were definitely “Stabilise” from her latest album, PAINLESS, and their cover of PJ Harvey’s 1993 song “Rid Of Me.”
Next, we made our way back to Piedmont for one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend: Spoon. In the months leading up to this year’s festival, I had been getting into a lot of Spoon’s music, especially their 2014 album They Want My Soul and their 2001 record Girls Can Tell. Unfortunately, they didn’t perform anything off of the latter, but we did get a few cuts from They Want My Soul. Vocalist Britt Daniel came out wearing a black cowboy hat and looked like he was having a great time. It was definitely not my favorite setlist of the weekend, as a lot of the songs they played were slower than many of my favorite Spoon songs, but they were still indisputably great performers. Pretty much everyone in the band played multiple instruments, and Britt absolutely killed it vocally. The crowd was pretty much still the whole time, but there were a few people waving around plastic spoons, which I appreciated a lot. Once “I Summon You” came on, I figured it was the last song and decided to start walking to Criminal Records for Shannon and the Clams, but as soon as we got out of the crowd, I heard “Rent I Pay” and decided to hang out to listen to one of my favorite songs they’ve made.
Eventually we did make it down to see Shannon and the Clams, and they had a pretty chaotic set, in the best way imaginable. They kicked things off by telling us they had been removed from the festival lineup and then added back the night before. Apparently, lead singer Shannon Shaw’s twin brother Cody, who plays guitar, could not make it to Atlanta, so they had their good friend Ardy substitute in for him. They said Ardy had done this before, but he only had 45 minutes that day to learn all their songs. All that being said, they crushed this performance, and you honestly could not tell they had been scrambling around all day trying to figure everything out. Shannon’s vocals hit even harder in person, the doo-wops in the background were irresistable, and Ardy did an incredible job on guitar despite just learning many of the songs. Later in the performance, they ended up Face-Timing Cody, and it was nice to see that he was okay. The last song they played was actually one that he wrote, so it was fun to have him there in spirit while we all sang along to “The Boy.”
Up next was Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Ponce De Leon. I was pretty excited for this set, as I had heard great things about their live shows, but we honestly didn’t stay for long just due to how exhausted we were from all the previous acts back-to-back-to-back. What I did see was very interesting and different from all the other performers: no lights on the band itself with some incredibly flashy imagery on a screen behind them. We left towards the beginning of the set to go walk around and grab some more food, then came back towards the end of the set to see them finish up. Everyone there seemed to love it.
Finally, the act everyone was waiting for: Green Day. I have honestly never been the biggest Green Day fan; I like a couple of their albums and some songs here and there, but as a whole their style never fully resonated with me. However, their live show managed to blow me away. They opened with a recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which reminded me of when Run The Jewels came out to “We Are The Champions”at last year’s festival. Then, someone in a big bunny suit ran on stage as the song changed to “Blitzkrieg Bop” by Ramones. Security (or people acting like security) proceeded to pull the bunny off stage, and the music changed into a mashup of a bunch of other classic rock songs, like “We Will Rock You” and “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” I thought the bunny bit was pretty funny, but I wasn’t entirely sold on the whole ode-to-classic-rock thing they had going on. Then, finally, the band came on stage and started playing “American Idiot,” and the crowd went nuts. Frontman Billie Joe kept yelling at us to “GO FUCKING CRAZY,” and that energy did not let up for the entire 90-minute set. I got the sense that they all truly enjoyed every second of performing, despite having been doing this for multiple decades now. Billie Joe truly knows how to command a crowd: he got people jumping, starting chants and waving their hands in the air all through the night. The stage lighting was unbelievable as well, with fireballs exploding on beat and everything else you could think of. Probably the most fun part of their set was the band’s interactions with the crowd. At one point, they invited a little kid on stage to dance his heart out, and at another point someone tossed a Mexican flag on stage and Billie Joe yelled “VIVA MÉXICO!” The craziest thing that happened was when they brought up a fan on stage to play guitar for the song “Knowledge;” Billie told the guy that he smelled good, then proceeded to GIVE HIM THE GUITAR. Talk about a core memory; that dude got to come on stage and play with what’s probably his favorite band, then got gifted a whole guitar from his idol. After he left, Billie Joe’s son Jacob surprised him on stage to help play guitar for “She.” Apparently he is in a band called Ultra Q that was also playing at Shaky. Anyway, performance-wise, there was some great use of saxophone, a little harmonica, and excellent drumming throughout. The visuals were crazy too, with a hyper-saturated red tint on the video feed and lots of special effects, including gunshots during “21 Guns.” Every song was a great time, even the stuff I usually don’t like as much. They ended things off with a big firework finale, and then everyone flooded out the exit.
Incredible first day at Shaky Knees 2022. I never thought I would write that much about Green Day in my life, but they shattered my every expectation beyond belief. And this was just the beginning; click here for my recap of Day 2.
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)