Shaky Knees 2016 is upon us, ready to kick in gear this Friday, May 13th. This year in downtown Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park and International Plaza, Shaky Knees is bigger than ever. With over 75 bands, like any larger festival, the decisions become difficult when picking which sets to attend. Whether it’s two of your favorite bands playing at the same time, or you are looking for something new to discover that you may not know yet, there’s always tough decisions to be made.
Less than a week away, now it’s time to start planning out your own personal schedule for this year’s Shaky Knees. Once again this year, Shaky Knees has 5 stages, with 2-3 stages going at any one time slot on both Friday and Sunday. Saturday, the times are staggered around more, so we’ve offered our 6 Must Catch Sets for Saturday. We’ve combed through the Friday and Sunday time slots to bring to you what we deemed the toughest choices of the festival for the non-headliners. These time slots cover bands that you may not know and need to hear about, or perhaps have multiple bands playing that could offer more crossover appeal to fans of the other bands playing at the same time.
For those difficult decisions, we present to you our yearly Shaky Knees Death Match. We will have each band in the time slots we’ve chosen, pitted against each other. You make the decision on who you must catch. Keep checking back throughout the week as we offer our thoughts on those decisions. Check here for the time slots we’ve already covered.
Shaky Knees Friday Day 3 kicks off at 12:00PM with one of the toughest decisions of the whole festival. However you slice it, either of these two artists are enough to make sure you get out early Sunday to Shaky Knees. These are two of the best of the festival. Now it’s time to decide, which set will you catch?
Julien Baker – Ponce de Leon Stage – 12:00PM-12:45PM:
Julien Baker has had a hell of a 20th year of life: she saw the release of her first solo album, Sprained Ankle, less than a month after her 20th birthday to nearly universal acclaim, she’s recorded an NPR tiny desk concert, been the subject of feature length stories in the New Yorker, New York Times, Vice, and a whole host of other publications. She did all of this while enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University (who counts Sharon Van Etten among other musicians to have passed through its halls), though she’s currently on hiatus from school.
Baker’s simple, stark, and hauntingly beautiful songs show that a lot of life has been lived in a short amount of time. She’s dealt with substance abuse and wrestled with the issue of faith and its compatibility with her being gay. Anyone that’s ever wrestled with themselves internally over life’s great questions and our individual place in the cosmos will identify with the battles quietly raging inside Baker’s gorgeous songs. She often dons a t-shirt during her concerts that says “Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better” and I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment when listening to her music. – CC
Caveman – Boulevard Stage – 12:00PM-12:45PM:
This time slot is one of my personal favorites of the whole festival and one of the toughest choices. Julien Baker is absolutely stunning, and you should make every effort possible to see her live. But if we are being honest, since the release of NYC based Caveman‘s debut album CoCo Beware in 2011, this has been one of my absolute favorite bands around. Heck I’m surprised to see them as one of the first bands up for the day. Though they’ve only released one more album since, 2013’s self titled release and second masterpiece, Caveman has no doubt etched a place with me.
And what’s not to love? Caveman has it all. With it’s members coming from much heavier bands in the past, Caveman is an experimental, post rock band that has leaned on a much more chill sound. With ethereal vocals, perfect, haunting harmonies, piercing guitars, perfectly placed synths to layer and effect the emotion of the song, and some decidedly 80’s influences, the band has also earned heaps of critical praise along the way. This is the type of indie rock that can overtake your body, affecting singular molecules. While listening on record, the overall feel is spaced out chill, but I can personally attest that live, Caveman is anything but. The Drunken Unicorn couldn’t hold their large sound, Center Stage barely could contain it. The guitars are loud and screaming, grabbing every part of you as they infiltrate your ears, swirling around you. With heavy synths on tracks like “In The City“, Caveman sure won’t keep you from dancing and letting loose either. Based on those two records alone and past live experiences, I can not stand the chance to miss Caveman while they are in town.
But what makes their set peak my interest in another way is the recent release of 3 new singles in advance of their third record, Otero War, due out June 17th. For fans like me, the new singles show a dramatic change for the band. You can tell they are thinking bigger. Using a more roots rock approach in the vein of Wilco or Springsteen, the singles show carefully constructed melodies and use of folksy four-part harmonies. That alongside those still perfectly placed synths, it feels as though now Caveman is pulling from the Don Henley era of the 80’s. Yet there’s still hints of those swirling guitars, signaling the Caveman I know and love is still there. It’s obvious new singles like “Human” and “Never Going Back” are more ready made for a festival atmosphere, having the ability to get the crowds on their feet, singing along, dancing. These songs are growers, and whether you are a new or old fan like me, Shaky Knees is the perfect place for Caveman to captivate the audience like they’ve done so many times in the past. Bring on the new, and let’s revel in the old! – MG
For those that love a good playlist on the go, we’ve added these tracks to our Monomania playlist on Spotify for your listening pleasure: