Shaky Knees 2016 is upon us, ready to kick in gear next 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.
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. Yet on Saturday, the time slots are staggered around more. Depending on how you look at it and ease of getting stage to stage, there may be more opportunity to bounce around to catch multiple sets. 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 and our must catch acts for Saturday.
Shaky Knees Friday Day 1, 6:15PM time slot has three artists that have been building a huge buzz in the indie rock world over the last few years, each with their own unique spin on rock ‘n’ roll music. All three sets could be looked back upon as one of the most buzz worthy of the whole festival, and now it’s time to decide, which set will you catch?
Savages – Ponce de Leon Stage:
Savages offers an interesting dichotomy: a sound that can best be described as brutal and unrelenting, but gives the listener hope. The London-based post-punkers know that life isn’t all sunshine, but there’s still beauty in the dark. Lead single “Adore” from their most recent release Adore Life finds lead singer Jehnny Beth directly confronting this contrast. The bass-heavy track and Beth’s vocals project a pacing quality, like she’s stalking around a room interrogating herself. While she questions if she can love life despite all of the hardships she encounters the music swells until Beth finally plainly declares “I adore life”.
Maybe this all sounds like Savages needs to be seen in a dark enclosed environment to truly appreciate the brooding hopefulness of their music. But Savages proved their festival chops just last month at Coachella with a set that Stereogum called “an undeniable force”. The band has a true knack for showmanship, and Beth even made her way into the crowd at one point. Don’t risk missing what could end up being one of the most emotionally powerful sets at Shaky Knees. – ME
The Struts – Boulevard Stage:
The Struts quite literally wear their influences on their sleeves. You would be forgiven for taking a look at a photo of the band and thinking they were from a by-gone era, never having clawed out any space or recognition among the glut of glam rock in the 70s and 80s. Back then bands trying to make stadium-sized rock were a dime a dozen. Eventually, that style of earnest bombast fell out of favor and those kinds of groups were deemed uncool.
Today, The Struts unabashed strive for large sounds is endearing. Not too many groups nowadays are clamoring to be Rock Stars. But The Struts have no qualms with pushing the amp to 11 and losing themselves in classic rock n’ roll. Frontman Luke Spiller’s voice is perfect for carrying the weight of crashing drums and screeching guitars, and his accent give each song a tinge of feeling like it was composed in a pub. For some acts at a festival being far away from the stage severely hampers enjoyment. With The Struts chances are you’ll hear them wherever you are at Shaky Knees. Check out their set if you love cheap beer, loud music, throwing your arms around your friends and swaying to some straight-up rock. – ME
Alex G – Buford Highway Stage:
Alex G offers a thoroughly modern take on a scene that formed before he was born. He turns out the kind of pleasantly lo-fi rock music made famous by the likes of Pavement and Elliot Smith. But he’s part of a new generation that is using the internet to pave new avenues for creating and distributing music. Whereas back in the 80s and early 90s bands had to fight to get on labels that would get their music a wide release, Alex G (along with similarly self-driven and prolific Car Seat Headrest) took the process into his own hands and self-released a handful of albums.
His prodigious output gives you a sense of discovery that’s hard to find nowadays. You never know when you’ll stumble upon your new favorite track, buried deep somewhere. When you see him live you might not know every song, but you’ll definitely leave his set itching to pore over his expansive discography and uncover a few gems. Alex G will provide a set that’s a throwback to peak indie rock. At every festival you always walk away from one set with a better appreciation for the artist and a pledge to learn more about them, that’s going to be Alex G this year. – ME
Contributors: Matthew Ellis (ME)