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, 2:30PM time slot has three great artists that you may just be familiar with, even if you didn’t realize it. All three bands are worthy of your time and ears. Which should it be?
Brian Fallon – Ponce de Leon Stage:
Brian Fallon is one of those names you may happen to be familiar with. The New Jersey native has been releasing punk influenced music since 1997 through multiple different bands including his recent projects the Horrible Crowes and also Molly and the Zombies. But Fallon is probably best known for his work in The Gaslight Anthem.
While Fallon has always taken influences from punk rock, another New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen, has also had an incredible influence on Fallon and what became his band The Gaslight Anthem. Bruce also happens to be a big fan, having taking the Gaslight Anthem on tour with him. The band hit mainstream with their heartland rock and roll with a harder edge, building a huge following over the years.
For fans of The Gaslight Anthem that were heartbroken over the band’s indefinite hiatus, news of Brian Fallon’s solo debut album Painkillers (Island Records, March 2015) and his return to a Shaky Knees stage is a special treat. On Fallon’s debut, there’s more heartland rock with a slight punk undertones, but instead of songs about cars and girls, he provides more depth and soul than TGA.
One of the most difficult things for newer bands playing a festival setting for the first time is how to have the moxie to really take a hold and engage the audience. Some bands are there simply to play, and not put on a performance. But on the Ponce stage you’ve got a seasoned vet that knows how to work a crowd, and has been known to play career spanning sets on his solo stops. There’s no doubt that Brian Fallon already knows how to be a crowd pleaser, and you can expect him to put on a show for Shaky Knees. – MG
The Front Bottoms – Boulevard Stage:
It’s 2:30 in the afternoon on Shaky Knees’ inaugural day of 2016. It’s hot as hades, and your there to sweat it up and fucking party like it’s 1999. Is there any doubt which set should have your attention? Since their 2011 debut, The Front Bottoms have built a cult following starting in their home state of New Jersey to nowadays selling out date after date here in the states, across the pond and beyond.
The pop-punk/emo band has a way about them that makes you want to get up and chunk your fist high in the air. Live, they kick it up another notch with higher energy that overtakes crowd after crowd. It’s not just the band themselves though, they’ve built a rabid following that will be right there up front to show you the proper way to enjoy a Front Bottoms’ show. And the only real way to do it is to scream loud and sing along to the witty lyrics, releasing some pent up rage with their set.
Touring behind their third album, Back On Top (Fueled by Ramen, Sept. 2015), The Front Bottoms’ sound is bigger and better than ever. They are also known to bring some props to their live set from time to time, plus there was a Celine Dion cover on a recent tour stop. With surprises always up their sleeves, The Front Bottoms are known to bring the energy up in any room, whether a small club or festival of thousands, and they are going to kick the lid off of Shaky Knees this year. – MG
Matthew Logan Vasquez – Buford Highway Stage:
Matthew Logan Vasquez released his debut solo EP, The Austin EP, in November of 2015, after first releasing the epic almost 18 minute track “Austin.” Quickly he followed that up with his debut full length album Solicitor Returns, in February of this year.
Does the name ring a bell? Vasquez is the frontman for one of the greatest bands of the last 10 years, the critically acclaimed Delta Spirit. And sometimes he likes to party with Middle Brother (Dawes + Deer Tick + Delta Spirit). If you’ve seen either of these bands live, stop reading, I’ll see you at this set. I still remember seeing Delta Spirit back in 2012 in Hell at Masquerade as one of my favorite shows of the last 5 years.
With a little time between Delta Spirit projects, Vasquez worked to quickly get out solo material showing off slow burning ballads and plenty of uptempo rockers that will have the festival scene on fire. Vasquez’s solo work shows more of a foray into classic rock, exploring plenty of 70’s era rock ‘n’ roll. On theme with classic rock, the guitars solos on record are pretty sick, and that will only be elevated on the Buford Highway Stage early Friday afternoon, something that’s going to overtake the Shaky Knees crowd. Then as soon as Vasquez and his band play “Everything I Do Is Out”, there’s no doubt the party will have begun for the early festival goers that make this set because “Rock ‘n’ roll can never die!”. This is the can’t miss set early on Friday of Shaky Knees.
*side note, Deer Tick plays Shaky Knees on Saturday, so yeah this could be fun – 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:
Contributors: Mike Gerry (MG)