The sounds of pure indie rock and roll could be heard booming out of Central Park this past weekend as the annual Shaky Knees music festival made its return after being postponed due to COVID-19 precautions. The festival, which is traditionally held in May, hosted three jam packed days of music from Oct. 22–24.
Shaky Knees hosted notable headliners such as Run the Jewels, Mac DeMarco, Portugal. The Man, Alice Cooper and The Strokes. Also among the headliners were the Foo Fighters, who were tacked onto the lineup after Stevie Nicks withdrew from the festival — as well as all of her other scheduled appearances across the country — as a health precaution in the wake of the pandemic.
While Nicks’ presence was heavily missed, the first day of performances marched on with the Peachtree stage being dominated by Cults, Dominic Fike and Mac DeMarco. The Cults, an American indie band who formed in 2010 and have since had their music make the rounds on various smartphone company commercials, were a pleasant start to the weekend’s festivities for Tech students who had to wait until classes were done for the day to make the walk over to the park. The nostalgic sounds of their hit songs “Always Forever” and “Go Outside” were the perfect background music to the beginning of a beautiful weekend of live performances.
Mac DeMarco enthusiasts who attempted to get to the front of the crowd for his show had to first enjoy the surprisingly contagious stage presence of Dominic Fike, whose song “3 Nights” has projected him into popularity over the past year. Fike proved that he will be an artist to watch in the coming years as he continues to ride the waves off his freshman album “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?,” but the hundreds of young girls shoved against the barricades anxiously waiting for his performance could have already told you that.
Minutes after Fike’s feisty self finished up his set, Mac DeMarco came out to help set up his own stage. Bending down to plug in wires with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, DeMarco’s humble presence made the crowd go wild as he performed the mundane tasks that are usually reserved for a stage hand rather than the artist themselves. DeMarco’s fun-loving, down-to-earth vibe continued throughout his set which made everything in the world seem okay for an hour or so with selections from his discography ranging from his 2012 album “2” to his most recent 2019 release “Here Comes the Cowboy.”
The highlight of Saturday’s lineup was Run the Jewels, the rap duo consisting of El-P and Atlanta’s own Killer Mike. It was a special night of homecoming for Killer Mike as he gleamed to the crowd multiple times to express how grateful he was to be able to perform for his neighbors. The performance marked the first time an Atlanta crowd heard live selections from RTJ’s newest album “RTJ4.” The show ended as an elated Killer Mike invited everyone to the Blue Flame Lounge and Swinging Richards as the haunting sounds of “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)” escorted the pair off stage.
Sunday’s lineup was unmatched as The Backseat Lovers, Orville Peck, Modest Mouse, Phoebe Bridgers and The Strokes dominated three different stages across the park throughout the day. Orville Peck, the mysterious fringe masked gay cowboy, was an easy pick for an artist who should have been designated a headliner but was not. Peck’s performance of his low boiled country croons, while unconventional for the indie festival, were a welcome break from the headbanger bands surrounding his time slot. Unsuspecting festival goers who gathered around the main stage of the festival without having heard of this man walked away as superfans due to his breathtaking performance.
The festival ended on a sweet and sour note as The Strokes capped off the night with a clearly discontent lead singer. Julian Casablancas, the 43 year old frontman of the band, showed up to the stage 15 minutes late for their set and made it clear he did not really want to be on stage. The crowd laughed off his awkward comments regarding him stopping the entire band during their performance of “Ode to the Mets” which Casablancas dubbed “Ode to the Dodgers” after the Braves beat the Dodgers to advance to the World Series the night before. Casablancas skipped over the song as he admitted he could not remember the lyrics. After a series of concerning comments from Casablancas and him assuring the crowd that he was fine, he promptly dropped the microphone at 10 o’clock, signaling the end of an otherwise successful Shaky Knees weekend.