Shaky Knees brings rock and soul to Atlanta

Bands from all over the country rocked out Atlanta this weekend as rock music festival Shaky Knees continued after a two-year hiatus. Photo by Roger Ho for Shaky Knees

For the first time in over two years, the Shaky Knees rock music festival returns to Atlanta with a diverse mix of music ranging from rock to indie to everything in-between. 

The festival, usually held annually in May, took a hiatus due to the pandemic. Eager fans flooded into Atlanta’s Central and Renaissance Parks, ready to rock out to bands like The Strokes, Foo Fighters and Phoebe Bridgers 

The festival took place over three days and had four different stages set up throughout the festival grounds. Artists utilized these stages to create mostly hour-long sets that were just as visually appealing as they were audible.  

Indie-pop artist St. Vincent utilized her stage space on Friday night to the absolute max, walking onstage decked-out in a bright red and sexy ensemble, go-go boots and a blonde bob wig to finish off her 70s-inspired look.  

Her set was complete with a trio of background dancers, witty sketches in-between songs and wicked guitar solos played throughout the performance. 

Legendary metal-rock artist Alice Cooper kept Saturday night alive, giving audience members music like a punch to the face. Cooper, dressed head to toe in an all-black ensemble complete with a top hat, performed timeless metal hits such as “Feed my Frankenstein” and “School’s Out.” 

Of course, no Alice Cooper set would be complete without props such as a giant inflatable baby, a guillotine, confetti cannons and a set that looked as if Cooper took it straight out of a horror film. 

Kicking off the festival, New York-natives The Specialists brought their indie-funk sound down to Atlanta. They played their new song, “Head in my Heart,” and the crowd responded with loads of excitement. 

As The Specialists are new to the festival scene, they emphasized how excited and grateful they were to play at Shaky Knees. 

“It was incredible. Playing was absolutely surreal,” Mikey Rotunno, songwriter and lead singer of The Specialists, said. “There were so many good moments, and we were [absolutely] fighting back emotions after playing. [Many] friends from New York come down, [and] in the very front. It was all really cool.” 

Atlanta-natives Lunar Vacation, made up of guitarist and vocalist Grace Repasky, guitarist Maggie Geeslin, drummer Connor Dowd and keyboardist Matteo DeLurgio, headlined for the Criminal Records stage on Saturday night. 

The band planned on playing at Shaky Knees in 2019 for 2020. However, the pandemic pushed this date back. 

 The crowd at Criminal Records’ stage was ecstatically singing and jumping to some of Lunar Vacations’ top songs such as “Swimming” and “The Basement.” With a new album coming out on October 29th, Lunar Vacation was thrilled to play never-released songs such as “Peddler.”

“My favorite song to play live is this new song called Peddler,” Repasky said. “It is the first song on the new album, and when we play it together, I just feel so connected.” 

“This was also the first song we recorded at the studio for the album. It’s just really hype,” DeLurgio said.  

Birmingham natives The Brook & The Bluff kept the energy at the Piedmont stage high on Sunday, doing what they do best by serenading the crowd with killer vocals, incredible harmonies and a vibe that keeps audience members grooving. 

The Brook & The Bluff began in Birmingham with lead singer Joseph Settine and guitarist Alex Bolton. After a while, bassist Fred Lankford and drummer John Canada joined the quartet. 

“There was a point where I was like, ‘do you guys want to do this full time,’ because I do,” Bolton said. “We started playing and writing original songs, and in 2017 we started playing shows with only originals.”

Based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Michigander brought total energy to the Ponce de Leon stage. With an indie-pop sound and lyrics that hit home, the lead singer and songwriter of the band, Michigander, Jason Singer, made it a point with his music to make audience members riddled with spirit. 

Singer stated how much he loves Atlanta, and he addressed how exciting it was to see such a loud and large crowd at his Shaky Knees set. 

“You never know when you play music festivals how many people are going to turn out,” Singer said. “You could be playing for a handful of people or a bunch of people. It was insane to see a couple of thousand people turn out.”

Praised by Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, MTV and more, the indie-pop quartet The Aces writes for those who know and relate to themes such as sexuality, religion and relationships. 

The band began playing music together in middle school, as all four girls fell in love with music before they knew anything else. 

“It started out as a hobby when we were kids, but it ended up taking over our whole lives in the best way possible,” Cristal Ramirez said. 

Singer and guitarist Cristal Ramirez, guitarist Katie Henderson, bass player McKenna Petty and drummer Alisa Ramirez create the leading quartet of The Aces. 

The band came into Atlanta from Utah and California, playing a few songs from their most recent album, “Under my Influence.” The band emphasized their love for songs such as “I Can Break Your Heart, Too” and “My Phone is Trying to Kill Me,” saying they were the most fun songs to play live. 

The Aces have a deep connection with the city due to the sheer support of their Atlanta fanbase. The band opened for Coin at Buckhead Theatre, where fans created a scrapbook filled with lyrics to their songs. 

“The fans here treat you like your best friend off the bat. It’s that southern hospitality, I think,” Henderson said.