Traditionally, music festival season opens with Coachella, runs throughout the summer, and concludes with Austin City Limits. During that time, fans can attend a festival almost every weekend in different states across the U.S. With such a crowded scene, organizers have to come up with something special to join the ranks of America’s marquee festivals. Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival, entering its fifth year, has done just that.
A ticket to the festival will get you over 60 live performances on three stages. The festival focuses on indie-alt rock, but with a lineup full of diverse, top-tier musicians, every rock fan will find plenty to satisfy their taste. Even with staggered set times and three stages, fans will be faced with some tough choices. To help you decide which show to catch, we’ve made a list of our top ten artists playing at Shaky Knees this year!
10 - J. Roddy Waltson & The Business - Formed in 2002 by J. Roddy Waltson and based in Baltimore, Maryland, the Business now consists of Billy Gordon (lead guitar/vocals), Logan Davis (bass/vocals) and Steve Colmus (drums). Their sound can be called Southern rock, roots rock, hard rock or just damn good music. The band is known for their live shows and Waltson’s pounding piano style. If you love live music, you have to see this band.
9 - Highly Suspect - Originating from the cover-band scene in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and now based in Brooklyn, New York, Ryan Meyer (drums/vocals), Rich Meyer (bass/vocals) and Johnny Stevens (guitar/vocals/synth) are pure blue-collar rock n’ roll. Highly Suspect is quite possibly the hardest rocking band at the festival, which is no surprise given that everything they’ve got, they’ve earned the hard way. Their music is often dark and born out of life experiences. A rabid following will ensure their set is packed with adoring fans. Whether you like hard bluesy rock or just one helluva show - put these guys on your list.
8 - X Ambassadors - The New York quartet of Sam Harris (lead vocals/guitar/sax/bass/drums), Casey Harris (piano/keys/vocals), Noah Feldshuh (lead guitar/bass/vocals), and Adam Levin (drums) has been on a rapid ascent as of late. These indie-alt rockers play great music and their live show is something to be experienced, and not just because of Sam’s energetic stage presence. His brother Casey’s piano playing is truly something to behold, especially considering the fact that he has been blind since birth. X Ambassadors will be closing Saturday night on the Piedmont Stage, and you won’t want to miss this performance.
7 - Pixies - This Boston-based alternative rock band is the elder statesmen of the festival. They've earned their spot on our list because of the influence their music has had on so many bands, such as Nirvana, Radiohead and the Strokes – just to name a few. Their epic debut album, Surfer Rosa, was released in 1988. But don’t confuse the Pixies with a nostalgia act – they released the well-received Head Carrier just last year. Their legacy is long and lasting, and if you've never seen them, you’ll want to catch them Friday when they close the night on the Piedmont Stage.
6 - FIDLAR - This Los Angeles-based punk rock/garage band consists of Elvis Kuehn (lead guitar/vocals), Max Kuehn (drums), Zac Carper (rhythm guitar/vocals) and Brandon Schwartzel (bass/vocals). Elvis and Zac are the sons of Greg Kuehn, keyboardist for Long Beach punk legends, T.S.O.L.. FIDLAR’s name is an acronym for, “F* It Dog, Life’s A Risk,” which tells you plenty about the band. As you can imagine, you’ll experience crowd surfers, moshing, carnage and mayhem. Highly Suspect will be preceding these guys on stage, so the crowd will already be worked up. We recommend catching both, but if you’re up front, you may be done for the rest of the night.
5 - Phoenix - This French band will be closing out the festival on Sunday night from the main stage – and for good reason. Thomas Mars (vocals), Deck d’Arcy (bass), Chris Mazzalai (guitar), and Laurent Brancowitz (guitar) have an extensive catalog of hits, and are seasoned veterans of the festival scene. Their live show is sure to thrill, so don’t leave before the encore! Phoenix always delivers, and this show shouldn't be any different. They are the perfect choice to close out Shaky Knees, and obviously a must-see performance.
4 - Ryan Adams - Singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, and poet, Adams’ most recent work, Prisoner, was released this February. While there have been a few controversial incidents at his live shows throughout the years, the criticism is often not deserved. His musical talent is undeniable and his performance is equally great. Expect the unexpected because he is constantly pushing the boundaries of his musical genius. He’ll be closing out Sunday night from the Piedmont Stage, and you won’t want to miss it.
3 - Moon Taxi - This quintet was formed in 2006 by Trevor Terndrup (vocals/guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomas (guitar), Tyler Ritter (drums), and Wes Bailey (keys). Their sound is indie-progressive rock, but expect a performance that’s no-holds-barred. Moon Taxi starts with a high level of intensity, and that energy continues to build throughout the set. The crowd will be on their feet and dancing for the duration, and you can’t blame them. Trevor’s stage presence is among the best, as he works the crowd into a frenzy. And if that wasn’t enough, the guys are sure to debut the first single from their latest album, set for release this summer.
2 - Third Eye Blind - The California-based rockers are celebrating twenty years together this year, and they show no signs of slowing down. From their self-titled debut release in 1997, to last year’s most recent release, We Are Drugs, Third Eye Blind’s catalog includes enough hits to make almost any artist jealous. Expect to hear hits such as “Vindicated,” “Graduate,” and “Semi-Charmed Life” mixed with songs off their most recent release. It’s hard to beat these guys - they have the hits, the showmanship, and the loyal fan base singing along to their favorite tunes. You might even catch a cover or two, but one thing’s for sure - it’ll be a great show.
1 - Cage the Elephant - Founded in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a decade ago, Cage the Elephant is made up of brothers Matt and Brad Shultz, Daniel Tichenor, and Jared Champion. They have since relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. Despite their humble beginnings, the band’s first, self-titled album was released in 2008, to much success. They followed that up with three more full-length albums, including their latest, Tell Me I’m Pretty, which was released in 2015. Even with all their commercial success, the band may best be known for their live performances. You’ll see their fiery energy, you’ll hear music played at an ear splitting volume, and you’ll feel Matt’s ferocity, which has left him with broken ribs and stitches over the years. Catch them on Friday night at the Peachtree stage, and you will not regret it.