Snapshot: Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Music Festival

The ATX / ATL fest connection

Now in its third year partnered with Austin-based C3 Presents, Atlanta's Shaky Knees Music Festival – headlined this year by Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, and the National – might feel familiar to an ACL Festival frequenter. Yet, as "Snapshot" discussed with fest organizers and Austin-based artists playing the fest last weekend, the connection is as grounded in the ATX/ATL music scenes' shared ethos/general vibes as the fact that the two events share a promoter/producer.

"This festival is super curated ... and that relates to the Austin scene or ACL in its authenticity," says founder Tim Sweetwood, who booked the first Shaky in 2013 for 9,000 attendees. (The fest can now accommodate up to 40,000 music fans per day.) "With ACL, that authenticity can go to the highest level, so this year it's Metallica and Paul McCartney. Shaky Knees wasn't built or designed for that, so what's cool is I'm able to give headliner status to a band that isn't a headliner at ACL."

“Tim’s festival is beautiful partly because I feel his flavor on it,” says longtime friend and booking ally Alex Maas, frontman of the Black Angels, who played Friday. “With C3 there’s more purchasing power – you get David Byrnes and Jack Whites, and that attracts the same people that go to ACL.” Pictured: White during his Friday headline show.

“Atlanta’s kind of a weird place like Austin – I feel like the same kind of quirkiness is here,” says Lukas Nelson, who played Sunday with Promise of the Real. “There are a lot of artistic people out here ... and you can tell they’re used to going out and seeing good live music – rockin’ out, dancing, and letting themselves go.” Prime example: these two dedicated Tenacious D fans, spotted Sunday afternoon.

Austin’s Bayonne (fka Roger Sellers) appreciates the shared “thirst” of ATX/ATL festgoers: “These people – who are devoted to fests, save up the money, and take off work to go every year – they really get into it, and that’s a good feeling, because they’re the ones who will look me up, listen to my stuff, and figure out what I’m all about.”

Another similarity between ACL and Shaky pointed out by Sweetwood: Due to neighborhood-based locations, both fests are family-friendly. It’s easy enough for parents to bring a kid in to “see a couple bands, [leave] for his baseball game at 5pm, drop him off at home, and come back for Queens of the Stone Age.” Pictured: A front-row family for Vance Joy on Sunday.

The location – the 17-acre Central Park – offers easy access to the rest of the city, Sweetwood adds: “It’s a neighborhood and just a very small pocket of Atlanta, so I think that gives it an attractiveness to people from out of town, whether from Austin or elsewhere. Encouraging ... urban exploration is the only reason we do single-day tickets – there are people that are into Queens and aren’t into the National, so why don’t you do something in Atlanta on Sunday but do the festival on Saturday?” 32-year-old Austin resident Aaron Robertson, a frequent fester attending his first Shaky Knees, had the same idea: “We fly in early for festivals on purpose. We like to check out breweries – we’re spoiled in Austin when it comes to breweries – so we walked around the city for about 8 miles yesterday just checking out local beers.”

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