By Jaime Lin Weinstein | Photography by Avi Gelfond
Confession: Until last weekend, I hadn’t been to a music festival in over five years. I think it was a combination of social anxiety (read: crowds. Sweaty crowds.) paired with some skewed vision that equates adulting with not spending three days and nights outside drinking and watching bands play. But Shaky Knees, the annual Atlanta indie fest that just had its fourth rendition at Centennial Olympic Park, reminded me of how and why my former self — and maybe new one — once relished in the experience.
I used to go to Music Midtown long before its 2011 return after a six-year hiatus — back in the late ’90s and early 2000s when it actually took place in Midtown. My mom would drive my friends and I — before any of us even had our license — to the nearest Marta station and we would make our way to the site and spend the entire weekend immersed in something you could never get outside the perimeter; a culture not to be found in the suburbia we came from. It all felt freer, in the way things do when you’re still underage, but far from the restrictions of your everyday life.
It may sound dramatic, but even now, well past an age preceded by “under,” freedom is the feeling that came to mind last weekend. And that is, of course, thanks to the music. The main source of that attitude of abandon. Mind you, I am admittedly no music critic. So what follows is merely a reflection on the festival’s headliners — and on a personal favorite of the weekend thrown in at the end. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to see photos of some of the other amazing bands we were able to see as well.
JANE'S ADDICTION, a band that was formed the year I was born, proved their longevity and relevance three decades later. They played the entirety of their 1990 album, “Ritual de lo Habitual,” and it still resonated throughout the crowd. (The “backup dancers” however — one of which is frontman Perry Farrell’s wife, Etty Lou — felt a bit out-of-date.) Farrell reminded me of a young(er) Mick Jagger, dancing across the stage. Don’t forget that this is the man that created Lollapalooza; he knows how to headline a fest. Live music “soothes the savage beast in me,” he said in between belting out hits. And founding member Dave Navarro’s talents were perhaps only met by his tatted, toned (shirtless) torso. Forget Carmen Electra. Forget Ink Master and the Chili Peppers. He’s undoubtedly at his best on stage with a guitar, and with the band he began his career with.
MY MORNING JACKET was the headliner Saturday night, and appropriately so; the festival owes its name to the band. Fun fact: Shaky Knees is taken from a lyric of their song “Steam Engine.” The group played material from their most recent album, last year’s “The Waterfall,” in addition to MMJ favorites like “Off the Record” and “One Big Holiday,” while pyrotechnics and smoke enhanced their psychedelic sounds. Frontman Jim James looked like some sort of sound sherpa with his frizzy hair and long beard, clad in a black kimono-like jacket marked by abstract neon designs. And his “Purple Rain” cover not only showcased his soulful vocals but seemed to pay homage to both the late singer, and to the city where he last performed.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE was magical. Hearing Welch perform live heightened her otherworldly appeal, and watching her engage with the audience truly brought the music to life. She twirled and leapt around the stage, dressed in a stunning long-sleeve ruffled sheer yellow Gucci gown; not only was the singer recently named the face of the house’s jewelry and watch collections, but creative director Alessandro Michele is exclusively dressing her for the band’s current tour. It’s a match made in bohemian heaven. The band played songs from their latest album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” in addition to all the older hits — including “Shake It Out,” a song, Welch said was “written about a terrible hangover.” In the middle of “Rabbit Heart,” she jumped off the stage and ran through the photo pit — barefoot — to sing atop the risers above where the front of house sound and lighting crews were stationed.
It was a performance, and there, in the center of her fans, she truly brought the theatrics. She stopped for a moment during the song’s musical interlude to sort of survey the crowd, and take in the scene around her, smiling, before sprinting back to the stage, and later closing the entire weekend with fan favorite “Dog Days are Over.” It was the perfect ending.
THE KILLS fronted by female singer Alison Mosshart (aka “VV”), confirmed that women can rock. Hard. Bleach blonde hair headbanging hard. And for those that care as much about musicians’ sartorial styles as their songs, the girl’s got some. She donned jean shorts and leather chaps for the Friday night show, and has been called a “fashion idol” by the New York Times.