Shaky Knees 2019 kicked off Friday, May 3, with a lineup including Beck, Tears for Fears, Incubus and many more. The indie rock festival at Atlanta's Central Park runs through May 5. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan Fleisher
Photo: Ryan Fleisher

Shaky Knees 2019 Day 1: Beck, Tears for Fears, Incubus and more slay at Central Park

If it sounds like there’s a party going on at Central Park, that’s because there is.

Shaky Knees has kicked off its seventh year of bringing internationally acclaimed indie rock acts to Atlanta and inside the Perimeter.

From Beck to IDLES, it was a rip-roaring time Friday.

The festival this year features headliners Cage the Elephant on Saturday and Tame Impala on Sunday.

YOUR GUIDE | Shaky Knees 2019: lineup, tickets, transportation and more information

The “heritage act” spot was filled by Tears for Fears, and they more than showed why they’re still playing music. Other notable acts over the weekend include locals the Black Lips and Deerhunter along with out-of-town biggies like Gary Clark Jr.Maggie RogersDashboard ConfessionalInterpolThe Dandy WarholsThe Struts and many more.

» GALLERY: Check out photos from Day 1 of the festival

Last year, the festival — headlined by Jack WhiteQueens of the Stone Age and The National — drew about 65,000 fans during its three days.

Follow the AJC Music Scene on  Facebook and  Twitter

Tim Sweetwood, the founder and promoter of Shaky Knees, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  that advance ticket sales this year were outpacing 2018’s number.

The festival started in 2013 in the muddy backyard of the former Masquerade location in Old Fourth Ward, and is now a four-stage affair.

After a two-year detour at Centennial Olympic Park, the festival is back for its second consecutive year at Central Park.

Yes, it’s on the hot side of warm out for the first afternoon, but the minor threat of rain turned into the occasional cooling drops. The shady environs of much of the fest provided respite from the heat.

Near the Criminal Records stage in early afternoon on Friday, Michelle Groeninges was waiting for Idles to start across the way at the Ponce de Leon stage.

She traveled to the fest from Naples, Fla., which she’s done many times before.

“It’s the only festival like this in the country,” the former Chicagoan said. “What I like about it is the laid-back, friendly crowd. Not oversold. Not too crowded.”

It’s also remained true to its mission, she said, a sentiment echoed by more than one festival attendee. You won’t find the biggest pop acts at Shaky Knees, but the rising stars and underground favorites are plentiful.


IDLES singer Joe Talbot got friendly with the crowd throughout the band's set. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan Fleisher


Pounding out a raucous racket with a message of unity, British quintet Idles took the stage as the crowd poured into the covered Ponce de Leon stage.

The mosh pit fired up immediately, and soon, guitarist Mark Bowen was surfing through the uplifted hands of the crowd. 

That would happen several times during their set of post-punk fury and positivity.

Before launching into “Love Song” from their latest album “Joy as an Act of Resistance,” singer Joe Talbot announces “This song is dedicated to Atlanta.”

It was the band’s second Atlanta appearance in less than a year, and a third would follow late Friday night at the EARL in East Atlanta.

The pinnacle of the afternoon set was the band’s pro-immigration anthem “Danny Nedelko,” with the crowd loudly shouting along with the wordless “yay-hey-hey” refrain. It’s a song tailor-made for enthusiastic audience participation, and the band’s energy electrified the gathered throng.


Sharon Van Etten thanked the Shaky Knees crowd for sweating with her during her afternoon set. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan Fleisher


On the other side of the festival grounds, Sharon Van Etten’s pulsating introspection seemed incongruous in the bright afternoon light.

But, in a set heavy on tunes from her latest album, “Remind Me Tomorrow,” she wove such a gorgeous spell that it felt like a much cooler place.

“Thanks for sweating with us,” she told the crowd after a swoon-inducing take on “No One’s Easy to Love.”

To close out the show, she dug back into her catalog for the swaying “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” a melody that leaves behind goosebumps long after she leaves the stage.


Atlanta's The Black Lips performed at the 2019 Shaky Knees Music Festival. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan Fleisher


Back at the Criminal Records stage, Atlanta’s own Black Lips proved their staying power.

The band’s singular brand of garage-punk meets psychedelia (with a distinctively Southern accent) is still a crowd-pleasing blast.

It’s hard to believe that they’ve been perfecting their craft for nearly 20 years.

They dug back into their catalog for gritty highlights such as “Dirty Hands” and wrapped up with a killer version of the soul-tinged “Bow Down and Die,” a track originally recorded by Black Lips side project the Almighty Defenders.


Dashboard Confessional reminded the Shaky Knees crowd about their feelings. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan Fleisher


After nearly two decades of helping teens deal with all their feelings, Dashboard Confessional knows how to to put on a show.

After playing two songs, lead singer Christopher Carrabba said Shaky Knees was his favorite festival. Hailing from Boca Raton, Fla., he thanked those who drove in for the show. No matter where they were from, he said, “that’s also my favorite city.”

It was a sparse set with little lighting and no frills, instead focusing on heartbreak heat-seeking missiles that hit their mark like “Saints And Sailors” and “Stolen.”


There were sights like the crowd bouncing a balloon made of material seen packaged and filling a bowl at a college health fair.

They also covered The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” — both artists known for their assistance with puberty processing.


Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd belts out a song at Shaky Knees 2019. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan Fleisher


Incubus, the last band to play in full daylight, made use of it with a good production and use of their video screen. 

During their big hit “Megalomaniac,” which makes full use of leader singer Brandon Boyd’s rooted but pitch-friendly voice, Boyd was superimposed on the screen with a mountain range — really living up to the song’s name.

For those parked to hear, the guitars were shredding and the band was tight.


Tears for Fears singer/bassist Curt Smith shares peace with the Shaky Knees crowd. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan FLeisher
Tears for Fears singer/guitarist Roland Orzabal performs at Shaky Knees Music Fest on May 3, 2019. Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC
Photo: Ryan FLeisher


The “heritage act,” Tears for Fears, showed why they are still playing music after more than 30 years, giving the crowd a squeaky clean set.

It began with “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” and they did, indeed, rule.

“Thank you for your Southern hospitality,” said Curt Smith, one of the two who formed the band in the early ’80s. “We will be your adult entertainment for the evening. Just look at us as your token old people.”

After pausing for a laugh, Smith said: “Should we just carry on and play music? Enough with the chit chat.”

Then the band’s other parent, Roland Orzabal, took over, crushing and crooning Radiohead’s “Creep.”

Those assembled had much more salt and pepper in their hair or looked as if they had just come from work compared to other audience members.

No matter where on the continuum of bad knees anyone was, the crowd grooved hard to “Break it Down Again” before similarly loving on “Head Over Heels.”

The back half of the show powered through all the duo’s greats, including “Shout,” which oozed “yeah, we’ve done this before.” Even the guitar solo was a period piece, and no one was cross about it.




Rare is the vulnerable rocker who has stayed unbelievably cool for years, but that human being is Bek David Campbell — y’all know him as Beck.

Beginning the hour-and-a-half set with “Devils Haircut” followed by “Loser” is a pretty hot start.

Beck performs at the Shaky Knees Music Festival on Friday, May 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo: Ryan Fleisher/Special to the AJC)

He said from the stage, part of the way into the set, that this was their first show in six or seven months.

“I’m extremely glad I came down here to spend a Friday night with you,” Beck said. The crowd agreed, but there were parts where rust showed.

He and the band were shaky on some syncopation during “Sexx Laws,” which is OK because the tune has aged so well since coming out in 1999.

But in his acoustic performance of “Debra,” he noted that his guitar was out of tune, leading to some wrinkles. And it’s not clear if it was planned, but he didn’t finish “Debra” and moved on to an acoustic cover of “Raspberry Beret,” maybe the most likable song in the history of recorded sound.


The playing of “Lost Cause,” from his 2002 album “Sea Change,” started a portion of the set during which he and the band were bunched into one corner with a heavenly light on them, immediately indicating how intimate it was about to get.

He moved on to “Blue Moon,” which was great, but it was made even better by the angelic vocals of his backing singers, whom he dubbed the “B-53s.” 

The acoustic vibes did what they do: As the cigarette dwindled, a couple’s kiss got deeper. A girl in a hat spun around a girl in overalls. Even as people left, Beck played on with his country tune.

He went back to being classic Beck, which included that thing where he digitizes his voice to sound like a good-guy Transformer loudly whispering.

He ended the show with a second performance of “Where It’s At,” which is fine because after decades of being a real cool guy, Beck is indeed where it is still at.


We’ll be covering the festival all weekend, so check back for more updates.

Here are the sights and sounds from last year...

For its sixth iteration, Shaky Knees Music Festival returned to the scene of an earlier year – 2015 – when it was staged at Central Park, near Old Fourth Ward. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.