Shaky Knees Recap: Where Do You Go When You’re Lonely? Where Do You Go When You’re Blue?


Written by Jason Gonulsen.

“Where do you go when you’re lonely?” Ryan Adams sang. “Where do you go when you’re blue?”

Adams’ spectacular, and also hilarious, sunset set carried the last day of the 5th annual Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, along with Paris, France’s Phoenix, who closed out the whole darn thing.

Yes, Adams closed with “Come Pick Me Up” and “Shakedown on 9th Street,” two songs from his first album, Heartbreaker, both which didn’t suffer from sound bleeding from the main Peachtree stage which was being throttled by The Shins for about 30 minutes of Adams’ set. Adams soldiered on, despite shouting, “Thank you, we’re The Shins!” in jest (I think) before he was done.  (He was funny when he asked a fan in the audience what kind of batteries his bright orange hat took.)

As much as this probably frustrates every performer on the festival circuit — I remember Paul McCartney at Lollapalooza having the same problem when “Blackbird” had to compete with EDM — how can I say this … it’s always going to be a problem.  This year’s Shaky Knees Festival was smaller than years past — only three stages, in a beautiful downtown park — an Olympic park — but not a whole lot of room to work with. But, changes were made to respond to feedback from 2016: bigger wasn’t better — the fans, who, let’s face it, are the lifeblood of any festival, wanted it smaller, more intimate.

It’s great when people listen, especially executives who call the shots.

The more I attend festivals, the more I realize they serve as an escape. From the twenty-somethings, to the family of four, to the hardcore troubadours who start the line and rush to the front, to the girl who decided to re-enact a scene from Titanic (while her dad, in a Grateful Dead t-shirt, sat and smiled) — these are supposed to be carefree days where adrenaline flows freely for all. Shaky Knees is not Coachella, and that’s okay. It’s fine just the way it is. Confident and burning bright on a smaller, friendlier, less trendy scale.

“Falling, falling falling…”

That was how Thomas Mars of Phoenix decided to end the weekend, with “1901,” out in the middle of the crowd, with his fans who had probably waited there all day. They were rewarded with intimacy, energy, and unique production — Phoenix performed in front of a giant tilted mirror, and on a video screen. Their crew was the size of a small village. And it really took one to pull it off.

Earlier in the weekend, I met a single mom who was attending with her 10-year-old son. “We’re just looking for a few hours of fun, you know?” She told me that while holding a Frisbee in one hand, a large coffee in the other.

I know.

It can’t be like this all the time. On one stage you have The Pixies, the next you have Catfish & the Bottlemen, later you have LCD Soundsystem. Even Third Eye Blind made an appearance. The sun rises the next day, and it sets just the same. I always wonder: will it be like this next year?

Will it change? Does it have to?

It probably will.

And so will you.

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