11 Must-See Acts At Shaky Knees 2021
We’re now in the thick of our new festival fall calendar, with large-scale music events returning in a not-quite-post-pandemic world. Stereogum is a media partner for the 2021 edition of Shaky Knees and this weekend we’ll be in Atlanta covering the festival (follow us on Instagram and this website for photos, videos, reviews, and interviews). Tickets for the fest are available at shakykneesfestival.com. There are a lot of sets to look forward to, and these are the artists we’re most excited to catch. Maybe we’ll see you there?
Earlier this year, Noga Erez caught our attention with her new album KIDS, a crystallization of her idiosyncratic pop vision. Erez’s music is the kind of thing that arises from a whole lot of different genres and influences getting thrown into a blender, and hopefully her touring behind it will capitalize on the simmering buzz that’s been building around her name. It’s not hard to imagine off-kilter bangers like “End Of The Road” going over quite well in the musical grab bag atmosphere of a contemporary festival.
Even if Daddy’s Home was a mixed bag as far as St. Vincent albums go, you know Annie Clark is one of the great live acts of her generation of indie artists. Clark is an entrancing performer, often elevating her already striking songs to something altogether more emphatic onstage. On Daddy’s Home, there are songs like “Down” that seem destined to soon become live staples, and some of the blearier material may sprawl out well in a concert setting — plus, it’s always exciting to see how Clark recontextualizes her old material in her latest conceptual overhaul.
Sure, Foo Fighters are pretty much everywhere these days. But there’s a reason for that. This is a band almost custom built for, uh, times like these. They’re who you call for a triumphant reopening of Madison Square Garden, and they’re who you call to headline all the festivals when live music comes back into our lives. This is the kind of universal comfort food you need for a big headliner in the fall of 2021, and if you remain skeptical just wait until you hear “Everlong” rushing out over tens of thousands of people.
One thing Shaky Knees boasts this year: some artists you don’t always see on American festival lineups. That applies to Garbage, who have been spending a good chunk of 2021 promoting their new album No Gods No Masters. Expect some new material, but also expect to witness ’90s classics like “I Think I’m Paranoid” and “Only Happy When It Rains” in the flesh.
Speaking of artists you don’t always see on festival lineups: Alice Cooper is at Shaky Knees! At 73, who knows how much longer Cooper will keep his whole theatrical rock thing going, and it seems like a unique opportunity to catch songs like “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out” at a festival in 2021.
People love Idles’ albums, but the band — rightfully — has an even more hallowed reputation as a ferocious, potent live act. Even for those not sold on their recordings, Idles often prove undeniable onstage. The whole thing is a loud, furious maelstrom, and should easily be one of the more visceral sets at this year’s Shaky Knees.
Run The Jewels
To be honest, if you still need this one explained you haven’t been paying attention for a good several years. Run The Jewels as a project has always been fueled by the instantly lovable camaraderie between El-P and Killer Mike, and that shines onstage even more than on their albums. RTJ have long since gone from underdogs to world conquerors, but that hasn’t dulled the power of them showing up to headline a mainstage and leveling everything in their path.
Bartees Strange has been one of the big ascendant stories of indie rock in the last year and a half — one of the breakout artists who is just now getting the chance to take his show on the road thanks to the pandemic. That makes his appearance at Shaky Knees particularly exciting: For many of us, this’ll be the first chance to hear Strange bring Live Forever to life.
When Black Midi first hit American shores amidst the release of their debut Schlagenheim, they had to be seen to be believed — their bizarre, cathartic mutations of rock music could make you feel like the very reality around you was shifting. Now touring behind Cavalcade, the group has a different lineup and an even more unpredictable sound. They were always a must-see act wherever they were, but who knows what will come of their old and new material colliding in this new context.
Perhaps the music Phoebe Bridgers makes wasn’t exactly tailored for late night festival headlining sets. It’s so quiet and introspective that it is obviously better suited for theaters. But that doesn’t matter when you’ve accrued the kind of fervent adoration Bridgers has. She’s become one of the most idolized songwriters of her generation, an artist who has reached a lot of people. That has the makings for a big communal experience, which, on the other hand, is exactly what festivals were designed for.
Shaky Knees played their headliner cards well this year, picking a handful of artists that people of all different tastes and generations can agree on. Wrapping up the whole weekend is the Strokes, who — shockingly — are now 20 years into releasing music. That makes them, perversely, the classic rock crowd-pleaser of the lineup (perhaps in a way that the elder Foo Fighters even can’t pull off). You know what’s a hell of a way to end a festival night? A field full of people singing along to “You Only Live Once” and “New York City Cops” like they’re all teenagers again.