If you’ve ever heard of Shaky Knees Festival, you’d be rightfully surprised to hear that the folk and rock loving promotion company, Shaky Festivals, decided to throw a sister-festival revolving around EDM. Of course many music buffs had their doubts, but any preconceived notions of pessimism or cynicism were thrown right out the window. Shaky Beats, which took place over the course of three days at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, efficiently catered necessary festival resources, along with breathtaking music performances, superior to any inaugural festival I’ve attended. Mainly my praise branches from the booking of staggering talent – as opposed to the usual over-saturation of “Top 100 DJs” – but first I’d like to talk about the festival’s physical layout and amenities.
Free water refills. We’re starting to see it more and more in 2016, but it shouldn’t even be a “pleasant surprise” when hospitalizations and deaths have become relatively commonplace at music festivals across the world. Although there was only one refill booth towards the middle of the park, the process of actually refilling your bottle or CamelBak took approximately 30 seconds. There was always a smiling attendant ready to accommodate you, and the lines were super short and quick. In terms of food, the vendors were no better or worse than your average music festival. You had your classic, mediocre pizza that tastes twice as good after you rage to your favorite set, with the overpriced burgers and rice bowls right next door. The knick-knack and art vendors surprised me, however, as they had the raw aesthetics of a transformational festival. This made me garner significant respect for Shaky Beats promoters, as they truly recognized what the people wanted and delivered.
But now onto the music, which was obviously the focal point of my entire weekend. As aforementioned, the performances seemed to shy away from the usual exhibition of mainstream fame, and displayed an enormous amount of versatile talent. The slew of amazing performances I had the privilege of witnessing would take tens of pages to accurately depict, so I’ll just highlight my favorite sets of each day.
Friday gave you no time to warm up, as the first three acts I saw were Jai Wolf, Esta, and Sango. While Jai Wolf and Esta certainly deserve a great deal of credit, Sango was definitely my most-enjoyed performance of the day, and maybe even the entire weekend. It honestly was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Opening with a mix of worldly ethnic vocals over tribal-sounding beats, I was truly lost in a soulfulness I had previously never experienced. Although I have been a fan of Sango for awhile, I hadn’t truly appreciated the beauty of his Portuguese-influenced trap track – “Agorinha” – until hearing it live.
The euphoric blend of passionate vocals and viscous trap flow had everyone in a collective groove, which also acts as a perfect microcosm for his entire set. No matter what language or culture a song originated from, we could all vibe to the same beat.
The second day featured an interesting amalgamation of genres, with each of the performances I witnessed showcasing a different style. LUNICE ended up being cancelled – an absolute devastation to my trap-loving heart – but the day was still packed with some serious firepower, featuring Tory Lanez, Trippy Turtle, Chromeo, Odesza, and Porter Robinson. Although our site has covered many a Porter show, it would be an utter injustice to not describe the overwhelming sentiment he induces. He did end up playing a very similar set to his Worlds tour, yes, but something about this particular performance seemed a little different. Of course he threw in his absolutely massive remix of Nero’s “The Thrill” which came out in 2015. This was something that I had not seen live.
Apparently he also edited the live drop of “Flicker” to sound slightly heavier as well, which I didn’t even think was possible. If you care enough to read this deep into an EDM festival review, you’re probably already aware of the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is a Porter Robinson set. But just in case, I don’t want to undermine the opportunity for someone who has never had the chance to see him.
The third and final day was basically an all-out trap and hip-hop exhibition. While it did feature a versatile group of acts scattered around the three stages, the bass-laden group of performers completely dominated the crowd’s attention, with superstars such as NGHTMRE, A$AP Ferg, Yellow Claw, Carnage, and the legendary Nas. Nas was hands-down my favorite set of the day, but NGHTMRE was my most-preferred EDM act. Although the middle of the performance revealed a quick inclusion of bass house – which seems to be the monotonous trend nowadays – the vast majority of the set kicked the crowd in the collective throat with colossal trap anthems. He played all his most famous hits, including “Burn Out,” “Need You,” “Aftershock,” and his remix of “We Like to Party,” but what really stuck with me was his closing track. This certified trap-lord decided to go old-school dubstep, and end the entire set with Flux Pavilion’s remix of “Gold Dust.” I mean, come on. You really can’t ask for anymore than that; I don’t care what genre of EDM you prefer.
All in all, Shaky Beats surpassed everyone’s expectations, and I will stand by that statement without a shred of doubt. The renowned country and folk-loving promotions company somehow managed to throw an epic, three-day EDM event, catering to the desires and preferences of all fans of dance music. Not to mention they efficiently provided the basic amenities of an outdoor festival without any noticeable complications. I honestly can’t wait to go back again next year, as they certainly gained my – among every other attendee to whom I’ve spoken – abiding, well-deserved respect.