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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

In Which Barney Blows Betty And Wilma Off At The Shaking Knees Festival

Okay, so first of all...OMGERD! I'm penning (read clicking) this drivel on my ... wait for it...


That's right. This Luddite has finally got her bad self her own machine to pollute with an endless stream of redundant photos, musical bootlegs and Internet bile until it moves like a slug using a walker to cross a four-lane highway, and I curse like a sailor at it's fractured framework, poking and pounding at random keys with increased velocity and fervor until I am reduced to a literal Screaming Mimi, howling my frustrations at the top of my lungs before bursting into uncontrollable sobs of damnation, vowing to blow up every pasty-faced, egghead, computer genius nerd for the ruination of society and my fragile self confidence.

Then Geo will casually reach over, remove the blue steel 45 clutched in my hands and press the power switch on.

Or so I envision the disagreeable tableau resulting from my incompetent computer skill level. But I digress...

So, my long-time friend, Mary Ann and I (formerly known as Betty and Wilma from our SXSW experience five years ago) haven't been on a music adventure since 2010. Atlanta's Shaky Knees Festival came on our radar because my band crush, Old 97's were on the bill. Have I mentioned my love for them before?

hashtag sarcasm (as the kids say)

Anywho, truth be told the line up was so incredible that had my favorite foursome NOT been involved, we still would have gone. No shit. The Avett Brothers, The Pixies, The Strokes, Wilco, Dr. Dog, The Kooks, Jukebox the Ghost, Frank Turner, Kaiser Chiefs, Mountain Goats...


It took all of one day to jump online and buy a pass. Surely Howard would jump at the chance to reprise his role as Barney, the lone Y chromosome in our music fest, right?


He declined.

Because he is a pussy.

Then he posted this photo, and I kinda lost my breath.

throngs. in the hot georgia sun.
what was i thinking??
Clearly, I had not thought this through.

I had the image of SXSW in my head. You know, lots of little bars to go in and out of, ample restaurants, indoor plumbing...

There was NO indoor plumbing. This was PORT-O-JOHN CITY, PEOPLE!!

But you know what? Shaky Knees was a fantastic event. In its third year, this festival was extremely well thought out and executed. Bands started and ended at the scheduled times, ample port-o-johns (which I'll get to later), cleaning crews working round the clock, lots of different food trucks.


There were two areas, one with three smaller stages on a blacktop parking lot, and the second with the headliner and co-headliner stages on a baseball field and soccer pitch, respectively. Each section ping-ponged acts between the stages so you didn't miss any bands. Occasionally there were time frames in which multiple bands of interest were playing simultaneously in both areas, but generally for us, it worked out well.

My only suggestion is to incorporate a 10 minute gap between acts so festival goers can schlep between the two staging areas without having to bail early on a band or miss the start of another. But even at that, once we got halfway to the other end of the park, we could hear the bands clearly. And let's be honest, aside from the Old 97's, I didn't HAVE to be in the front of the fray. We happily danced in the perimeters under the glorious shade, sweating our phantom balls off.

One of the most impressive aspects of our adventure was how civilized, courteous and well-behaved the unwashed, schweddy masses were. I thought for sure the combo of excessive sun + alcohol + lack of food would = projectile vomiting and unruly behavior. But no one horked up a lung, passed out or got carted away in cuffs. Even the unmarked lines for the Johns were mannerly.

And OMGJEBUS let me tell you about these toilets!!! Even after three days in the white-hot, Georgia sun, there was no smell. Not chemical. Not floral. Not rotting remnants of Texas Tacos.


On Sunday, at mid afternoon, I reluctantly took my place in line to answer nature's call. When my number was up, I steeled myself for the stench trail of a thousand humans before me to assault my senses within the confines of the vertical oven. I said a little prayer, opened the door ... and was floored by the lack of aroma. I was dumbfounded. How could this be??!? It was nothing short of a fucking miracle!!!

I had to do it, even though I warned myself against it. I had to look into the dark pit of the Seventh Level of Hell. Surely it had to be empty.

It was not.

I regret my curiosity.

But DAAAAAAYUM, that sweat box smelled purty! AND they had ample tissue and hand sanitizer.

Whoever manufactures Johnny-On-The-Spot toilets, FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY, SHARE YOUR SECRET WITH THE UNIVERSE!!!! There is a Nobel Prize waiting for you.

Impressions of the bands Day One:
Jukebox the Ghost and The Kooks = Spectacularrrrrrr. Kaiser Chiefs... meh (left after three songs); safe to say I'm done with the Mountain Goats; happy to finally see the Pixies if only to confirm I like just three of their songs, and the Strokes are disappointingly monotonous. Work on your banter, son.

Day Two:
Mariachi El Bronx is my new favorite way to cure a hangover. Real Estate is a great new find who sound similar to Death Cab For Cutie. The Devil Makes Three were fun, from what I can remember. Neutral Milk Hotel is worth all the hype. Wilco is great for the songs I love, but GD it, stop with the jamming already! The Avett Brothers continue to outshine so many, except my Texas boys.

Frank Turner After Party at Masquerade: Good God Almighty, he is a ball of pent up punk energy. Super entertaining. I'm a little bitter we left before he stage dove and rolled over the feral audience.

Day Three:
A little bit of Damnwells... a little bit of Nikki Lane and her shorty shorts in need of pixelated pants. Both crowd pleasers. Up front for my beloved Old 97's brand of ultra satisfying rock, and all is right with the world. A repeat of the force of nature that is Frank Turner and crew. AGAIN we leave for the other end of the park and miss his stage diving antics. WTF, Frank??!? We could have sworn you wouldn't cross the abyss between the stage and fans. Dr. Dog is the perfect accompaniment to lying in the shade with a cocktail. Trombone Shorty is cra-cra. Ryan Adams could have been awesome, but JEBUS, enough with the long jams already!! Old Crow Medicine Show were hyperactive fun for the four songs we stayed to hear.

The end.

This is getting very long-winded, SURPRISE! I think I'll post photos, video snippets and twitterisms in another post. But first, here are some random thoughts about our weekend in list form.

1. Mobile maps apps will mess you UP! Our walk was supposed to be an eighth of a mile. Instead, we got lost on the highways of Atlanta, and ventured four miles from our destination. My Uber app didn't work, finally got Mary Ann's Uber to work. 90 minutes later...we get to the fucking gate. Found out later on our return we went the wrong way, and I am a ginormous asshat who can't be trusted to follow directions.

2. Lots of dresses were donned, fancy and well... sheer, short and funky.

3. My novel based on day two of the Shaky Knees Fest: An Abundance of Side Boob.
(Sincere apologies to John Green)

4. Waaaaaay too much cooter shots from chicks in ridiculously short shorts. Frankly, seeing one labia shot is one labia shot too many. I don't care how brazilian the bush.

5. Young people smoke a lot.

6. Enough with this vaping shit.

7. I smell GANGA!! STILL no sharing. WTF, man!

8. SKF is single-handedly championing the resurgence of fanny packs, UNironically.

9. Young people are rather adorable and baffling.

10. Sometimes bands you thought would be awesome aren't. I'm looking at you, Kaiser Chiefs, Ryan Adams and The Strokes.

11. Much like with brussel sprouts and grape leaves, I keep trying, but I just don't like the Pixies, or Wilco jams.

12. Festivals are worth the effort for new finds.

13. They don't call it Hot-lanta for nothing. It's like Africa hot down there, and by "down there" I don't mean my nether DelMarVa region. Praise little baby jesus for clouds, and trees, and breezes.

14. Gourmet Popsicles are worth their weight in gold on steamy days.

15. Sometimes a long, hot shower at the end of a l2 hour day baking in the sun is better than sex.

16. Uber is all that.

17. Humans are super friendly in this setting, despite the wretched heat. Maybe it's the pot.

18. A Barney towel is THE festival accessory. Keeps the shmootz off yo ass and ain't nobody gonna steal that shit.

19. Jesus carries a fanny pack, and digs Five Guys. Hey, if it's good enough for the Son of God...

20. Survival equals: hydration, hydration, libation, hydration, libation, chic peas, libation, hydration

21. Food consumption gets fucked up in the scorching Georgia sun.

22. FYI: Everyone on the planet gets hungry at the same time making food truck lines unbelievably long. It took us three days to figure out when to forage for food in a timely fashion.

23. Not sleeping is my new jam on trips such as this.

24. Backpacks make excellent pillows at airports when flights are delayed.

25. Old 97's remain the ruler of my musical universe. Praise be to Alt-Country.

All in all, Shaky Knees was a fantastic experience. So fantastic that I'm afraid to attend a different festival for fear it will eat my soul. The bar was set high with this one.

Well done, Atlanta. Well done.

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