It’s pretty cliché to say, but music does conquer a lot of things. It can bring people together under the most dire of circumstances. All of those dire circumstances came raining down from the heavens above Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward on the first weekend of May.
No one could have predicted the conditions that weekend; the first weekend of May in Atlanta usually means baseball, walks through Piedmont Park among the blooming essence of nature, signifying Summer’s return. Basically, the first weekend of May in Atlanta should mean sun and fun (another cliché, no more). Tim Sweetwood couldn’t have picked a better weekend to debut his creation to the masses. With headliners like The Lumineers, Band of Horses and Jim James, sold out 2-day passes and fans and artists traveling in from every corner of the country, the stage was set.
As a cold front swept through the Southeastern United States, Atlanta was pelted with non-stop thunderstorms, creating a sea-like landscape of mud throughout the festivals grounds, mud that would eventually turn many a white shoe into an unnatural color, and ushering in temperatures in the 50s. For those that packed tanks on tanks on tanks (you know, festival appropriate attire), this was a nightmare scenario. Targets around Metro Atlanta quickly ran out of rain boots and ponchos and a new fashion trend was born: the trash bag.
But, again, this couldn’t stop the music. “Rain or shine” declared the festival’s various social media outlets. And the bands played on, and on and on. What could have been a disastrous omen, instead led to an epic two days of music.
On Saturday, as people were still trying to find their bearings in the midst of Tropical Storm Shaky Knees, and the weaker of the herd uploaded tickets onto StubHub, bands like Death on Two Wheels, Vintage Trouble and Moon Taxi braved the open waters, and threat of electrocution, to set the mood for the entire weekend: the music will go on and that music will be awesome. “The crowd was wonderful and raged even harder in the rain. We can’t wait for next year.”-Trevor Terndrup of Moon Taxi
By the time The Joy Formidable hit the O4W stage, the rain was but a mere inconvenience, as the band’s powerful ballads like “Cholla,” “Whirring” and “Austere” were heard throughout the Masquerade Music Park and provided comfort to the ever-growing crowd who were now soaked passed the point of no-return, but moved to the music as gracefully as if they were all under a sheltered roof at room temperature. Gary Clark Jr. might as well have been a Jimi Hendrix hologram, straight from Woodstock. Through mist, the band controlled the guitar like an artist with complete command of their brush. Only adding to what would be an astounding day of music and a terrible day of weather, were headliners Jim James and Band of Horses. The rain, still unrelenting, could not empty out the park before these two provided shelter by way of musical intoxication.
Something incredible happened on that Sunday; the rain stopped and the sun came up.
This was a miracle to many. Tank tops were worn, StubHub prices went back up and the mud stayed, just as a reminder to embrace the conditions while they remained, because everyone knew it wasn’t for long.
Frontier Ruckus, Shovels and Rope, Murder By Death and more artists played in the best of weather to existing fans and made new ones in the process, new fans that didn’t mind purchasing a new pair of shoes the next day in exchange for the experience. By the time Delta Spirit hit the main stage, the place was buzzing with good vibes and eternal optimism. The clouds were, what seemed like, days away in the sky and the band spun tales of “California” in a way in which everyone could feel like they were there, sans mud.
The thing about clouds is they can move quickly.
As Dr. Dog powered through a ominously flawless set, the skies became dark, the weather became colder and rain teased the crowd with a few sprinkles, alluding to an encore. And an encore it got.
The rest of the night was magical.
As the crown stared at the stage, dripping wet and shaking more than their knees, the recent Grammy nominees took their respective places and began to play. What song you might ask? “Who’ll Stop The Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was fitting. It was beautiful. It was perfect.
Wesley Shultz sang the crowd into a collective trance, transporting them to a happier place, a much drier, happier place. From the staple “Ho Hey” to “Stubborn Love,”the thunderstorm became that happy place. A place where you could look to your right and fall in love, a song later have your heartbroken and a few songs after that be right back where you started. This is what the entire weekend was. It was a sheer sign that, even amidst the storms of our lives, something so incredibly beautiful and perfect is possible.
That IS what festivals are about, Matthew. And, yes, people do love them. The Masquerade might still be muddy, even now, but who cares? A recent post asked “Who would like to see for Shaky Knees 2014?” No matter who it is, the people will come. No matter the conditions, people will come.
“We were extremely thrilled with how many people showed up even with the elements. We were the only outside event that didn’t cancel in Atlanta that day. I think it shows how much the ticket buyers loved the bands on the festival this year. We hope to keep bringing that same strong line up year to year.” – Tim Sweetwood,Father of Shaky Knees
Shaky Knees 2013 is the epitome of what a festival should be and a blessing for those that attended, even those that caught hypothermia.