The Festival Beat: Know Your Lineup
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We didn’t take advantage of it, but allowing for re-entry at least 3x a day, Shaky Beats is an easy foot traffic festival. There were two entrances, neither of which were too close to a stage so lines were never long to get in or out. You can prob walk to your hotel if you’re staying downtown, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can even walk to the late-night sets at the Masquerade.
As the crowd randomly bursting into the chant “ATL Hoe” confirmed, Atlanta is kind of bass / trap town… so we can’t believe sound was an issue, but it was rough. Sets at the Piedmont stage had sound bleed from the mainstage. Even sets at the Peachtree (expect the headliners) featured our neighbor’s conversations more heavily than the beat. The saving grace was the Ponce de Leon stage tucked away in the far east corner. With stadium style standing room you could see from any angle. It had a shade cover that captured the sound and created the perfect acoustic for sets that were bangers or full of feels.
The real hero of logistics was the concessions. There was no traditional bland fest food to be found here. Shaky Beats corralled some amazing food trucks together for us (Mac the Cheese, we’re lookin’ at you) and had enough bars around that we never waited in line.
Pro Tip: Go. To. Late. Night. Shows… we don’t care how tired you are
Griz. For about a year now Griz has been blossoming as the best EDM / Jam Band cross over since (including?) Pretty Lights. His authenticity is downright adorable. While plenty of people tried to “play to the crowd” by bringing a harder set for the headbangers; Griz, true to his own quirky humor, played to the crowd by mixing in some throwback hip hop (think, Welcome to Atlanta where the players play.) With Muzzy Bearr joining him to create the live band experience we go to hear things that we don’t always get to- like “Gotta Push On” or a rendition of “As We Proceed” that was so good we almost felt like we were watching a Grizmatic set. He didn’t skimp on the boards though, mixing in plenty of jams we could all get down to. As the temperature started to drop, we were losing feeling in our fingers, and no one cared. Closing out the first night at Shaky Beats was the best set we’ve seen Griz play since he closed the last night of Electric Forest.
Boom Box Cartel. This set should have been a layup. It was the first set of the weekend for us, not to mention the first set at a festival ever for two of us. We got to enjoy the new-comers seeing totems and rave-wear live for the first time. All the energy you could ask for was there. Boombox Cartel did nothing with this extra magic. He lit up Tinker Field at EDC Orlando a few months ago, but fell flat at Centennial Olympic Park. Every drop seemed forced, desperate to be harder and sicker than that last one. It was like the dance music equivalent of getting 10 texts in an hour from someone you’re just not that into. We didn’t get what we wanted out of this set, we wanted our colors.
Said the Sky. Some of us love to debate with people who say DJs aren’t musicians, Said the Sky is our new-found bullet point in this argument. For 45 minutes, they took us out of ourselves and on a journey. We swayed with them during piano driven pop songs with an almost 90s feeling drum line. We danced with them through songs that vowel-only-lyrics thing we love from the Odesza vein of DJs. And they ended our journey with triumphant synthy anthems that were bright enough to make us feel like the sun was finally coming out. We’ve already looked up their tour dates and bought tickets to shows at our local venues, very excited to see them again soon.
Galantis. No apologies will be made for choosing this set. (Yes, we saw Gramatik. Yes, they killed it.) It was almost as though Galantis knew that everyone at their set would be ridiculed for not being at RL Grime… or anywhere else. And so, they made it their mission to affirm that we’d made the right choice in gathering at the Piedmont stage to hear them. Galantis proved that you can go full on dance-pop without sounding like the DJ equivalent of a Unicorn Frappuccino. They played it smart, and played to their audience. They toyed with us. From the beginning of their set to the very end they teased Peanut Butter Jelly and U & I. Not in a way where we felt like they were messing with us, but rather it felt like EDM foreplay. We all got the feel during “You.” We all embraced the du-wop during “Girl Put Your Love on Me” And most of all we relished the full-on sprint towards the stage, arms wide and hearts full, as festival buddies sang about how they want to run away… just you and I.
Worst: Slushii. There was so much working against Slushii. It takes a lot to get a crowd to party when it’s still broad daylight out and they know they have the whole night ahead of them. Under different circumstances, Slushii might have been up to the challenge. Sadly, maybe 10 minutes into his set the entire left side of the sound system of the mainstage completely died. We would have had better sound quality listening to his set prerecorded in our cars. The other obstacle to overcome was the crowd… it was clearly amateur hour. Just next to us was a group of girls giving such classic advice as “If you don’t feel good just throw up” and “yeah you can throw up right here!” (to the girl that girl who was sick: drink more water and thanks for not listening to your friends.) Slushii did the best he could do, trying to pivot the style of music he was playing by calling out “where are all my bassheads at?” But by that time we were already on our way out of the shit show. Thankfully the man got a second chance when he finished his late night set early enough to join Mija B2B to close out her late-night set. Talk about redemption!
CID (pronounced “sid” not “see ID” … who knew?!) The silver lining to the great main-stage failing of Saturday was that we ended up leaving early and going to CID’s set. We’d heard of him through collabs with other DJs, but through those tracks we couldn’t have heard how good he actually is. Tucked away on the Ponce de Leon stage; CID played an expertly executed, no frills electro-house set. He offered us a break from all the sets that were full of drops for the sake of dropping; while still keeping the energy high and the crowd engaged. Amidst TLC covers and Kaskade samples, the pit transformed from a show into a party where we all felt like we were home. We danced with strangers, we made new friends, we googled CID’s tour schedule- ready for his next set before this one had ended.
LOUDPVCK. Sure, we enjoyed the Pop-powered Chainsmokers who had an incredible 20 min in the beginning of an otherwise disappointing set. We also enjoyed the Atlanta favorite, Zedd’s Dead, who brought their typical hard-hitting style with a side of feels. But this festival was dominated by the smallest stage (Ponce de Leon), right down to hosting the best set Sunday evening. LOUDPVCK brought their LA trap sound to the party, and the party was never the same! The pit looked like the party scene in Zion from Matrix Reloaded. The crowed spilled out- people dancing on the sidewalks without even being able to see the stage. Hidden away from the boom and glow of the rest of the festival, we were in LOUDPVCK’s world! The duo took turns hitting the crowd with track after track of high energy music and well-crafted bass, rarely taking their foot off the accelerator. They danced along with the us, hyping up the crowd which was already in overdrive. At the end of it all there was a buzz in the air, and excitement to see them again, which is the truest test of a performance.
Mute Math. There’s a growing trend on the festival circuit for electronica (and sometimes even non-electronic) artists trying to ride the EDM wave by putting together a “ DJ Set.” These sets sometimes have spectacular results (think Odesza or Porter Robinson) with the melding of the harmonic and the energetic. But the great sets in this category are the exception, not the rule. Mute Math's set, unfortunately, fell apart into some weird artistic hodgepodge. Their unique minimalist style gave way to a heavier medley of sounds which often left the crowd staring blankly at the stage and trying to muster a cheer. They were leaning away from what they are known for and do very well- it felt unnatural. This set was kind of a failed experiment. The crowd was confused, longing for the music they’d expected and heading for other stages.
Grandtheft. Somehow a relatively unknown DJ from Canada (who is generally plays as part of a duo) was one of the top DJs at the festival. When someone steals crowds from the mainstage stages we take notice! Grandtheft’s trap style is far from something new, but seeing a DJ execute it with flawless technique and without forcing the drop just for the sake of making the speakers bleed is always refreshing. We were taken beyond the ratchetness and excessive "wub" of today’s trap-stars. On top of his the talent on the decks, he has this ability to adjust to the crowd and utilize every ounce of power. Grandtheft pushed us near our breaking point without sending us over the edge. Whether you're getting ratchet or just wannna move your feet to the beat, GT’s got you covered. Check out his Ultra Set and some of his other live performances here and drop by his club (Blue Dog Motel) in Montreal, Canada.