Shaky Beats Festival Review: Highlights and Hot Takes

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Bonobo’s pre-headlining set on the Piedmont Stage. Image courtesy aLIVE Coverage

Last year’s inaugural edition of Atlanta’s latest and greatest EDM/Hip-Hop festival was considered a massive success by almost all accounts, myself included. Centennial Olympic Park, which also plays host to Shaky Knees Fest, functions nicely as a venue and the Atlanta skyline is a stunning backdrop for any show. The top of this year’s lineup sported the likes of The Chainsmokers, Kaskade, Griz, RL Grime, Flosstradamus, Galantis, Zeds Dead, and Bonobo (live). Now that the dust has settled, let’s have a look back at what went down in Midtown last weekend.

Day One Highlights:

RL Grime on the Peachtree stage was, as the kiddos say, “Lit”. Image courtesy aLIVE Coverage

Ekali: Our festival kicked off with Canadian trap maestro Ekali, who treated the crowd to a bit of local flavor with his unrealesed collaboration with Quix and ATL’s own Gucci Mane. He also played Vincent’s legendary mashup of A$AP Ferg’s with Medasin and X&G’s The Zoo. Ekali is revered among the trap community for his humility and transparency with his fans, making his high-energy sets all the easier to appreciate.

 

Alison Wonderland: Alison had been on our radar ever since her full-length debut Run came out 2 years ago, but after hearing mixed reviews about her live-show, our excitement had been tempered to cautious optimism. It took her all of 2 minutes to throw my caution into the chilly Atlanta wind (it was in the 50’s for most of the day) as she opened with what I presume was an unreleased original that expanded on the dark intensity that drives much of her album. In 60 minutes, the Aussie dropped more ID’s than I heard all weekend (Perhaps with the exception of RL), including a sick edit of Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA” and a fresh rendition of Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps”. This set solidifies Alison as the undisputed queen of trap, additionally revealing that Fetty Wap is into petite Australian babes who play the cello and live mix like a champ.

 

RL Grime: With the sun going down and the energy still lingering from Alison’s set, the atmosphere was electric leading into RL’s set. Only two days after his latest release, Reims, this show had an anticipation about it that you rarely feel at a festival (especially from a sub-headliner). As expected, RL delivered an incredible show, opening with Reims, sampling an impressive variety of hip-hop, and dropping an edit of “Core” that I had never heard despite nearly every DJ on the planet sampling/remixing it ever since it become the unofficial anthem of trap 3 years ago. Alison is an honorable and worthy Trap Queen, but I don’t think anybody will be overthrowing the almighty King Henry Steinway I anytime soon.

 

Honorable Mentions: Griz and Muzzy Bear’s funky jams, Bonobo’s ethereal live set, and the Peachtree Stage’s impressive visual projection and pyrotechnics.

Day Two Highlights:

Rare sighting of Erick The Architect and Meechy Darko wearing shirts on stage. Image courtesy aLIVE

Flatbush Zombies: The rap trio out of Brooklyn brought the heat on Saturday in a way I’ve seen few rappers do (Danny Brown and Joey Bada$$ come to mind in terms of energy). In a weekend that was parched for quality hip-hop, Flatbush delivered a wild show. Moshes opened and closed as quickly as Meechy Darko flowed from verse to verse. Hands were up, heads were banging, and bars were belted out by fans from all walks of life. The pinnacle of the set was the crowd’s incantation of the chorus in “Palm Trees” and was personally one of the most memorable moments of the festival.

Haywyre shredding keys on a much sunnier Saturday afternoon. Image courtesy aLIVE

Haywyre: This was my second time seeing Haywyre and it was no less exciting than the first. The man is an absolute wizard behind a midi keyboard and never ceases to amaze me. It’s always a treat to see the fusion of electronic music with live instrumentation and Martin does it like no other, blending jazz, blues, house, trap, and dubstep into a deliciously original sound. Big props to him and the Shaky Beats camera crew for projecting his incredible work on the keys on to the screens. Normally, if the crowd isn’t focused on dancing it’s indicative of an uninspiring set, but with Haywyre it seemed most of the folks who weren’t moving were simply mesmerized by his magical fingers.

 

Honorable Mention: The much improved weather, Gramatik’s funky dubstep, Joyrde’s unique brand of trap-infused house, the crowd at Flosstradamus, and the spectacle that was Kaskade’s light show.

 

Day Three Highlights:

Rezz playing to a packed crowd at the Ponce de Leon Stage. Image Courtesy aLIVE

Rezz: Sunday was expectedly the slowest day of the fest, but it wasn’t without its moments. Rezz drew an enormous crowd to the smallest stage of the festival and played a set that perfectly captured her mysterious take on house music. What Alison Wonderland is to Trap, Rezz is to house, and this show solidified that her rapid ascension within the scene is much deserved.

 

 

Mutemath: I’ve always considered Mutemath one of the most underrated bands on tour right now. Darren King is irrefutably one of the best drummers in the world and Paul Meanie is a proven songwriter and pianist. Watching their skills translate to a DJ set was a joy, as Darren played drums over Paul’s mixing, which was fluid and done without a laptop, CDJ, or controller in sight. The duo consistently played out unexpected renditions of expected songs one might hear in any generic DJ set, mashing songs like “Bad and Boujee” with the likes of Sam Gellaitry’s “Ceremony.”

 

Honorable Mentions: The Chainsmoker’s mixing skills and willingness to depart from their own material to maintain the energy of a crowd in a live setting, more great weather, and Girl Talk’s zany throwbacks.

 

Now for some spicy takes from the weekend:

 

Give it up for the ladies: The generic ties between EDM and hip-hop are tightly woven, and recently Miami’s Rolling Loud fest, which occurred the same weekend as Shaky Beats, has raised questions regarding females place within the genre. The electronic scene seems to suffer from a similar lack of female representation, so it was refreshing to see artists like Alison Wonderland and Rezz put on remarkable performances, accompanied by strong showings from Mija and Little Dragon.

 

NGHTMRE’s remix of “Goosebumps” needs to die: It became somewhat of a running joke for me and my festival crew that whenever a DJ played NGHTMRE’s remix of Travis Scott, we would immediately leave the set, not because it’s not a serviceable remix but simply because it’s low hanging fruit. This started in jest and for the first 2 or 3 sets to use it we merely rolled our eyes and groaned to each other, but by the 6th and 7th DJ’s to drop into it our playful annoyance shifted to a serious disappointment in track selection.  In a genre that is generally performed by twisting EQ knobs and pressing “play” on alternating decks, original sounds and track selection are arguably the most important aspects of maintaining an interesting show. On Sunday afternoon alone, Slander dropped the remix, followed by Grandtheft and Loudpvck in consecutive sets on the Ponce stage, followed by Zed’s Dead, who are widely respected as original producers within the genre. Kudos to NGHTMRE for producing a track that has become so popular in the scene, but as fan of EDM I expect more from the performers at the top of the industry.

 

Where was the Hip-Hop? To preface, Shaky Beats was a blast. The venue is awesome, the production is impressive, and the crowd is never lacking in energy and hometown pride (#ATLHoe). The lineup this year was good and certainly worth the cost of admission, but the quality and even quantity of Hip-Hop acts took a major step back. Atlanta is a national hotbed for Hip-Hop acts and last year C3 booked Nas, A$AP Ferg, and Tory Lanez, with guest appearances by Schoolboy Q, Big Boi, and Waka Flocka Flame. This year, outside of Flatbush and perhaps Kaiydo, the hip-hop was uninspiring or absent entirely. Maybe the weekend clash with Rolling Loud had something to do with booking conflicts, but an Atlanta festival marketed towards the EDM/Hip-Hop crowd should do better. You heard it here first: Gucci Mane to headline Shaky Beats 2018.

 

Written by Matt Green and Drew Kennedy

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