BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
It used to be that Europe maintained a stranglehold on music festivals.
But since the turn of the century, the U.S. has embraced the multiday music concept, and for the past several years, Atlanta has joined the party with big-park, big-lineup gatherings.
Fall remains the season for the gilded Music Midtown (and for a couple of years, the massive EDM international import TomorrowWorld), but spring — and Centennial Olympic Park — showcases a trio of Atlanta festivals.
Whether you’re into sandals and 20-minute guitar solos, calibrated mechanical beats or dreamy indie rock, you’ll find something to groove to in April and May.
SweetWater 420 Fest
Heading into its fourth year at Centennial Olympic Park, the 2017 installment of the SweetWater 420 Fest will skew a bit closer to its roots with the focus on jam and rock bands.
Widespread Panic and the Trey Anastasio Band headline the three-day event with a slight twist — the Trey Anastasio Band will play two sets on its one headlining night (April 21) and Athens’ Panic will play four sets over two nights (April 22-23).
Other artists among the 50-plus on the docket include Ween, Moe, Slightly Stoopid, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Dark Star Orchestra, Talib Kweli, Anders Osborne, Twiddle, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, San Holo, Break Science and the Hip Abduction.
Jennifer Bensch, president of Happy Ending Productions, which produces the fest, said that while attendance slipped from about 80,000 in 2015 to about 45,000 in 2016 — which featured Kid Rock, Disco Biscuits and Cypress Hill — she’s encouraged by the 420 Fest’s reach. According to her figures, attendees last year arrived from more than 48 states and 22 countries.
In addition to the music, fans can engage in beer tastings and interactions with brewers in the SweetWater Experience tent, hear comedy and burgeoning musical acts on the Lyrics & Laughter stage — headlined by comedians Jon Rudnitsky and Jake Nordwind — and check out the 420 Disco and the Planet 420 environmental, nonprofit village.
Also, fans can look forward to snagging a “Dumpster Diver” shirt made from recycled plastic; they will be given to patrons in exchange for recyclable trash collected during festival weekend.
1-11 p.m April 21; noon-11 p.m. April 22; noon-10 p.m. April 23. $66 (daily general admission pass); $133 (three-day general admission pass); $170 (daily VIP pass; three-day VIP passes are sold out). Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave. W. N.W., Atlanta. www.sweetwater420fest.com (daily schedule and parking/ride share information available).
Regardless of your feelings about the Chainsmokers, the DJ/producer duo of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall have officially crossed into Major Act territory between landing smashes “Don’t Let Me Down” (with Daya) and “Closer” (with Halsey) and last weekend’s high-profile stint on “Saturday Night Live.”
The guys topline the roster for the second Shaky Beats Music Festival, a three-day gathering at Centennial Olympic Park that spotlights EDM, hip-hop and indie dance music the first weekend of May.
Joining the Chainsmokers are Kaskade, Griz, Flosstradamus, Zeds Dead, Galantis, RL Grime, Gramatik, Girl Talk and about 40 other acts.
Owing to the nocturnal habits of many in the dance music fan base, a spate of late-night shows will also take place throughout the weekend, including Illenium, Ganja White Night and Little Dragon at the Masquerade and Kaskade at Terminal West (Shaky Beats and the aftershows are 18-and-older events, while the May 6 Galantis late-night show at the Gold Room is 21 and older).
3-11 p.m. May 5; 2-11 p.m. May 6; 1:30-10 p.m. May 7. $90 (general admission daily pass); $165 (general admission three-day pass); $225 (VIP daily pass); $399 (VIP three-day pass). Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave. W. N.W., Atlanta. www.shakybeatsfestival.com.
Shaky Knees Music Festival
For its fifth anniversary, the Shaky Knees Music Festival will become more intimate with a three-stage setup highlighted by headliners the xx, LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix and Ryan Adams.
Joining them on the docket for the May 12-14 indie rock-pop gathering at Centennial Olympic Park are Cage the Elephant, the Pixies, Portugal the Man, Nick Murphy, X Ambassadors, Moon Taxi, Bleachers, the Shins, Saint Motel and more than 50 additional acts.
The 2016 version of Shaky Knees featured some bigger conventional names — Jane’s Addiction, the 1975, Florence + the Machine, Walk the Moon — as well as a five-stage setup that required fans to cross the Shaky Bridge (as dubbed by attendees) to cross from the park to International Plaza.
This year, Shaky Knees reflects its indie leanings with a slightly less mainstream lineup, but a few throwbacks (Third Eye Blind!) and a daily kickoff performance, as has been standard practice, from the Songs for Kids organization.
Like its sister festival Shaky Beats, Shaky Knees has also scheduled a run of late-night shows, including X Ambassadors (Center Stage), Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant (the Loft) and Anderson East (the Earl) on May 12 and Portugal the Man (Terminal West), Car Seat Headrest (Hell at the Masquerade) and Temples (the Earl) on May 13. All late-night shows are 18 and older, except those at the Earl, which are 21 and older.
Gates open at 11:30 a.m. each day. Festival ends at 11 p.m. May 12-13 and 10 p.m. May 14. $99 (general admission daily pass); $185 (general admission three-day pass); $275 (VIP daily pass; VIP three-day passes are sold out). Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave. W. N.W., Atlanta. www.shakykneesfestival.com.