Shaky Beats Music Festival – In-Depth Experience – Review
Like most dedicated Festies, I start planning my festival season in early Spring. Actually – and I like to think that I’m not in the minority here – I end up planning two different festival seasons for myself. It all starts with finding all of the biggest and most talked about festivals of the season – the ones that never disappoint. Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits… I’ll write down a list of all of the summer music festivals that I wish I could attend each festival season. This list usually consists of two dozen music festivals in every corner of the globe – about one every week.
Next comes the tough part: from that wish list, I pick and choose which music festivals I can realistically and financially attend. Every Festies’ list of must-see music festivals is different every year. While some festivals you’ll make a point to attend year after year just to meet up with old friends, however, I prioritize my list of must-see music festivals based on what up-and-coming artists I really want to see perform that year. The very best fests will have a lineup where nearly every artist performing is one of your must-see artists.
But it’s not always about the headliners. Festival producers are getting more and more crafty by bringing inventive new concepts to music festivals around the world. Lightning in a Bottle has interactive art installations in abundance, Further Future had a full-service spa and gourmet catering, Electric Daisy Carnival has some of the craziest performers you’ve ever seen, but this was Shaky Beats’ first year on the festival circuit, and I was excited to see everything that they had in store for us.
Shaky Beats made the cut on my final must-see festival season list this year because the lineup was a good mix of bands and DJs I love. The three-day music festival out of Atlanta, Georgia boasted headliners like Big Gigantic, Odesza, Porter Robinson and Major Lazer I’ve seen perform live at festivals over the years and were always a good time, but I was just as excited for my first time seeing Cherub, Classixx, Marshmello, ZHU and especially one of the greatest MCs of all time and a childhood favorite – Nas.
But more than any headliner, what I was looking forward to most at Shaky Beats was seeing my family again. It was my festival brother Doug who first told me about Shaky Beats. I hadn’t seen Doug, or most of my festival family, since Electric Zoo Music Festival in New York nearly a year ago, so the opportunity to hang out with him, and about a dozen other long lost relatives from my festie fam, was all the reason I needed to book my flight to Atlanta.
After finishing up at work, I began packing for my flight the following morning. I was only going to be in Atlanta for 4 days, but I still managed to get all of the music festival essentials into a single carry-on bag. It took a lot of trial and error over the years, but I finally perfected the formula for traveling to a music festival with everything I need to bring without over packing and having to lug around superfluous luggage – or worse – showing up completely unprepared.
So, after walking the streets surrounding my hotel like a zombie in search of a convenience store, only to pay ten times more than I would back home for the bare essentials, I finally learned the importance of practicing music festival preparedness.
After packing my finest festival fashion and the strangest ensembles I could throw together, I made a point to grab my vitamins and hand sanitizer – my first defense against the festie flu. When I’m done packing the essentials, any room left in my bag is ultimately reserved for snackage. Naturally, I packed the most essential part of every music festival last – my Coldest Water bottle. I used a carabiner to attach the sports cap to my backpack for easy access. That way, my Coldest Water bottle was always within reach whenever I need a refreshing sip or two without having to dig around in my bag for it or drinking body temperature water from a camel back.
With my backpack loaded with the finest festival gear available and Coldest Water bottle in hand, I was ready for the long journey to Georgia. The flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta was only 4 hours and I used every minute to stockpile as much precious sleep as I could – I knew that it would come in handy this weekend.
As I stopped to fill up my Coldest Water at one of the Atlanta international airport water bottle filling stations (seriously, how did we survive at airports without these things?) when I hear a high pitched voice squeal from behind me, “Whooo! Shakyyy!”
I turn around and see a girl with pink hair wearing a panda bear beanie and a grin the size of the Georgia Dome charging at me full speed. Before I can react, she hugs me so hard that I nearly spill my Coldest on her, but manage to twist on the lid while this girl is squeezing the life right out of me.
“Hey, fam. Ready for Shaky?” she says as she finally releases me from her death grip and goes straight to the drinking fountain beside me to take a sip.
“So ready!” I reply excitedly, doing my best to hide the fact that I have no idea who this girl is.
She stands up from the drinking fountain and wipes her bottom lip on sleeve.
“You probably don’t remember me.” She says, “I was the glitter elf from Further Future.” She adds with a smirk before I can respond.
Then it clicks. About two ago I was at Further Future FF002, a festival held on an Indian reservation just outside of Las Vegas. Practically everyone at Further Future was wearing some soft of crazy costume, but I specifically recall talking to a pint sized girl dressed as a faerie who was running around the dancefloor throwing glitter at everyone and anyone. The faerie and I talked about mythology for hours, and at the end of our conversation, I finally talked her out of glitter bombing innocent bystanders at Further Future. I remembered that she got so mad when I called her a faerie because she said she worked so hard to make her costume distinctively look like an elf and not a faerie.
“Oh, hey! How is the faerie business treating you?” I jeered.
Her enormous grin vanished faster than you can say Keebler.
“Easy, Zelda. I’m only joking.”
“You better be.” She squeaked. “I brought glitter and I’m not afraid to use it!”
I put my hands up in a sign of surrender.
“I remember how excited you were for Shaky Beats.” I said, trying to change the subject to anything that wouldn’t get me doused in microscopic shiny metal for the rest of the weekend. “So, where are you staying? The inn at Rivendell?”
“What? Is that where you’re staying?” She pressed her tiny eyebrows together.
“Look at you.” I said with mock disgust. “You forgot where you came from. Where are your elven roots!?”
She instinctively grabbed her hair, thinking I’m referring to her poor dye job, and that’s when she walked away.
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I was so giddy with anticipation that I could practically feel my body going into full on “festival mode”. Much like hibernation for bears, “festival mode” is a physical state in which the body of every Festie goes through during the course of a 3-day festival. While in festival mode, a Festie will eat less, sleep less, and poop less yet they will be considerably more likely to yell spontaneously yell “WHOO!” at people they pass on the street.
In short, “festival mode” is a lot like spending the night at your girlfriend’s parent’s house, only there are zero expectations and slightly more alcohol.
I took an airport cab into the city. It was my first time in Atlanta, and despite my cabbies’ adamant refusal to engage me in small talk, I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people told me to be very careful because ATL is a dangerous city, but an equal amount of people also told me that it was one of the greatest cities on earth. It wasn’t long before I found out for myself that ATL is home to the absolute nicest people on planet earth.
For example, as soon as I get into front desk of my hotel, I slump off my backpack and let out an exhausted sigh. Seeing this, the lady at the front desk looks at me like I’m an injured puppy and says, “Oh, sugar, you had a long journey, huh?”
I look around to see if her boyfriend is standing behind me. This makes her laugh.
“Ha-ha! You want something to drink, sugar?”
“That would be great.”
“Gimmie that there bottle of yours. Shawty gonna take care of you.”
She points to my Coldest Water bottle dangling off of the carabiner on my backpack. I unclip it and hand the empty bottle to Shawty over the counter. She disappears into a backroom for a moment, then emerges, screwing the cap onto my bottle of Coldest. Shawty hands me the bottle, now full of liquid.
I look at my bottle of Coldest full of a mystery liquid that this gracious stranger had just provided for me, then look at Shawty, and I think to myself that this is one of those exact situations that my mom warned me about.
“Oh, it ain’t alcohol. I keep the good stuff for me.”
And then Shawty and I cracked up laughing until both of our sides start to ache.
“You here for that Shaky Beats festival, huh?”
I nod, still guzzling down the refreshing ice cold water that she graciously provided.
Shawty then walks me to the street outside of the hotel and proceeds to give me a fingertip tour of downtown Atlanta, Centennial Park, where Shaky Beats is held, and the stores and restaurants surrounding the hotel. I’m not sure this sort of hospitality is the norm in Atlanta, but I’m positive that Shawty is a genuinely awesome human being.
As soon as I get the room key from Shawty, I feel two enormous arms wrap around me and squeeze tight. For a moment, I think that the Negative Nancy’s of the world were right – that Atlanta is a horrible place and that I’m about to get the life squeezed out of me by a local ATL vagabond. That, or Shawty’s boyfriend is the jealous-for-no-reason type.
“Ryaaaan!” Doug bellows.
I turn around to see a familiar face smiling back at me.
“Doug, it’s great to see you, bro.” I said, just as relieved that I didn’t just get mugged as I am to see my old friend.
From over Doug’s shoulder I see a guy in a piñata-esque, multi-colored vest and matching hat come running into the hotel clinging onto a Super Mario Bros print backpack. He zips past me on his way to the front desk.
Right behind him is a girl with a baby face and eyes that could cut through steel running with equal tenacity. She sprints past us and speeds down a hotel hallway.
“I’m gonna pee my pants!” she announces to everyone in the hotel as she disappears down the hallway.
“Oh, these are my friends from New York.” Said Doug, almost as an afterthought. “That’s Greg, one of my best friends from New York.” He points to the guy locked in an animated conversation with Shawty. “And the one with a pee stain on her skirt is Marley. We picked her up at a strip club on the drive down here.”
“A strip club? It’s going to be one hell of a weekend.” I said matter-of-factly.
“Hey, it was a 17-hour drive!”
The four of us went up to our hotel room and threw our stuff down on the floor. I immediately collapsed on the bed with my bottle of Coldest in one hand and backpack in the other. Exhausted, I let the bed consume me with its luxurious hotel-quality softness and was at peace. After all, I needed to stockpile as much sleep as possible while I could – I knew that it would come in handy this weekend.
Waking up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the weekend, the first thing I did was run down to the lobby to snag some continental breakfast. I was greeted by plenty of festival goers, most of whom were from Miami. My first festival tip to you is to go to the continental breakfast at whatever hotel you’re staying at every morning. Most Festies are broke from the expensive festival tickets, so you will always find a festy besty at free breakfast.
After I exchanged numbers with my new friends, I headed back to the room to start getting ready for Shaky Beats. As soon as I arrived back at the room, Doug, Greg and Marley are already drinking and now I know the day has finally begun. Soon after our first drink, all of our new friends start pouring into our hotel room as we get ready for the festival. The girls we met from breakfast decide that they are going to be reckless and sneak in a full bottle of wine. To my surprise, they were successful! Festival tip number two is to test the boundaries of security because you never know what you can get away with. As the great Wayne Gretzky would say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.
Within minutes of walking into the festival, Doug and I lost festival Greg and Marley. No need to fear they call him festival Greg for a reason, he practically lives at these events so I was expecting him to pop up at some point.
Despite the rain, festival fans never seemed to stop dancing the entire day.
We started off Shaky Beats with an amazing set from Jai Wolf, who has some serious talent on the ones and twos for only being in the game a few years.
One of the best performance from the first day of Shaky Beats was from Duke Dumont, who had the crowd moving and grooving from the minute he walked on stage. Then once he played his hit song “Ocean Drive” everyone lost it!
On my travels to the headliner of the night (Major Lazer) I was dancing-walking to the main stage and I couldn’t help but notice this guy in a wheelchair doing wheelies around me. We started talking and instantly became friends. He told me he admired my dance moves and that he used to love to dance before his accident while serving in the armed forces. His accident happened recently and left him paralyzed for life. But he still goes to shows all the time because music has always played a big part of his life and also helped him through his recovery. It then dawned on me how lucky I am for all the things I am able to do in my life. To see how positive this man was even after such tragedy really touched me.
Inspired by this man the first thing I did was use my VIP pass to my advantage and make sure my new buddy had front row seats to Major Lazer. I got us both up to the artist lounge to the side of the stage and we jammed out together for the rest of the night! We both had a smile on the entire set and when it came to a close we found the rest of his buddies (who were in a panic because they thought they lost their friend) and we both went our ways in hopes of linking up later in the weekend.
Soon after, I run into Doug and we attempt to find Greg and the stripper, but both of their phones were dead. Luckily, our hotel is across the street from the festival so hopefully they can manage to make it back on their own. As we arrive at our room we are greeted by a huge group of strangers that Greg found at the festival. Now our little festival family of four grows exponentially over the weekend.
Everyone starts to crash out one by one, so Doug and I go to one of our new friend Mark and his girlfriend Jen’s room at the top floor of the hotel to decompress. We were there laughing and telling stories all night, then around 3 a.m., our new friend asks Doug and I if we want to take a ride to pick up their buddy at the bus stop. Doug and I say yes without hesitation because we want to give Greg some alone time with the stripper in our hotel room.
As we pull up to the downtown Atlanta bus stop, we find out that this is the first time they are meeting the guy we are picking up, too. They tell us that they met this kid on Reddit and he was looking for a place to crash for the weekend so he can attend his first festival. Doug and I were very skeptical about this guy at first, because it sounds like a potentially sketchy situation, but as soon as we got to meet and talk to Ben from Reddit, all of our apprehensions went out the window. He was only 19 and he instantly clicked out with our entire festival family, so we took the young Festie under our wing.
Going into day two at Shaky Beats, the sun was shining and our fest fam was growing like crazy. The second day had a much larger turn out than the previous day, most likely because the lineup was stacked that day.
Now it was the seven of us who rolled out to start the day off with some Com Truise at the main stage. The combination of visuals and sounds that this guy put on were out of this world.
We followed that up with a killer set from Marshmello, who brought out special guest Waka Flaka to perform “Turn Up God”.
The only thing that made it difficult to watch was that Cherub played a conflicting set. But the two stages had a great vibe to them so no matter where you were the sounds bounced off each other pretty perfectly.
Porter Robinson soon followed up at the main stage and took the crowd on an amazing journey as the sun set. This was one of the first times we got to see Porter after his live set of his Worlds Tour and it was just as magical!
Odesza closed out night two with one of the most beautiful live sets I have ever heard. You couldn’t help but keep a smile on your face throughout the entire set. They also brought out the Atlanta Drum line which really end the night with a bang!
Shaky Beats provided a water refill station, so having my Coldest Water bottle on hand during the entire festival was a lifesaver and very convenient while walking around on a hot Atlanta day.
The last day left me with the greatest anticipation of the whole weekend, I would finally get to see the king of hip hop. Nas has to be considered the godfather of rap and he proved it this weekend at Shaky Beats Atlanta 2016. Playing his classic tracks like “N.Y State Of Mind” and “The World Is Yours”, along with his inspiring messages throughout the set really proved to me that Nas is one of the greatest MCs who ever lived. The love and inspiration that Nas put into his music shows that anything is possible if you really believe in yourself.
Safe to say, we blew Ben from Reddit mind this weekend, making his first festival ever a total success. This kid had a smile on his face from the moment he walked into the venue and carried that smile all the way till we said our goodbyes on Sunday. That’s what this music festival scene is all about, though. Making new friends and sharing memories with people that are going to last a lifetime.
My third and final festival tip of the weekend is to make new friends! Get out of your comfort zone and dance like no one is looking. We all remember the first show we’ve ever been too and appreciate the people who were able to introduce us to a wonderful experience. So treat everyone you meet like it’s their first time being at an event. Show them the love and good vibes that you received the first time you walked into a venue or festival. Spreading your positive vibes will affect someone you come into contact with for the better – not just at a show – but everywhere you go!