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Shaky Knees/Beats Founder Tim Sweetwood Talks Bringing EDM to Atlanta, Working with My Morning Jacket

by Rob Slater on May 20, 2016

Today, the newest member of the Shaky Festivals family will kick off in Atlanta as Shaky Beats Music Festival follows Shaky Knees, which wrapped up last weekend at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. Boasting a lineup with EDM heavyweights like Odesza, Skrillex and Diplo's Major Lazer, jamband mainstays Big Gigantic and rap legend Nas, it seems like Shaky Beats is here to stay in Atlanta. 

As festival founder Tim Sweetwood explains, the decision to bring an electronic festival to Peachtree came as an answer to the question of how to best round out the Shaky brand. Sweetwood also recaps this year's Shaky Knees, which saw a special collaboration with My Morning Jacket on a song that inspired the festival's name. 

You’re fresh off of another Shaky Knees. How would you evaluate this year’s edition?

It went great, man. No worries whatsoever. We lucked out on the weather--the weather was fantastic, and the new site came off really well, and the bands had a really good time as usual and got a lot of glowing reviews. I personally helped My Morning Jacket supe up their production and work with them on their set list and everything so that came off as a really good performance, so all and all it was great.

A couple of videos surfaced following Jacket’s show. What did you help them with?

We worked on some production elements, so we involved a bunch of pyro and special effects, and things like that that they had never done as a band before. That just came from a background of - you know they’re the namesake of the festival where it was like, you know, named after a lyric in their song so from my perspective as a promoter and curator and owner and all that of the festival it just needed to be special.

You also switched from Atlanta’s Central Park to Centennial Olympic Park this year. Was that to accommodate more people to a larger site?

It’s actually fairly comparable when you line up the two areas but the quick background as why we did not go back to Central Park is because the second half of the site where the Civic Center was was sold and so we weren’t guaranteed that half of the property anymore, which actually would have shrunk our site pretty well so we came to Centennial Park.

Last year you had Shaky Boots as well as Shaky Knees. What went into the decision to go away from that this year?

That was just the limited bandwith of what’s going on in country right now. The official feel is hiatus but it may come back because we’ve had a lot of demand for it and people enjoy it but, the honest truth is that the bandwith about the amount of country artists out there that can really draw and help sustain festivals is just not there right now, so being that it was a young festival and not a festival that’s been established and been going on for eight years and has more of a built in draw like one of the larger rock festivals or something it would just be the smart business decision and stuff like that to not do it and not fall in a trap of having no success, you know?

So when you evaluated the next move to make, how did you land on an EDM festival.

Because it’s genres that aren’t in Shaky Knees so it’s like continuing the brand and the family of that brand. That was something where four years ago when we did the first Shaky Knees it was something that was a little more near and dear to my heart and grew naturally so that was like matching what my style and vibe was and that was primarily rock and stuff like that and even though I promote electronic and all that kind of stuff it’s not that tattoos that are on my back.

But to have that natural feel of the hip hop and electronic that wasn’t on me so it’s just an alternative to that. And like you said it’s a good genre where there’s a lot out there, there’s still a lot of new acts coming up, there’s acts growing and all that kind of stuff so it’s just a hole that can be filled and I think that’s it.

From a stage setup perspective, running an electronic festival requires a bit more planning than a rock festival. How is that going to unfold?

Well the physicality of the stage itself is staying in place so that’s one of the advantages right now is some of the elements of the site like you know the VIP and the artist bars and the bars that are serving the people and then again the spaces themselves are staying, and then like you said that’s kind of physically what we’re doing is there’s the, it’s almost like saying the software, or what would change is there’s much bigger lighting rigs coming in, there’s some tweaks to the sound system that are being made and then aesthetically with all the art and stuff, you know, different backdrops, different pazazz on the VIP deck all that kind of stuff. So you said it correctly, or like the way to look at it is the cake is still there it’s just a different set of icing that’s like nicer and prettier and kind of matches that genre, like you said.

Let’s talk about the lineup a little bit - what were your goals going into curating the lineup and how do you feel it all shook out?

We like how it shook out, we feel that it’s a smart lineup within a genre and then one of the things we’re proud of is how many bands were able to fulfill a live element, we wanted to make sure that was the case with this festival so, as much as I have respect for Tomorrowworld or different electronic festivals like that, I’m almost jealous how well of a job they do with a lot of that stuff, but at the same time when you play there at Tomorrowworld it is just kind of a DJ set upright so we wanted it to be a little different than that and try and have as many live element as you can.

Odesza is playing live and obviously Big Gigantic is live, they’ve always been that way, but then Floating Points is live and Porter Robinson is going to be a live set, he’s not just doing a straight DJ set. I think those elements in particular we were proud of and then I think we were proud of some of the bookings where we caught them earlier. The Marshmellos of the world that was booked last September and look where he’s come since then. Some of those elements are really cool which makes it better too, it’s not just gonna be a lot of folks arriving at 8 p.m. at the festival, they’re gonna be arriving earlier because some of those acts earlier are there, so. And again, kind of bringing a little bit different twist live even when you get earlier on bands like !!!, they cross sides, they’re at our festivals but they’re at straight up rock festivals too and that’s something we liked as well.

What do you have in mind for the future of Shaky Beats?

The future for Shaky Beats is like if it’s performing well for us in year one, we hope to break even with this weeks sales and the predicted rain never helps but as we all know it’s part of the festival and the DJs will play even if it’s wet out. The plan is we’re already looking at bookings in 2017 and the goal is definitely to keep them back to back weekends and piggyback on those infrastructure and then obviously just hoping to get better every year at what it is and what the people want. I really like to listen to what people have to say and I think if you listen to what your ticket buyers have to say you have a much better chance of them coming back or it growing.

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