T&E Report: Atlanta for Shaky Knees Music Festival, May 4-5

BROWSE Though it doesn't always get the credit, Atlanta is genuinely one of America's great music towns. Where hip-hop and R&B are concerned, it takes a back seat to none. Kanye West, OutKast, Toni Braxton, Usher, T.I., Lil Jon, Ludacris, Akon, Cee Lo Green and TLC all have roots in the Georgia capital. LaFace Records and Jermaine Dupri's So So Def were both founded here as well. And, of course, Canadian superstar Justin Bieber has ties here. Sometimes overlooked is its rock'n'roll scene, which has nurtured the likes of Zac Brown Band, the Black Crowes, Mastodon, Collective Soul and John Mayer. The new Shaky Knees Music Festival (shakykneesfestival.com) debuts May 4-5, featuring indie luminaries like Band of Horses and Drive-By Truckers, as well as buzz acts the Joy Formidable and Gary Clark Jr. The city does sprawl, but Recording Academy senior executive director Michele Rhea Caplinger advises that the Little Five Points and Inman Park neighborhoods are best for "access to the clubs and hipster happenings." Chris Siciliano, senior director of pop promotion at Capitol, says that "East Atlanta is another great music neighborhood as well." More specifically, Tim Sweetwood, founder of Sweetwood Promotions, which is staging the festival, loves the "Poncey-Highland area...you can go down Ponce and have one experience one block, and then the next block is a 180-degree change." Vinings and Buckhead are where to find upscale restaurants and high-end designer shopping.

STAY The sexy W Atlanta Midtown (whotelsofatlanta.com) has hosted the likes of Dupri, Baby Yu and Gavin DeGraw. It features a spectacularly designed outpost of Jean Georges' Spice Market. Ludacris and Jamie Grace Harper have made the scene at sister hotel W Atlanta Downtown, whose rooftop WETBAR draws top DJ talent for poolside partying.

EAT Dining options reflect the city's status as an international hub. For Italophiles, Live Nation Network senior VP Rich Levy says, "Trattoria Il Localino [localino.info] or Pasta Da Pulcinella [pastadapulcinella.com] are both wonderful hidden treasures." Entertainment attorney Omara Harris enthuses about Do at the View (onestopproduction.com): "You can order food and drinks on an iPad and control the music and videos played on the big screen from your phone." Try the handmade pizza. Caplinger loves "Cook Hall [cookhallatlanta.com] at the W Hotel Buckhead," noted for its modern gastropub fare, as well as the dramatically designed downtown hotspot Optimist (theoptimistrestaurant.com), where the Oyster Bar is a big draw. Siciliano heads to Panita Thai Kitchen (1043 Greenwood Ave. NE, 404-888-9228) for "authentic Thai that is simply the best in town" and to Taverna Plaka (tavernaplakaatlanta.com) for "great Greek food and a party rolled into one."

PLAY Celeb seekers head to the glamorous Compound (compoundatl.com), which has drawn the likes of Chris Brown and Ashanti, or Reign (reignatlanta.com), where everyone from Kanye to Young Jeezy has gotten their party on. Caplinger makes note of classic spots like Eddie's Attic (eddiesattic.com) and Smith's Olde Bar (smithsoldebar.com), but raves about "Terminal West [terminalwestatl.com] at the King Plow Arts Center for its raw, edgy interior and state-of-the-art sound system." For rockers, Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood offers, "We have a long history of playing Atlanta: the Star Bar [stabaratlanta.com] and the Earl [badearl.com] in the earlier days, Variety Playhouse and Tabernacle in later days." Siciliano notes that Star Bar is a must for "rockabilly, punk and generally off-the-beaten-path rock with a cold PBR in hand." For a great bar scene, Siciliano also recommends the Albert (thealbertatlanta.com) in Inman Park for its "cool atmosphere, where lawyers drink next to cast members of 'The Walking Dead.'" But Levy loves to hit Buford Highway for a night of crooning at Karaoke Melody (karaokemelody.com).


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