Music Midtown has been associated with Atlanta since 1994, aside from the half decade hiatus in the late 2000s. Having four main stages this year – Electric Ballroom, Honda, Roxy, Cotton Club – at Piedmont Park located in Atlanta, Ga, it is just big enough to give some distance to drown out the two simultaneous shows playing at each end. Being my first time attending a festival in Atlanta, I was woefully unprepared. Having a festival at this time of year usually comes with hot and humid weather, this years’ attendees were especially lucky since a rainstorm hit on the second day.
The first time organizers decided on having the festival on Saturday and Sunday only, I can see how it might have effected scheduling and other popular bands playing instead. Many people I talked to at the festival and around town, stated that the talent in years’ past was better than now. Not being bothered too much by these opinions, I already had my list of the bands I needed to see when I purchased my tickets. Having a two-day event makes scheduling more complicated for fans though. Running into multiple crossovers, I had to leave half or three-quarters of the way through certain bands as to get good positioning for the next show playing at the other side of the park.
There were tents everywhere in the park: bars, food, food trucks, water stations, first-aid stations, merch stations. The alcohol was overpriced as always. The food was expensive but the selection was vast. The types of food included: Southern, Barbecue, North Indian, Mexican, Ice cream, Hawaiian, along with the usual pizza, corn dogs, etc. It was great to get there early to eat before the lines got long and the more well-known bands started to play. Having variety at huge events as this is always good, it caters to everyone and disperses the long lines.
Photo Credit: Eliott Lewis | The Young Folks
General Admission tickets started at $125 earlier in the summer, gradually rising as the event got closer. Surprised at how little the tickets cost, and one of the main reasons why I decided to attend, I quickly remembered how the festival being only two days and not having the most popular of bands may have contributed to this. Also, if you have the money for VIP tickets, get them. Put them on your credit card or save up all year. I’m getting to the age where younger people bother me, I want to drink without standing in a line for 20 minutes, and not getting thrown up on while jumping up and down during a Chvrches concert (yes, it happened).
Below are some bands I saw, heard, or missed while at Music Midtown. Each stood out in their own way, I’ve tried to encapsulate each by describing what I took away from my days at Music Midtown:
Balkan Beat Box
The first musical act to play on Saturday, their music filled the open field with an amped up reggae / electronica / gypsy punk tone (as I saw on their Wikipedia page). Some would glance over at the stage to see who was playing while slowly making their way closer. The group seamlessly blends the beats of the drummers and saxophone player into every song, with Tomer Yosef (Vocals) using his amazing voice to round out the rhyming rap-like lyrics. Mixing Spanish and other languages into their songs was a pleasant surprise. It didn’t matter either, they were a pleasant surprise kicking off the weekend for many who rang through the gates bright and early.
Not knowing anything about Zella, the 21-year-old has the voice and personality to grow into a bigger act. Her most popular song to date “Hypnotic,” wasn’t something I was moving along with but some of the other songs were really good. Next month she’ll be releasing a new single called “Man on the Moon,” I believe it will become her newest popular song with it playing on the radio countrywide. Her personality comes through on the stage, wanting to have fun and just sing to anyone that will listen. Capping of the hour long set, Zella sang one of the best covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” I’ve ever heard.
Photo Credit: Eliott Lewis | The Young Folks
They are the reason I came to Music Midtown Festival. Their most recent album (Every Open Eye) captivated me, I couldn’t stop playing it in my car. Having only an hour-long set, scheduled for 4:30 no less, most fans were disappointed they couldn’t listen to more songs. I heard conversations strewn about my bubble about how it’s horrible they’re playing this early and not a larger billed act. Once Chrvches took the stage, every ailment one felt quickly evaporated. Playing songs mostly from their latest album, it was amazing to see the ferocity and willingness to let oneself go in how they played the songs I love so much.
Martin Doherty was especially captivating, it seems as though he’s coming into his own with singing, this was seen in the song “High Enough to Carry You Over.” Doherty was moving the audience at his will, flying across the stage by jumping his body every which way at the drop of the beat. Lauren Mayberry is especially charming and cute in between songs. Talking with the crowd, making note of her observations in the crowd (“Hey! A Pikachu!), or discussing how her undergarments that are keeping her “tight” are utterly drenched due to Atlanta’s beautiful humid weekend weather. They were a fantastic delight to watch as they are embarking on the last tour for their album. Be on the lookout for their next album because at this pace, they’re getting better and better.
Band of Horses
Another band I heard while relaxing not too far away, Band of Horses was another popular act playing earlier in the day. Their melodic and slow songs were the perfect afternoon nap music, acting as a midday lull for those starting to get tired from their dancing and walking. Making sure to play their hits like “The Funeral,” it brought some people back to life as they relaxed. Noticing those around me, listeners began looking around inquisitively then slightly moving their head as the rhythm hits their shoulders. By the end of ““No One’s Gonna Love You,” you could have been looking at the crowd I was surrounded by thinking we were facing a stage when in fact, we were all relaxing some 200 yards away.
It always excites me when I’m watching a band live for the first time and a song starts playing I already know, as was the case with “Turn It Around.” Led by the blonde duo, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, Lucius is quiet the act. Watching them on a hill from about 400 yards away eating pizza for my hour breather, their onstage presence is infectious for one another it seems. I remember seeing Wolfe and Laessig on the show Roadies recently, their acting obviously not better than their resounding voices, and wondering who they were. I now know who Lucius is. Their voices are so compatible together, each song is fluid in how their lyrics will overlap then come as one again. I decided right then to add them on my Spotify list.
Having heard their current top song “White Flag” here and there over the last couple months, I knew seeing the band was a priority. Joseph – led by sisters Allison, Meegan, and Natalie – was an amazing show to watch. Coming out on stage with nothing more than a guitar and drum step (both played by Natalie), the sisters gave an amazing performance to the stragglers coming through the gates in their hungover state. Not every song was slow, not every song was fast and pounding. I kept catching myself in realizing their songs were solely coming from their voices at times, and not once did it feel like the empty main stage was too big for such a small act. I hope to see Joseph in the future in a smaller setting, they’re yet another band I was introduced to that I loved.
Peter Bjorn and John
Of course they played “Young Folks,” the song this site is named after. Peter Morén made his way through the crowd which was interesting to watch. I’m indifferent to them.
Photo Credit: Eliott Lewis | The Young Folks
By far the best act I saw at Music Midtown, Beck was a rousing Saturday night act. The production was meticulously planned, like the synced videos playing on the screen in the background, while songs were being played. I never realized how many Beck songs I actually loved, and to think I knew the majority of the words as he played also astounded me. I’m surprised he didn’t play more songs from his latest album Morning Phase but I don’t want to complain.
He clearly has the experience in knowing how to play to a crowd, knowing how to engage the audience while leading the conversation into the next song. Acknowledging the bright yellow moon at the backs of the audience, he calmly transitions into “Blue Moon.” He played his latest single “Wow” which was a surprise for me, considering I didn’t even know it came out. Trying to figure out why I didn’t know the lyrics as the band was playing, it dawned on me I’m an idiot that has a new favorite song. If I had one take away from this two-day event, it would be to see Beck. It would amaze you how much his show moves you. Most left his show heading home rather than to the leading acts on the other side of the park, nothing could top what they saw just then.
I was surprised by the amount of people making their way over to the stage as the set continued on, I’m guessing their growing popularity had much to do with it. Making sure to play his (I didn’t know he was St. Lucia) current hit song “Dancing On Glass” early, that decision got the crowd rolling early. The band’s performance on stage was infatuating. It became clear their own enthusiasm while playing was spilling into the crowd. The crowd was jumping, he was walking through the crowd, and running around in circles while singing “Help Me Run Away.” I was surprised by how much I liked his music, especially after not really caring for his most popular songs heard on the radio. He focuses on the electronic rhythms that reminded me of Daft Punk (horrible comparison but listen to his song “September”).
Corrine Bailey Rae
For a Grammy award winning artist, she was harshly effected by the incoming onslaught of rain that effectively stalled the whole festival. Corrine came out to an audience running away from her, due to the rainstorm just hitting the park. As the rain slowed from its downpour, people started coming out from their protective coverings. Realizing they were already wet from the 15 minutes of rain, they had nothing else to get wet and started making their way to her stage.
I forgot how good of a singer she is, seeing her on television is one thing but in person it’s something else. Her voice makes everyone shuffle their feet. Whether singing a cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” or having the crowd sing her hit song “Put Your Records On.” Sometimes artists let the crowds sing the song chorus, which can help or hurt. In this instance, the crowd went above and beyond in the making the song a fun experience to be a part of.
Leon Bridges – Overlapping Schedule – Check out Reagan’s review of his other recent concert here.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Rain Evacuation – Will be seeing the next time in town
Alabama Shakes – Rain Evacuation – Will be seeing them the next time they’re in town
Twenty One Pilots – Too Late = Back of Crowd – Will check out again
The Killers – Seen Them Four Times – I’m sure they were great again
Deadmau5 – Rain Evacuation – Was excited to see this crowd, maybe some other time