In the heart of Atlanta, Georgia in Piedmont Park, thousands of music lovers gathered for the annual Music Midtown festival. The beaming sun and cloudless sky made for a beautiful weekend full of laughs with singing and dancing to rad music. The venue featured four stages: Salesforce, Great Southeast Music Hall, Roxy, and Cotton Club. On one end of the park, the Salesforce stage and the Great Southeast Music Hall sat side-by-side while the other two stages neighbored each other across the venue. Thoughtful planning allowed artists to perform without being overpowered by the next stage over.
On Saturday, the midday sun was out to welcome attendees as they entered the festival grounds. One of the great things about this festival is the mix of musical genius ranging from rap/hip hop to indie to pop, and everything in between. Madison Beer helped kick off the weekend at the Roxy stage with fan favorites like “Hurts Like Hell” and “Home With You.” Kevin Garrett’s soulful songs, YOLA’s sweet ballads, and Band of Skulls‘ bluesy rock tracks also got the blood pumping in anticipation for the bigger artists to come.
Lord Huron, known for their song “The Night We Met” played throughout popular teen series 13 Reasons Why, gave a stellar performance at the Salesforce stage. Despite being in the direct 5:30 pm afternoon sun, which likely led to burnt cheeks, Lord Huron’s performance still gave the crowd chills. During “Dead Man’s Hand” they even brought out the harmonica for a solo that echoed over the Piedmont Park hills.
Moving over to the Cotton Club stage, Quinn XCII (said like the number 92) offered a change of pace. The hip hop, reggae, EDM blend had the crowd jumping and dancing with high energy. Saving the best for last, one of his biggest hits “Flare Guns” concluded the set.
The queen of female empowerment, Lizzo, came out next on the Roxy stage beginning with “Cuz I Love You.” The set started with the crowd waving their arms in sync and shining flashlights seemingly brighter than the stage lights themselves. Lizzo proceeded to perform top tracks like “Tempo” that had girls twerking like their lives depended on it; “Good as Hell” that had fans feeling GOOD; and “Truth Hurts” which left fans’ throats sore from serenading each other with the chorus. In between passionate vocals, Lizzo continued to promote positive energy. “Do not let them trivialize this movement – the body positivity, self-love movement. This sh*t is more than a Hallmark card, this is your life” she preached at adoring fans. Lizzo even paid tribute to the late Aretha Franklin belting R-E-S-P-E-C-T which had the crowd in an uproar.
Panic! At The Disco gave an equally thrilling performance back at the Salesforce stage. Emotions were high as fans echoed nearly every lyric singer Brendon Urie belted. There was a nice blend of tracks; from their latest album as well as older classics everyone knows and loves. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was, of course, performed as was another unexpected cover: “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman. Brendon prefaced the latter with “I was thinking the other day, how cool it would be friends with Hugh Jackman.” In the pauses between tracks, it was evident the Panic! At The Disco was feeling nothing but gratitude for being up on that stage. The cameras may have been glitchy but not many were complaining about the freeze-frame of Brendon every so often. Over at the Roxy stage, Cardi B also closed out the day. Between her and Panic! At The Disco, there were enough fireworks that one would mistake it for a Fourth of July celebration.
Attendees were back at noon on Sunday; refreshed and overflowing with excitement for their last day at the festival. The Coathangers, 99 Neighbors, and Hero the Band kicked off those early afternoon time slots. Bad Suns and Shaed followed at the Cotton Club and Salesforce stages respectively. Although Shaed’s set ended 20 minutes early, fans got to hear the radio hit “Trampoline.” They also covered a snippet of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.”
While Local Natives took the Roxy stage, Walk the Moon performed on the Salesforce stage. The crowd definitely shut up and danced for Walk the Moon’s upbeat and energetic set. In addition to playing their top track “Shut Up and Dance,” they also played “One Foot,” another fan-favorite. They finished out their set with their first single “Anna Sun” which kickstarted their career in 2012–an intentional irony?
Mø, a Danish singer/songwriter, stole the show next on the Great Southeast Music Hall. Her smooth voice carried over the fields while her beats kept fans’ feet moving. While she sang “Red Wine,” the young artist walked through the open stage while fans fanned her from all sides. She even climbed on top of the sound booth which gave those not lucky enough to be in VIP or GA+ a good look. Surprising fans, and I’m sure security as well, she jumped in the GA crowd and was immediately surrounded. All the while, she’s singing her heart out to top tracks like “Final Song.” Mø did announce that this was her last show after touring for six years but later in an Instagram post, she said it was her last ‘festival for the year.’ Fans will just have to stay tuned to see what tricks she may have up her sleeve.
Another one of the headliners, Billie Eilish, performed right after Mø at the Salesforce stage. As the 17-year-old took the stage, the crowd reduced to insanity. At first, it was difficult to hear Billie. It could have been the noise of the crowd, poor sound system, or even her soft voice–maybe even a combination of all three. Nonetheless, the crowd was chanting “we can’t hear you” repeatedly until finally, it seemed a little more clear. Billie was using the stage to its full potential: laying down while singing one song, then jumping up and down singing the next. The young artist, donning a boot for a foot injury, teased the crowd telling them “if I can do it, you can do it” in regards to jumping all around. A circle opened up and a fan started dancing ballet as Billie sang. Every single hand was in the air as fans waved their arms back and forth during “Ocean Eyes.” She finished the set strong with “Bad Guy” that left fans breathless from dancing and craving more.
Bringing Sunday to a close, Vampire Weekend performed on the Roxy stage. Like Panic! At The Disco, this set featured both new tracks and old. Vampire Weekend played favorites from their first album like “A-Punk,” “Mansard Roof,” and “Oxford Comma.” The band also played several songs from their latest album, “Father of the Bride” which they’re currently touring for. There were also several moments throughout the set that would be purely instrumental which put the audience in a sort of trance-like state. In the quiet moments between songs, Travis Scott’s bass could be felt beneath our feet. The stage itself had a giant globe hanging in the center which imitated that of Vampire Weekend’s latest album art.
The VIP and GA+ sections were provided giant beach balls, also replicas of the globe on stage, that were bounced around during the set. The production team came together nicely as bold red and white lights flashed in perfect sync with the drums. Eventually, all of the rumblings came to a stop from both stages and attendees had to accept that the weekend was really over. Security quickly ushered patrons out as the cleanup process was about to begin.
Aside from the many talented artists that made it to the stages, the festival overall had a few minor issues that can hopefully be improved for next year. The trees all over the park did offer a nice break from the sweltering heat; however, despite the heat and relentless sun, there seemed to be an unfortunate lack of free water filling stations – or maybe it was simply poor signage – for those with hydration packs and reusable water bottles. There was no shortage of clearly marked bars, however, indicating the crooked priorities of the event’s sponsors as one alcoholic drink cost $8-19. Food prices were equally astronomical yet the quality was sub-par at best. There were even some reports of attendees feeling sick after eating corn dogs and tater tots. In addition to questionable quality, there was a severe lack of variety in the food vendors.
In between sets, there was no shortage of sponsors, free gifts, and contests for attendees to take advantage of. Hyundai, State Farm, and Bumble each had walk-through activities where patrons could win handheld fans, hats, and sunglasses among other things. The air conditioning was a welcome break as well since temperatures reached the high 80’s to low 90’s this weekend. While it would have been nice to have slightly better quality food and increased accessibility to water, the festival overall was a celebration of music that brought people from all walks of life together–as should be the ultimate goal of a festival.