The festival gods have been kind of messing with the good people of Atlanta, Ga., this year. The pranks started in May, when the inaugural Shaky Knees Festival turned into a concert hosted in the middle of a Tough Mudder race. So, too, did the sky open up during Atlanta’s signature festival, Music Midtown. But, the thing about those good people of Atlanta is, it didn’t dampen (no pun intended) their spirits one bit. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the two-day festival in Piedmont Park saw 100,000 people come through gates of the sold out event. Rain doesn’t break up a parade in the heart of the South, it makes the parade more fun. Also, 2 Chainz did 2 Chainz-y things, which is always the best.
Friday was actually kind of perfect. No rain, just sunshine and the aforementioned Tauheed Epps welcoming festival-goers to his hometown. Great American Songwriter 2 Chainz, full name, is today’s Jim Morrison, or something like that. “My wrist deserve a shout out, I’m like, ‘What up wrist?’ My stove deserve a shout out, I’m like, ‘What up stove?” Mr. Chainz tells the growing crowd during the opener to his new album, “Fork,” an ode to money and food and metaphors like that. It pairs nicely with his new cookbook. At one point he asks the park, “Anybody here got friends? If you got friends, put your phone in the air.” Lots of people seemed to have friends. 2 Chainz is a genius.
Los Angelinos, The Mowgli’s were up next, and they love telling people how much they love people and places and things. They’re basically the most positive influence in music since Bobby McFerrin. Hits like “Love Is Easy” and “Carry Your Will” had old and new fans alike falling in love with this band of a thousand faces and no heart was safe when the infectious “San Francisco” brought it home. Everyone hearts The Mowgli’s.
A sprint back to the main stage found everyone face to face with one of America-by-way-of-France’s best live acts, Phoenix. Phoenix has an innate ability to, not only perfectly recreate their sound in a live setting, but make the songs seem like they’re being heard for the first time, even though everyone knows the words to “1901.” Thomas Mars has the appearance of an out-of-work painter, but Mr. Coppola can command a crowd. From their early stuff to the perfection of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and on through their latest, Bankrupt!, Phoenix did what Phoenix does: Put on an amazing show.
Then Journey with that new frontman played. Many concert-goers walked away with the same kind of reaction: “Well, I guess I can say I saw Journey.”
Then came the rain and washed it all away.
As everyone was waking up, hungover or not, from day 1, ready to hit the park for day 2, Tropical Storm Midtown Atlanta hit. And, man, did it rain. That didn’t stop radio darlings The Neighbourhood from powering through the storm with their hit “Sweater Weather” or everyone’s first emo-love, Weezer, from making the drenched thousands repeat the words, “this way is a waterslide away from me that takes me further every day,” after them. Fitting. As the Arctic Monkeys took the stage, everyone had completely forgotten that it was raining and just felt every moment. This can be attributed to hypothermia or the Arctic Monkeys being exceptionally good at music.
Top 40-stalwarts, Imagine Dragons, and indie-stalwarts, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, played until the rain stopped, but not until it had turned one of Atlanta’s crowning jewels into something that resembled the La Brea Tar Pits.
But it was ok… Kendrick was coming.
Kendrick Lamar came and, like most times when Kendrick does things, he conquered. One of the best live acts hip-hop has ever produced, Compton’s first son took the Third Coast on a ride back to Cali with “Backseat Freestyle,” “The Art of Peer Pressure,” and a slew of more hits from good kid, m.A.A.d city and Section.80. But, there’s always one stand out at a Kendrick show: “m.A.A.d city.” It’s possibly the best live song that exists in music today. The chant. The drop. The “YAWK! YAWK! YAWK!” It doesn’t matter whether you’re white, black, red, blue, green, Jewish, Christian, from Cali or from Chicago… you lose your damn mind when that beat drops. It’s perfect. “m.A.A.d city” live is perfection and there will be no further discussion.
Wrapping up Music Midtown, as a rainy day turned into a perfect Southern night, amidst the muddy terrain, was the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One might forget just how many hits the Chili Peppers have until you hear them back to back to back to back… for two hours. Until you see Flea and Anthony running around the stage at half a decade with shirts off, revealing the bodies of 19 year old college athletes with perfect metabolisms. The band that inspired so much of today’s rock ‘n’ roll acts still hold up in a live setting… well, more than hold up. They basically rock harder than most of those they inspired. From “Under The Bridge” to “Californication” RHCP reminded everyone why they are, in fact, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Back for the third year after an extended hiatus, Music Midtown was a glorious two days of music in the most amazing of settings. In the shadows of the skyline of Midtown Atlanta, many bands came and went. And the festival left its mark on the city, again. Hopefully, for many more years to come. Atlanta does festivals right. Plus, it gave the world Great American Songwriter 2 Chainz.
Click here for more images from Music Midtown 2013 shot by Brittney Proper