Is Atlanta’s Music Midtown worth it?
Kid Rock blew my mind live. I don’t even like his music and his electricity onstage zapped me into reconsidering. But wait. Legendary crooner Tony Bennett is playing live across the park in just a few minutes. Let me run over there. Music Midtown Festival circa 2002…Atlanta’s greatest showcase of a colorful mix of musicians, old and new, big and small, is back for a second year after a five year hiatus and um, it’s really different.
I was an Atlanta visitor the first time I went to the Music Midtown festival in 1999. Desperate to get Rick Springfield to notice me from the 96rock stage (R.I.P. 96rock), I wore my green sequined tank top and I shoved my way through the throngs of homely thirty-something ladies rushing towards the stage. He definitely noticed. Anyway, after spending three days stumbling on performances from Salt n’ Pepa, Sponge, and avoiding random piles of drunken puke, I thought I had discovered the eighth wonder of the world. Most of the acts would NEVER get a dime from me to see them live on their own, but I had never felt more open to experience all these types of music at once. Six stages, all sponsored by a different radio station – with every genre of music represented. This was mecca.
I moved to Atlanta the next year. And don’t think Music Midtown wasn’t part of my decision to move. Over the years, I had discovered Susan Tedeschi live, witnessed No Doubt up close on the 99x stage (R.I.P 99x), Earth, Wind, & Fire, Peter Frampton, and this little up-and-coming band Destiny’s Child trying to be discovered on a tiny stage.
The reality is that Music Midtown debuted in Atlanta in 1994 as the brain child of music impresarios Peter Conlon and Alex Cooley, starting out with three stages over two days during one weekend a year. It grew to three days and six stages with peak attendance at 300,000 people. Tremendous local radio supported and sponsored this event until it finally came to a close in 2005 due to declining attendance and mounting costs.
Resurrected six years later in 2011, it went to a one-day event headlined by Coldplay powered by Live Nation with no radio sponsorship (wait – does Atlanta still have radio stations? R.I.P. Dave FM, Project 96.1, 99x – Fall 2012). The all white alternative acts of last year seemed to be missing a lot of the magic that made Music Midtown so great. In 2012 and coming up this weekend, Music Midtown has expanded to two stages over two days with 15 acts and has 22 corporate sponsors.
I’m not going. Headlined by the Foo Fighters on Friday and Pearl Jam on Saturday at my beloved Piedmont Park, I just can’t bring myself to spend $150 a pop for bands that frankly, aren’t as widely diverse as I would like. I actually would LOVE to see Pearl Jam and the Foos live – but the supporting acts are Neon Trees, Joan Jett, Garbage, Avett Brothers (who I’ve seen before), Ludacris, Florence & the Machine, and a few others. When did I become so apathetic about music?
Although I’m glad they threw in Luda to an otherwise white “alternative” line-up, I want a true potpourri of mind-blowing musical acts – big and small, legends and upstarts. My hope is that this event will grow back into the compelling event it once was – but with the rapid death of so many radio stations in Atlanta, the booking needs to shift and have a broader appeal. Although the 2-day festival currently has general admission tickets still available (although there are other alternatives through StubHub or Craigslist), there are VIP tickets available for $527 each…and it looks like a victory for Live Nation. But Allison Hare loses. 🙁