This past weekend, music-lovers from across the southeast converged onto Atlanta’s paradise known as Piedmont Park. Twenty-four musicians and bands met the crowds of thousands of people to send summer off with a bang, and each one brought something unique to the culture at the festival. To help me with the recap of this weekend, I have invited my dear friend and fellow BGS’er, Bennett Garland, to offer his thoughts on Music Midtown. Join us as we delve into the nitty-gritty that is musical opinion (read: musical snobbiness).
First, let’s just get this out of the way. When I pay $150 to attend a music festival, I intend to make good use of that well-spent money by catching as many musicians as humanly possible. That being said, I visited fourteen different bands during the two-day festival, which is quite the feat, as I made it a point to enjoy my time at each one. Bennett and I tried to make it a to be as close to the stages as possible for our favorite bands, as we wanted the full experience of seeing those musicians live. I spent countless hours on Spotify studying the portfolio of each musician I planned to see, and that was more than likely the reason I enjoyed the festival so much.
Bennett, how much did you prepare for Music Midtown, and how did your expectations stack up to reality?
BG: David, thanks for having me. The weekend was absolutely phenomenal, and I had an amazing time seeing some of my favorite bands, being convinced how remarkable other acts are, and watching white girls pretend to be flower-children for the weekend.
My preparation was pretty relaxed. The day that the lineup was announced, I made a couple of playlists – one that contained the artists’ most popular songs and another for the bands’ most recent releases and some of my personal favorites for each group. Needless to say, my Spotify #brand has been slaying as of late, but that is irrelevant. Between these two playlists, I was able to get a good sense of who I really wanted to see, and who would be time-killers between other concerts. I know you spent a lot of time looking at what set lists they were using lately, which is way more in depth that I ever hoped to go.
A big reason I did not spend tons of effort in preparation is that I already had a good idea of the acts I wanted to see weeks in advance. Some of my favorite bands were at this festival, and missing them would have been unacceptable. I did a post earlier this summer on who would be at Music Midtown
and the acts for which I was most excited. This being the first legitimate music festival I have ever attended, I was stunned by the sheer efficiency of the event. Things ran like a well-oiled machine, and that made the experience all the more enjoyable. I had an amazing time, and I’m ready to get my hands dirty with some good ole BGS analysizing.
DD: Like you, I had a pretty good idea of who all I wanted to see before the festival, but I really wanted to make sure that I knew the majority of the songs that were going to be performed. It makes it just a more enjoyable experience. So, with the above stated, I’d love to dig down deep to discuss what the best acts of 2014 were, and what the more disappointing acts were.
I think the best way to do it would be to divide it by day, and we can reveal our top three favorites at the end. Let me preface this by saying that I was not able to see every single band/musician that I intended to, as I missed seeing Banks perform, but I feel like I hit all the other ones I was passionate about. By the end of Friday, I was on a high, and this was not due to all the weed present (quantity: substantial). I was able to be front row for Iggy Azalea (eh), I saw Lorde rock my socks off, and I was coaxed into utter bliss by John Mayer’s wonderful guitar hands.
Ron Pope started the day off with a bang. While I didn’t know a decent amount of the songs he played, I was able to to sing along to his more popular songs, namely “Drop In The Ocean.” Little did I know, this man is from Atlanta, and he put on a great show. I was moderately surprised by the style in which he played on stage, as his produced music sounds much more acoustic, but it was a great show, nonetheless. I stayed on the AT&T Stage to see Bear Hands perform, and they were alright. I knew a lot of Bear Hands going into the day, but it was so difficult to sing along to some of the songs because it felt like the vocals were a bit soft. I was also going through partial freak-outs because I was missing Banks perform, but that’s besides the point. Bear Hands performed adequately, and that’s it. There was fruit for my labor, however, as I had made my way to the front row for Iggy’s performance because she was playing on the same stage.
I will have you know that I adore Iggy’s music, so I was jazzed to watch her perform, and perform she did. But what else did she really do? Yes, the crowd lit up when “Fancy” and “Black Widow” made their appearances, and the surprise T.I. showing was cool, but I was underwhelmed by the rapper from down under. The bass was overpowering ninety percent of the vocals, so the crowd could only watch Iggy shake what her momma [didn’t] give her (*cough cough* not a real posterior *cough cough*) and hope to be singing along with her on stage. But it’s okay. After her performance, a friend and I sprinted to watch Lorde, AKA Queen Lorde, AKA
bae (Editor’s Note: Nope), perform. Wow. Wow wow wow. She really did outperform every other female artist at Music Midtown, including the overrated Lana (please put away the pitchforks). While I missed her first song, I was able to revel in all that was “Ribs,” “Bravado,” and “A World Alone,” which were all spectacularly done. Each song became progressively better. And her stage presence was fantastic. She was criticized for these moves while on tour, but sometimes, you just gotta be crazy while singing your favorite songs, and that’s what she did. I love her.
And now, for the most controversial part of this post: I saw John Mayer over Jack White. Yes, Jack White is the 70th best guitarist in Rolling Stones magazine. Yes, I love The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. But I could not go see Jack White knowing that I had never seen John Mayer perform. I felt as if I would not enjoy Jack White as much as I enjoyed John Mayer because I felt like Jack White’s music was for such a niche audience. He’s weird and zany, and I love those qualities in music, but I really did not know his
kind of weird and zany. I knew much more John Mayer going into the evening, and while I did not know much of his “Paradise Valley,” I enjoyed every song he played, even those that I did not know. I don’t think I could have said the same if I saw Jack White. By the end of the evening, I was floored by Mayer’s performance, which puts him on my top three. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, how was your Friday at Music Midtown, Bennett?
BG: So, I don’t have too much to add here. We stayed together for most of the day until you split off for Lorde, and I stayed at the AT&T stage, so that I could get as close as possible for Jack White. Your sentiments about Ron Pope and Bear Hands are exactly how I felt. Iggy was somewhat enjoyable, just because she did Murda Business, which is all I wanted from her. However, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly Jack White. It was a very different crowd from the other three bands that I saw that day, and that was very refreshing. White put on one of the best shows that Music Midtown had to offer in my opinion. He played almost all of Lazaretto, while having time to play some White Stripes classics, and Steady as She Goes. His show was just remarkable, and I am so glad that I stayed to watch it. Being knee deep in some of his die-hard fans was amazing, and there is no question in my mind why they love him so much. Jack White’s interaction and obvious love for his fans was amazing, and made for an amazing show.
Now, for Saturday. This day was hectic for the both of us, as we saw parts of, if not the entire shows of Magic Man, The Strypes, Twenty One Pilots, Needtobreathe, Fitz and the Tantrums, Lana del Rey, Bastille, Eminem, and Zac Brown Band. Clearly, our day was packed, but we heard some amazing music. Magic Man and The Strypes were the two bands that I probably knew the least about coming into Music Midtown. Both of them put on really fun shows, and I loved both, despite their very different sound.
Despite how amazing the Strypes were though, I went to the Honda Stage only to set myself up for a good spot for Twenty One Pilots, and I am still reeling from this show, so excuse my typical fanboy self. I don’t even know where to start with this band. The best way I know to describe this show is that it was one of the biggest crowds I saw the entire weekend, and it was an early afternoon show. I had heard that they put on the best show that you could ever see, and this lived up to the hype one hundred percent. Between crowd surfing a drum set, climbing the scaffolding of the stage, covering Bugatti on a ukelele, this was the most entertaining hour of the weekend by far. They closed the show with the words, “We are Twenty One Pilots, and so are you,” and that succinctly describes just how much they love what they do, and care about their fan base. It was amazing.
From there, we went to Needtobreathe, and these two back to back was simply perfection. I opted to sit back near the back for this concert, as TOP sufficiently exhausted me. And, it was the perfect way to enjoy the concert. They played a surprising mix of new and old, and it was a dream come true to see them again.
Fitz and the Tantrums was a party, which was a big contrast to the ten minutes of Lana I saw. Maybe I was too far away, but it was snoozeville from the very beginning for me. So, we went and got amazing spots for Bastille. I was big on the Bastille train earlier this summer, burned out, and hadn’t listened to them frequently for some time. However, they sang all of their best stuff, along with some new, and a cover of TLC classic “No Scrubs” (cue Other Guys reference). Their light show was stunning, and his British accented thank-you-so-much after every song was humorous.
We watched a little bit of Eminem, but the mix of my ignorance of most of his material and shear exhaustion led us to the perfect ending to the day. Sitting on the hill and listening to ZBB do what they do best was so relaxing. People who know me know I am not the biggest country fan (thanks for beating that dead horse, Rome, GA), but man does Zac Brown know how to get me going. We were far enough away to talk to each other, but the quality was not diminished in the slightest. Great end to a great day. How did you feel about Saturday, David?
DD: Twenty. One. Pilots. That’s how I felt about Saturday. Despite our differences in opinion between Jack White and John Mayer, I know that we both agree that Twenty One Pilots put on the best show out there. From “Guns For Hands” to the glorious final ending of “Trees,” Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun performed their hearts out, and I could not be happier. Tyler, the pianist and singer, climbed on top of the stage (note: up the railing to the display sign) to finish up “Car Radio.” How could anyone beat that performance? Well, the answer is quite plain. They absolutely couldn’t.
But I know that there were other performances besides the dynamic duo. I, too, rather enjoyed Bastille’s show. Their lights were entertaining, and I knew three-quarters of the songs they played, so it was an enjoyable experience. Magic Man has been someone I’ve been listening to since before the line-up was announced (hold on; let me adjust my trendy glasses so I can look more hipster than you), so I was happy to be able to see them live. Lana? [on soapbox] Meh. This is another one that is somewhat controversial. I really just think all of her songs sound the same, and her voice is somewhat monotone. Call me crazy, but I think she’s overrated. I think a great musician has dynamic qualities, and I’m sure that she is able to perform and sing dynamically. She certainly didn’t show it. That’s one reason I love Twenty One Pilots so much. They’re dynamic. The listener can go from a song like “House of Gold” to “Holding On To You,” which are very different styles of song, and it’s from the same band. [off soapbox] I feel as if you covered the other main points I wanted to bring up, so kudos. Zac Brown Band was a fantastic end to the night. We were all exhausted, and I could not think of a better way than just sitting down and listening to some ZBB classics, as well as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Enter Sandman” covers.
Reflecting on the past weekend, I’m glad to say that I went to Music Midtown. It was exhausting, expensive, and a tad dirty, but we all had a great time. I think my top three is as follows. It made sense for me, and if I get the chance to see any of the three below again, I will hop on that opportunity.
David’s Top Three
- Twenty One Pilots
- Lorde [
bae (Editor’s note: Still nope)]
- John Mayer
What about you, Bennett?
Bennett’s Top Three
- Twenty One Pilots
- Jack White
All three have very different sounds, but they put on shows that I will remember for a long time. If any of these three come back to Atlanta any time soon, I will be getting tickets because I would love to hear each of them in an indoors venue, as well. Music Midtown was a phenomenal weekend, and I enjoyed reliving it with you, David. Thanks for having me on!
DD: And with that, we will bid all our readers, “Adieu.” Thanks for keeping up with this long and bumpy ride, but we wanted to get our thoughts out to you concerning one of the most memorable weekends of our college days.