Music Midtown attracts big names, bigger crowds


CW / Austin Bigoney

Kyle Ashley, Staff Writer

The Peach City welcomed thousands of sweaty music fans into Piedmont Park this weekend for its annual Music Midtown, motivating more than a few UA students to trek across the state line.

Beer, sweat, tears and puke abounded as festival-goers marched through the grass at Piedmont Park this weekend. Without massive stages and an unusual number of camelbacks, it could’ve been mistaken for a tailgate. But alas, there wasn’t a football in sight.

Music lovers flocked by the thousands to Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend for the city’s 19th annual Music Midtown. The festival took place over Saturday and Sunday to the delight of many, even some who didn’t purchase tickets. The 15th Street entrance was packed with Atlantans listening to the acts playing at the Salesforce Stage, which was visible from outside the gates.

Split across four stages and two days, this year’s festival boasted musicians from all over the musical spectrum, from the established pop-rock giants of Panic! At the Disco to the newly famous Billie Eilish. With accomplished folk musicians Lord Huron and one of rap music’s biggest names at the moment, Travis Scott, Music Midtown had sounds for all sorts of musical tastes.

Lizzo, a freshly minted Billboard No. 1 artist who also played the festival in 2017, returned to the stage with The Big Grrrls, her small fleet of dancers, and DJ Sophia Eris. The genre-bending rapper/singer/flutist reached across albums to create her latest Atlanta setlist, finishing with a bang as she played “Truth Hurts,” her Billboard Hot 100 debut, and “Juice.”

“Seeing Lizzo was really cool,” Cassidy Brown, a sophomore majoring in biology, said. “She really put on a show and didn’t just sing like some of the other people, but actually danced.”

Lizzo preached about body positivity, keeping it real and loving yourself, all while twerking, belting and rocking the flute for the thousands of fans who were huddled around the Roxy stage – a stage that also saw the performer’s “Hustlers” co-star Cardi B command the crowd later that night.

As Lizzo made her sophomore appearance, two newcomers to the festival were excited to be making a foray into the big leagues. But GOLDSPACE and Good Company, two Boston-based groups, didn’t come to play the festival in a conventional way.

“We basically kinda won a contest,” Maia Quin, of GOLDSPACE, said. “Basically everybody – hundreds of acts – apply, and we got picked.”

The bands were winners of a contest held by Berklee College of Music, their alma mater. From the hundreds of applicants, a select few are tapped to perform at various major festivals during the summer, from Atlanta’s Midtown, to New York’s Governor’s Ball and Chicago’s Lollapalooza. The musicians were subjected to rounds of interviews and performances. At times it was exhausting.

“It was a process,” Trey Kams, the producer behind Good Company, said. “[It lasted] a couple of months.”

Music wasn’t the only attraction at Midtown. Dozens of vendors lined the festival grounds, providing a wide array of food and drink. Event sponsors also participated in the fun. Among the highlights were the Mountain Dew tents, where you could watch a live stream of the festival while enjoying complimentary soda; Bumble’s “festie” finder, where you were matched with a new festival-friend using Bumble BFF; and various lounges sprinkled around the park hosted by the likes of State Farm and Jack Daniel’s. 

The most distinguished landmark of the event was the colorful, lit-up ferris wheel. Doubling as a background prop in attendees’ Instagram photos and a fun in-between-show activity,  festival-goers who wanted a bird’s-eye view of the event could purchase tickets to ride on the wheel.

“I definitely want to ride the ferris wheel today,” Olivia Mortimer, a sophomore majoring in nursing, said. “It’s so pretty. The skyline is so beautiful. The view is so cool, you can see every stage.”

For those who preferred additional amenities, Music Midtown offered two different levels of VIP tickets. The standard VIP, costing $600, and the Super VIP, costing $1250, both grant some level of an open bar and access to air-conditioned rooms.

While fans braved the stifling heat to support their favorite performers, such a luxury would have been welcomed. Piedmont Park’s wooded terrain provided only a slight reprieve from the heat, which reached highs of 84 and 93 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

But high temperatures couldn’t extinguish the excitement of UA students who made the trek from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta, a roughly 200-mile and three-hour-long journey.

“It’s hot, but like we [go to school in] Alabama, and we’re already from Georgia,” said Brown. ”We’ve run into some rude people, but it’s fine.”

And despite the negatives, Music Midtown’s star-studded lineup made up for any inconvenience suffered throughout the day. When the biggest names came out to play, the sun had already set, making for a near-perfect environment to cap off the day. 

Panic! At the Disco and Cardi B closed out Saturday’s lineup, and Vampire Weekend and Travis Scott closed out Sunday. All four of the closing sets were unique in their complexity, featuring larger supporting casts, pyrotechnics and massive crowds of fans.

“After [seeing Lil Yachty], we went and saw Panic! at the Disco, and [Brendan Urie] was so good,” Mortimer said.

Back at what Lizzo deemed the “Hustlers” stage earlier in the day, Cardi B closed down the Saturday lineup with a hot-pink bodysuit that was dripping with flashy, reflective fringes.

“Cardi is the best set I’ve seen so far, ” Brown said. “She also really put on a show, but she had cool background screens on, and her dancers were really into it. She didn’t just sing but talked, too.”

Assistant Culture Editor Leah Goggins and Culture Editor Meghan Mitchell contributed reporting to this article.