Photo by Casey Gomez

I love live music. I frequent the Tabernacle, Masquerade, Center Stage and Buckhead Theatre. I was pretty excited when Music Midtown released their lineup for this past weekend, with artists like Broods, Two Door Cinema Club, blink-182 and Weezer. Over three dozen bands performed on Saturday and Sunday, and I was looking forward to seeing over half of them. I bought my tickets the week after they went on sale.

While I was prepared for the music (armed with sunscreen and a reusable water bottle), I was not prepared for the people.

Though the crowds provide a lot of good people-watching, they do not provide the best experiences. Over 70,000 people crammed themselves into Piedmont Park this past weekend.

I understand that not everyone is there to see the same bands that I am there to see. Many simply want exposure to more music and to enjoy the festival experience with their friends. That being said, it frustrates me to be in an area surrounded by people who do not appear to be focused on
the performers.

For one, there is the person who steps in front of me to take a picture of their friends in the crowd. The Instagram picture will look just as good taken farther away from the tightly packed people. You will have still spent just as long precisely applying glitter to your face, making your space buns symmetrical and dressing in the flawless Coachella-esque attire. I will not fault you for leaving the crowd to get the perfect snapshot. I will, however, be upset when you push me over in order to get your photo. People are very hard to see through and part of being at a festival is seeing the performances.

Regarding the person who ignores all of the songs they do not know: I’m glad you left after the song that has been getting radio play. But I could have done without the off-key screaming to the band’s cover of “Mr. Brightside.” It is really hard for me to get into the music when you are talking to your friends and trying to plan which food truck to go grab a bite to eat at after the set.

To the person who throws their trash on the ground: you do realize someone has to pick that up later right? Every cigarette butt and every beer can need to find their way to a trash can eventually — why do you think someone else should clean up after you? Piedmont Park is a pretty clean place and there is no reason to actively contribute to dirtying it. Watch where you throw things and if it is trash, make sure it finds its way into a trash can.

For the person who picks up their friend, please just do not do that. When you surprise your best friend and pick them up, they will likely react unexpectedly and someone can get hit in the head. Also putting someone on your shoulders obstructs the view of all of the people around you.

Finally, for all of those people aggressively drinking and/or vaping: know your limits and do not be an a**hole. Do not spill your drink on me and do not blow smoke in my face. Also it is hot and humid and if you are drinking or smoking on an empty stomach you can run into some serious health problems. There are too many people at music festivals who need medical attention because they do not know when to stop or slow down. Do not be
that person.

I guess in the end, my biggest problem with festivals (aside from the heat and humidity) is that I feel like the other people there are not as invested in the music as I am. I have seen over a hundred different bands perform live and my favorite shows are always the smaller, more intimate ones. I like live music because I like to feel a connection with the performer and with the rest of the audience. To me, it is about the performer giving it all they have got and the crowd being right there with them. This requires more familiarity with the music, something large music festivals lack. Festivals are better for exposure for musicians, but on the whole I feel they are worse for the fans.

I will continue to go to festivals. I have been to Music Midtown three times now, Bonnaroo twice, and Shaky Knees once. I will enjoy people-watching and the music. But for the most part, I will not enjoy the people.

  • Growing up in New Orleans I have always found Music Midtown to be a bit of a disappointment. You should check out French Quarter Fest, I think you will find what you are looking for there. Closer to GT, some of the smaller festivals, like the Virginia Highlands Festival, can be really fun.