Guitars reign supreme at Midtown

Photo by Tyler Meuter

Early last weekend, Sept. 18 and Sept. 19, Piedmont Park was flooded by thousands of music enthusiasts eager to see their favorite bands perform. Returning for its 17th (non-consecutive) year, Music Midtown graced Atlanta with four separate stages featuring various genres throughout both nights of the massive music festival.

As in the past, where the festival featured such big name musicians as Joan Jett, Journey and Imagine Dragons, this year’s lineup included classic artists like Van Halen, Elton John and Lenny Kravitz. Of course, a music festival would be remiss if it were not also a venue for lesser-known bands and those who are currently gaining popularity. This year’s openers included Vinyl Theatre, X Ambassadors and Augusta Alsina, whose musical careers are each less than a decade long.

With the undeniable attraction of the musicians, Music Midtown could easily have simply let fans watch the various stages, but the festival opted for a more stimulating experience: offering food, drinks and alcohol. While there were signs posted at the entrance expressly prohibiting smoking, these were ignored by many attendees, and the policy was not visibly enforced.

This made the offered food less than appetizing since it was difficult to get far enough away from smokers to enjoy the untainted taste of funnel cake, falafel, burritos and ever-present pizza. Those who could ignore the smoke, though seemed to enjoy the slightly overpriced (admittedly, not by festival standards) sustenance. The other attraction of the festival was an ill-frequented Ferris wheel situated on the top of a hill, which overlooked the largest clearing that hosted two of the festival’s stages.

These attractions aside, the main scheduling of Music Midtown was, for the most part, well thought out. There were four stages, two on one end of Piedmont Park, and two on the other end of the park. Logically, each musician was assigned a time slot on a certain stage, but since two stages were in the same vicinity, the shows were staggered so that only one artist would be playing at once, preventing sound bleeding between the stages.

Staggering the performances between the two stages allowed for crews to setup and clear away the various artists’ stage adornments between shows. It also allowed the festival goers to congregate before their artist’s show without getting in the way of the previous performance.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Music Midtown was the trash clean up. On Friday night, the lawns were littered with massive amounts of bottles and various other refuse, but come festival time on Saturday, the park was relatively clean again, allowing obliging attendees to recreate the devastated wasteland.

Of course, Music Midtown was far more than catering and cleaning. The venue was merely an aside to the draw of the musicians. Each artist was a show of itself. While many, including Alice in Chains, fully embraced the lighting of their stages, blinding attendees at times, others opted for less flashy shows.

Elliot Moss was one such musician; since he played during daylight hours, he was able to effectively bring character to his stage with fog, tinting it various colors based on the mood of his current song. The fog and repetitive lyrics complemented Moss’s half-hearted drum beating and his bearing, which suggested that he might pass out at any point during his performance of “Best Light.”

This rather insulting description would be indicative of a horrible performance for most musicians, but somehow, Moss managed to pull off the nearly collapsing manner, and his small audience was thrilled by each song the new musician exhaustedly performed.

Moss’s early Friday performance was a stark contrast to the polished performance of Van Halen, the closing act of the entire music festival. While David Lee Roth, the band’s original singer graced the stage with his energetic performance, the eager audience packed every available space in the vicinity.

Though it is undeniable that the band gave an impressive performance last weekend, the fact remains that David Lee Roth tended to get sidetracked. During several of his songs, the lyrics took a back seat to his random musings, and at one point, he played the harmonica and acoustic guitar while relating a lengthy tale involving Japan, fireflies and some other odd threads of thought.

The audience did not seem to mind these tangents, happy to just be hearing Van Halen live, and most stayed for the finale which was one of their most iconic pieces “Jump,” the final song of Music Midtown until next year’s far off festival.