Aquatic-themed ‘Imagine’ grows without pains

Photo by Nikita Peker

The pavement at Atlanta Motor Speedway lead to the stage at Imagine’s 2017 “Underwater” festival. The same track that racecars usually breeze through housed a collection of stages, food trucks, street shops and more.

Now completing its fourth year, Imagine fell into its stride as an authentic EDM festival by bringing a collection of accomplished artists and good quality production to the stage.

Imagine’s camping grounds are a newer addition to the festival and have helped to bridge Imagine to its iconic peers like TomorrowWorld and EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival). The number of festival attendees was overwhelming, and the camping grounds were decorated with the neon tops of camping tents.

Water refill stations were accessible at all areas of the speedway, and the range in stage sizes allowed fans to appreciate a more personal vibe with some of the smaller DJs. As for the large
stages, the number of speakers and the sound they produced was breathtaking.

Flames adorned one artist as the ceiling of the stage was lit on fire. All around the festival were shaded domes, seating areas and shops. The collection of vendors was large, and the ten to fifteen food trucks that attended the festival offered a wide variety of foods at acceptable prices.

Imagine was split into three days, each featuring more than a few noteworthy artists. Perhaps the biggest name on Friday was Tiesto. Known for heavy, industrial beats, he truly delivered his performance as a masterpiece on the Oceania stage. Friday also featured a crowd favorite, NGHTMRE. NGHTMRE looks to blend EDM with some trap elements. His set featured “Mask-off” and the classic favorite “Lamborghini Mercy.”

A unique addition to Imagine is the camping grounds’ silent disco. Although one must have a camping pass to attend, the silent disco is now a tradition of Imagine that begins at 3 a.m. on Friday night. Saturday’s set did not begin until around 6 p.m., so much of the festival kept its energy up throughout the night.

Saturday was the centerpiece of the entire festival. Most of the crowd arrived around sundown to attend some EDM big-hitter sets. Zomboy and Flux Pavilion are familiar names to a lot of listeners, so their sets brought out the largest crowds.

After 6 p.m., the quality of the artists became so consistent that migrating to other stages became unnecessary. Still, choosing between two acts on competing stages can be hard.

The closing set was Imagine’s most adored musician, Deadmau5. At the same time as Deadmau5’s performance, Pretty Lights performed on the Amazonia stage.

For a festival that features a lot of artists that bring new sounds and blends to the genre, Deadmau5’s blackout performance brought the audience back to where EDM came from. Heavily influenced by house music and the dubstep wave, Deadmau5 provided the authenticity of Imagine.

Pretty Lights brought a fresh, groovy feel to the stage with the use of live instruments. After a couple hours, all listeners seemed as if they were in a trance, content with the quality of the artists and their production.

In terms of production as a music festival, Imagine successfully executed its growing event. The festival now operates in a bigger league: with each successive year, Imagine increases in following. The venue switched from the Masquerade to the Speedway last year to accommodate larger crowds. With the newer site, Imagine management were on their toes to maintain safety.

At one performance Friday night, an excitable crowd rattled and broke down the barrier that separated them from the artist. After a night of a crowd gone slightly wild, the barriers were reinforced to take another beating on Saturday.

Water carriers stood on the sides of the stage and encouraged everyone to stay hydrated by providing water. The garages that usually house racecars overnight became homes of VIP suites, containing dancers on stilts and decorated by neon lighting.

In the middle of the area open to the public was a pool filled with floating orbs. Shirtless fans flopped belly first into the two-feet deep pool, and everyone attending was having the time of their lives.

The speedway at night was a different environment entirely. In accordance with the underwater theme, blue lights illuminated the grounds and stage. As the night progressed, crowds aggregated at the larger stages, and as the set list progressed, the volume from each stage increased with it. At the end of the night, the speedway became the loudest it has ever been as it dove once again into the silent disco — an ironic silence.

Sunday concluded the festival with the last performances at 8 p.m. featuring Seven Lions, Big Gigantic and Above and Beyond. As the campers collected their belongings and returned to reality, the speedway returned to normal. The tarmac is now a simple black instead of the blue of Imagine until next year.