Imagine Music Festival — back and better than ever

A raver soars above the crowd, backlit by the intense green lights emanating from the stage. At EDM festivals, concert-goers often dress up in cosplay or in themed outfits, with this attendee choosing to match the nature theme of the festival. // Photo courtesy of Kendrick Garza

Rolling hills of green, large open pastures and riding in school buses are all reminiscent of a field trip to a farm, but that scene was what Imagine Music Festival-goers were welcomed with this past weekend. After a lengthy two-year hiatus, the electronic dance music festival returned Sept. 15-18, with a new location and a whole new look. 

Imagine originally took place at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, but its new location was located just outside Rome, Ga. to allow for expanded space. This allowed for experiences like a silent disco, bigger campgrounds, games, vendors, new stage designs and much more. 

The headliners for the aquatic-themed event included artists such as Illenium, Kaskade and GRiZ. Other notable artists like Snakehips, Madeon and Porter Robinson were also in attendance. 

The theme for this year’s festival was “A New World,” and attendees were able to submerge themselves into the oceanic vibe. The sets were all designed to highlight a different part of nature, the largest being

“Oceania” with gigantic prop oysters holding peals high on top of the stage and an illuminated squid at the side. 

Other stages were equally as interesting with one having inflatable tentacles enveloping the whole area and another that was built to resemble the Amazon Rainforest. The festival in its entirety placed a heavy emphasis on nature and having Imaginers connect with their environment. 

The day started with an over hour-long drive from the Tech area to get to the location, but once there, guests were quickly guided to their respective parking areas and then directed to one of many school buses to get to the venue. 

As an adult, boarding a school bus with 30 other strangers brought back a feeling of youthful nostalgia along with anticipation to see what the day had in store. Chatter filled the bus with attendees complimenting each other’s extravagant outfits and excitedly discussing their plans on who they wanted to see. 

Upon exit from the vehicle and a quick pass through security, the energy shifted and it was clear that Imagine was truly a place for expression, fun and community. There was no one central theme when it came to attire as some guests were decked out in full cosplay, while others were in standard “rave” outfits but everyone looked like they were dressed to impress. 

The multiple stages were separated based on subgenre and style, with dubstep and more “hardcore” EDM occupying the largest venue. The other sets hosted other styles like house, which is a more instrumental disco sound, and other sets focused on trance, which features more synthesizers and an otherworldly feel. 

Festival-goers were free to “genre hop” to explore the different stages and listen to different artists. There was not a moment of silence, and once attendees left one stage, they were immediately met with more music as they moved across the huge outdoor space. 

As the sun slowly set, it was clear that the nightlife was where the festival truly shined as neon lights, lasers, fire canons and projections lit up the sky. People danced with light-up hula hoops and fans, while others carried huge poles covered in string lights, and it was common to see people with LED embedded gloves giving a show to other Imaginers. 

Subtronics, an American dubstep artist known for his bass sound, was a highly anticipated performance that took place at the Oceania stage. His set shook the entire venue and even those sitting on a hill at a distance could still feel the music.

That combined with incredible light and sound design, and the overall atmosphere of being packed in a crowd all vibrating at the same frequency, made it a truly unforgettable experience. 

Madeon’s set was another incredible set that felt like an out-of-body experience. It is often hard for EDM artists to be considered good performers as they are often behind their DJ deck, occasionally jumping to hype up the crowd. However, Madeon, a French DJ and music producer, is in every sense a performer. 

His specialty is house, which also incorporates video game-esque and electropop sounds.

His performance included incredible colorful visuals that followed a story alongside his music. It was a sight to behold as Madeon arched his back along with the crescendos and rose to the top of his toes as the music flowed out of him. 

Imagine Music Festival has something for everyone and the friendliness of the EDM community there made it a welcoming and enjoyable experience for veteran festival-goers and newbies alike. 

After two years of waiting, the festival was definitely worth the wait and will hopefully get even better next year.