It’s that time of year again, and America’s best-kept festival secret returns to Piedmont Park in Atlanta, GA this weekend with the third installment of (the new and improved) Music Midtown.
Returning from a six-year hiatus in 2011, Music Midtown has steadily grown over the past three years into one of the premiere festival events in the Southeast. From the Black Keys and Coldplay in ’11, to the Foo Fighters, Avett Brothers, Florence + the Machine, and (America’s greatest rock and roll treasure) Pearl Jam last year, Music Midtown is rapidly gaining momentum. This year, the festival returns to the heart of Atlanta with an additional stage, additional acts, and the promise of yet another unforgettable weekend.
Which is why it’s a good thing you’re here, because I’d hate to see you doing it wrong. What follows is your unofficial, but unquestionably authoritative guide to the festivities (and schedule) this weekend. Stick with me today, thank me tomorrow.
North Mississippi All-Stars
Southern blues-rockers and Grammy nominees NMAS will get things started Friday afternoon at 4:15 with what promises to be a rollicking 45 minute set. Fast, loose, and incredibly fun, the boys from Mississippi (duh) are sure to fire one hell of an opening salvo. Expect plenty from their new album World Boogie is Coming, along with past favorites such as “Po’ Black Maddie” and “Shake ‘Em On Down.” Keep an eye out for the underrated “Hear the Hills.”
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’
Atlanta’s own since ’86, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ blend roots rock with a post-punk, alternative style bred out of their late 80’s/early 90’s heydey. Big guitars, heavy riffs, with the occasional folkier ballad thrown in for good measure, DnC is sure to provide Atlanta natives and Midtown visitors alike with an enjoyable ride on Friday afternoon. Whether or not it can live up to the video below however, remains to be seen…
The Artist Who Should Have Never Changed His Name From Tity Boi takes the Great Southeast Music Hall Stage at 5:15 on Friday afternoon. Actually, I’m predicting he won’t personally take the stage until closer to 5:47, but when he does I have it on absolutely no authority whatsoever that he’ll do so to recent hit “Feds Watching.” Over/under on times he tells the crowd to put their blunts in the air is set at 7. Also, expect a Jermaine Dupri/TI/Luda sighting or ask for your money back.
The indie-pop darlings of the summer travel east to Piedmont Park in support of their sophomore album Waiting for the Dawn. With an hour-long set kicking off at 5:45 on the smaller Roxy Stage, tracks like “San Francisco” and “The Great Divide” will serve nicely as a soundtrack for the sunset, and perhaps more importantly as a precursor to the can’t-miss show of the evening…
Now normally I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly fond of the French, but after their incredible headlining set at Lollapalooza last month, I feel it’s my faux-journalistic duty to tell you not to miss a minute of Phoenix’s appearance on the Electric Ballroom Stage at 6:15 on Friday. Do NOT be late. If you haven’t stood in Piedmont Park with the sun going down over Atlanta before now, do so now. I’ve got a feeling it’s even better to “1901” and “Lisztomania.” Fingers crossed Kels pops up…
No disrespect intended, but the night gets a little weaker from here on out… As for Jane’s Addiction, it’s the mostly-original lineup (Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins), and they’ll definitely bring a lot of noise, if not “the noise” itself. Jane’s set runs concurrently with Cake’s so uh, maybe hit the bar for an hour?
The festival promoters seem to have been going for a mid-90’s nostalgic theme (Jane’s, Cake, Weezer, RHCP) this year, which is sure to delight many fans, annoy several, and mostly likely provide for a largely and ubiquitously enjoyable experience for most. Cake is sure to carry that banner proudly on the Roxy Stage, spinning out their geek rock opposite Jane’s Addition’s more thrashing set across the park.
A singalong to rival the pride of Virginia Highlands 10 High (a live-band karaoke bar a 10 min walk from MM), Journey is likely to have nearly 100,000 people feeling a little younger during their headlining set on Friday. A word to the indifferent and those living under a rock… Steve Perry, the long-time frontman of Journey when they were actually destroying the rock world has been mostly recently replaced by Arniel Pineda, a Filipino singer-songwriter that Journey discovered on YouTube in 2007. True story.
Worth an early 12:45 arrival on Saturday. The indie rock quartet from Nashville (by way of Dayton, OH) are loud, unapologetic, melodic, and a savvy choice to kick things off for the second day of Music Midtown. Critically acclaimed since they burst onto the scene in 2012, they’re on tour in support of Torches and Pitchforks, their second album released earlier this year.
Genre-defying LA natives The Neighbourhood seem to be enjoying a breakneck ascent into the pop music consciousness of late. With their first full album in tow (I Love You), the group looks to build off the success of their 2012 I’m Sorry EP and its hit single “Sweater Weather”. I wouldn’t recommend leaving Mona early, but those catching the end of The Neighbourhood’s run on the Electric Ballroom Stage won’t be upset they did.
In the interest of being overly simplistic Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Jack White had a lovechild. They abandoned it in a wicker basket in a Saskatchewan river where it made its way by the force of the current and divine providence to Seattle. There it plays the drums and guitar. AT THE SAME DAMN TIME. Look. Just be at the Great Southeast Music Stage at 1:45 for the second coming of General Tecumseh Sherman.
More LA-based indie-pop, Capital Cities is a duo comprised of Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian. Odds are, you’ve heard their single “Safe and Sound,” as it charted at #1 on the alternative charts last year. Not to be curt, but I told you I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Capital Cities set overlaps with Reignwolf and Weezer. Your call.
Needing no introduction or explanation, let’s just hope that they play their eponymous debut album cover to cover. On the Electric Ballroom Stage, 2:30-3:30.
The Black Lips
The self-described “flower-punk” band from Atlanta takes the Great Southeast Music Hall Stage at 3:30, and could be the first really big crowd of the day. I wouldn’t recommend camping out for a front-row spot though… They’ve been known to get naked, puke, piss, and set their guitars on fire all mid-set.
Blending rock, blues, folk, and hip-hop isn’t something you hear everyday, but ZZ Ward (real name Zsuzsanna, really wanted to type that out…) manages to do it, and the end result is awesomely unique. By far the most eclectically-styled artist on the bill, a visit to the Roxy Stage sometime during her 4:00-5:00 set is advised.
Crossing the pond for a stint on Music Midtown’s largest stage, the indie/neo-punk Brits are liable to set the Electric Ballroom Stage aflame by the end of their 4:30 set. Driving, tempestuous, and determined to make the crowd move, Arctic Monkeys will be one of the livelier shows on the weekend card.
Tegan and Sara
Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara arrive in Atlanta with their Ke$ha-fied sound; one most will recognize from their recent hit “Closer”. I don’t know guys. Do what you want.
134 million people have listened to “Radioactive” on Spotify. Something tells me I don’t need to spend much time here… They go on at 5:45. They’re from Las Vegas.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Playing the type of “arty” garage rock that could only come out of the Village, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs boast one of the most distinct sounds of any group in rock. Helmed by frontwoman Karen O and propelled by her distinct vocals, the YYYs are an aural compote that continue to push their limits as a band. They take the Electric Ballroom Stage at 7:00 sharp.
THE NEW NAS AKA THE KING OF COMPTON AKA THE SAVIOR OF RAP AKA THE ANTI-DRAKE AKA… Alright enough. Kendrick is good, very good. And his newest album Good Kid, M.a.a.d City deserves the vast majority of accolades sent its way. All that being said however, I’ve seen him live and all the things that make Kendrick good aren’t exactly what make for a good rap concert, particularly in the middle of a goddamn meadow (speaking of which, when Drake found out he didn’t get asked to perform in a meadow, he was so distraught he ran out of his spin class and missed a shareholders’ meeting at Juicy Juice the next day).
The biggest draw for this show is the potential for an unexpected cameo or twelve. I’m pulling for Andre 3000.
Queens of the Stone Age
QOTSA are having a big year, with a heralded new album (…Like Clockwork) and a summer spent dominating the festival circuit. Going on at 8:00 opposite Kendrick Lamar, they’ll showcase Clockwork intermittently with hits from their early-2000’s heyday, providing an alternative to Kendrick and a hard-rocking warmup to RHCP.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Flea comes out shirtless. Anthony Kiedis wears a trucker hat. The guy from Michigan who plays drums (I think his name is Chad?) wears a hat backwards; and possibly a FuBu-looking shirt of some kind. There are a lot of lights. Kiedis takes off his shirt. He sings “Give it Away.” Hopefully he sings “Snow.” There are some 20 additional songs sprinkled in. Everyone goes home happy.