Festival goers will make the pilgrimage back to downtown Atlanta this September when the seventeenth edition of Music Midtown (MM) takes place. This annual festival will feature some major names like Alabama Shakes, Deadmau5, The Killers, Beck, The Lumineers, Band of Horses, and Chvrches. This two day event will take place on September 17th & 18th at Piedmont Park, which has also been the home to this festival for a few years now. I first attended MM in 2013 mainly for Queens of the Stone Age, Kendrick Lamar, Cake, and Arctic Monkeys but after the weekend was over I had enjoyed many sets from numerous artists not even on my radar. Ever since that weekend, I have made it a point to attend this local festival.
This year is no exception as I am also very excited to see a few repeat acts from Bonnaroo’s (2016) lineup making an appearance in Atlanta. Especially Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Leon Bridges. Both sets were packed like sardines in a tin can at this past Bonnaroo, so at least now I will be able to see them play on a stage with more space! Let us dive right into the lineup and discuss who should be on your ‘watch list’ barring time slot conflicts: Alabama Shakes, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Leon Bridges, Raury, Lucius, and Corinne Bailey Rae.
By highlighting just these six artists for this article, I wanted to touch on some artists that I feel should not be missed and stress how much fun each set will be at MM. Sometimes it is best to focus on the lower rows of artists on a lineup because a lot of bands/artists can still go unnoticed. If I had more time, I would discuss everyone on this year’s lineup and not just these particular artists. For the price of this two day festival (at the time of publishing general admission wristbands are valued at $125) this is still one of the best lineups and festivals in North America hands down to attend in early fall.
Let us start off with this year’s Grammy winner of Best Rock Song & Best Rock Performance (for “Don’t Wanna Fight”) and Best Alternative Music Album (for Sound & Color), Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard and the boys from Athens, Alabama started playing together in 2009 and have grown into a worldwide hit among music fans alike. Their blues rock/southern rock/soul sound has captivated audiences from the tiniest clubs in the south to major festival stages like Coachella. They have even sold out four straight days at the Greek Theatre (with Dawes and Kurt Vile & the Violators as supporting acts) in Los Angeles come this August. I feel honored to have the Alabama Shakes play MM this year and will definitely not miss this set.
Next up we have Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (NRATNS), a soul/gospel/blues rock band from Hermann, Missouri that formed back in 2013. Rateliff had tried his hands at going solo when he began his career in 2005 but found that his niche in the music industry would come with the new soul sound that would be created with their self-titled debut LP. As I mentioned earlier, their set at Bonnaroo was far beyond packed under the tent and the bleed over from other tents spilled over as we sat on the side trying to listen. In all fairness, I just accepted it as a loss and prayed to the festival gods that NRATNS would repeat at a later festival in the year.
Speaking of packed performances from this year’s Bonnaroo we come to my next artist, Leon Bridges, who also had so many people crammed under a tent this year for his set. This guy has got to make everyone’s list with no exceptions… even with a conflict. Born Todd Michael Bridges in the city of Atlanta, this soul/gospel/blues/R&B singer would gain recognition with his debut LP, Coming Home. His musical style is best described as a throwback to the Motown era of R&B with a strong emphasis on lyrics, vocal harmony, musicianship, and style. Leon also really looks the part as he creates a soulful homage to the greats like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. If we are lucky, we may get to see his cover of “Pony” by Ginuwine that he performed at Bonnaroo. Trust me, you do not want to miss this set or you might kick yourself for a long time to come.
Personally, I cannot say enough good things about Raury on a musical and human level. First this native Atlien (a native son of Atlanta) shows so much love to his hometown that he recently started Raurfest some three years ago. Some of this year’s lineup included Joey BadA$$, Kilo Kish, Kirk Knight, and of course the host himself, Raury. Not only is this festival a great way to showcase local talent that may not get this opportunity elsewhere, but this festival also acts as an agent of change to the community. How so you may ask? They ask that each attendee bring an article of clothing to help benefit the homeless population of Atlanta. How many festivals have you attended that has ever done something so selfless? Never heard any of his music or Raury until now? His main influences include Andre 3000 (Outkast), Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Bon Iver, Queen, Fleet Foxes, Marvin Gaye, and The Keyz. His sound is a nice eclectic mix of soul, hip hop, and folk that brings together love and happiness. Don’t sleep on Raury.
Next on the list we have the five piece indie rock/pop band from Brooklyn, New York named Lucius. Formed in 2005 by Jess Wolfe (lead vocals and synth) and Holly Laessig (lead vocals and keys) met while attending Berklee School of Music (Boston) and then moved to Brooklyn, NY to both further their music careers. The Guardian has even described their sound as “the missing link between Arcade Fire and Haim…” I realize that those are some big shoes to fill but if you give them a chance, I think you will not be disappointed at all. Lucius has been on some major festival lineups already this year including Bonnaroo and will continue to tour until late September so you have a chance to check them out before year’s end.
Finally we come to the neo soul/R&B/jazz/soul British singer-songwriter and guitarist named Corinne Bailey Rae. She has been making great music since 2005 and yet she is still under the radar for a lot of people. Her latest LP entitled, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, was released earlier this year to critical acclaim as her comeback into music after a brief hiatus. She has graced the stage with such artists as Herbie Hancock, John Mayer, and John Legend to name a few. She also has won Grammy’s for Album of the Year (2008) as a featured artist on Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters and Best R&B Performance (2012) among her several nominations. Not to mention her other nominations and awards from the BET Awards, MTV Europe, BMI Pop, and many other musical organizations. Do not miss Corinne this year as she will tour stateside until she plays the Austin City Limits Music Festival in early October.
Need more information on MM? Tickets to the event are listed as follows: 2-Day General Admission, 2-Day VIP, and 2-Day Super VIP which are available through their webpage and Front Gate Tickets. This year they have added MM Cashless for patrons to use their wristband as a form of payment. Let me also assist in helping you plan your trip to Atlanta for MM. The festival grounds will open daily at noon and is located at 1342 Worchester Dr. NE Atlanta, GA 30306, which runs along 10th St. and Piedmont Ave. in midtown Atlanta. There will be five (5) dedicated festival entrances located at: Charles Allen Gate, Park Drive/Bridge Gate, Lakeside Gate, 10th St. Gate, and the 12th St. Gate. Most Atliens use MARTA to get around town, so here is some information on using their system. If at all possible, board at the Midtown and Arts Center Stations on the Red and Gold rail lines and the closest courtesy MARTA parking lot is the Lindbergh Center Station.
Since MM is a car-less event, they are requesting patrons to bicycle, walk, Lyft/Uber, or take MARTA. Get your first Uber ride free with promo code, tarynw59, or your first Lyft ride with, TARYN273. There will be preferred parking for SUPER VIP ticket holders and ADA parking will be available in surrounding paid and private lots. Now if you want to find a place to stay close to Piedmont Park, I suggest using Airbnb or Kayak to find suitable living quarters. If you are using Airbnb for the first time, get $30 of travel credit when you click this link. Walk or ride the Beltline Eastside Trail from Inman Park or The Old Fourth Ward straight into Piedmont Park. Those who are riding bicycles can take advantage of their complimentary Bike Valet.
Well, we hope that this information can assist your trip to Atlanta for the festival this September and all future festivals held at Piedmont Park. Stay tuned for our coverage of MM and other festivals by following us on all social media formats: Concerthopper on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And follow my personal concert hopping on Instagram also. Remember don’t think about it, just buy the damn ticket. As always, hope to see you at a show or festival soon!