It felt more like July than September, but at least the tens of thousands of Music Midtown-goers - many of them super young - didn’t have to fret about Florence wrecking their weekend.
The first of the two-day annual festival in Piedmont Park boasted a lineup spotlighting Fall Out Boy, Post Malone, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Kacey Musgraves, The Revivalists, Portgual.The Man and many more.
Day 2 will bring Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, Butch Walker and another dozen-plus acts (tickets can still be purchased on-site).
Here is a look at the scene from Saturday.
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Mattiel Brown, who lives in Atlanta, enjoys two creative jobs as a musician and designer.
At Music Midtown, Mattiel took the Roxy Stage in all black under a scorching sun, and performed her blend of rock and pop with blues for a sound that is both retro and contemporary at the same time.
She couldn't hide her discomfort with the heat, and she was one of the first artists to perform Saturday at 1:30 p.m. At one point, she took her shoes off, and stood on top of a towel she doused with water.
During day office hours, Mattiel works as an ad designer and illustrator at MailChimp, a position she’s held for about four years.
“I work with a great video production team, in a great studio. Luckily, they’re a company that encourage side gigs,” Mattiel says in a bio posted on heavenlyrecordings.com. Her side gigs are getting bigger, and more exposure.
Mattiel is known for bold and creative videos. In a papermag.com feature, Mattiel talked about the process of making "Count Your Blessings." A friend offered up his huge white warehouse space at his store Paris on Ponce in Atlanta. The ideas, quickly thrown together, starts in a pure white environment and by the end, “it ends with me covered in smashed tomatoes, milk, soggy bread, and other gross things.”
“I think the very last shot with the cake is my favorite. I was also happy to wrap the video at that point. Milk goes sour very quickly under hot lights. It was actually a lot more disgusting than I anticipated. I'm also very bad at sports in general, so I can laugh at myself trying to play tennis with loaves of bread and tomatoes.”
It was a sunny park and a music festival was gearing up, but Yuno put the audience 300 miles away in the Jacksonville bedroom where he records his music. He’s typical of artists who create bedroom pop – soft melodies and electronic beats that feel relatable, not robotic – but he’s better than most. He meekly thanked the crowd for showing up. The show ran into an sound snag that sent an audio tech into a panic. It lasted less than 45 seconds.
Lovelytheband is an indie pop trio that formed just a couple years ago in Los Angeles. The band is comprised by vocalist Mitchy Collins, guitarist Jordan Greenwald and drummer Sam Price. In April, they saw smash debut single “broken” top Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. The infectious hit single has been all over the radio.
By the time lovelytheband took the Roxy Stage at 3:30 p.m., a sea of endless fans surrounded the stage, a testament to the enthusiasm for the festival and also to the band.
“This is a lot more than we expected, so that’s cool,” said Collins, wearing black pants, striped socks and red sunglasses.
Lovelytheband reportedly first emerged to the public through a handful of posts on Instagram, accentuated by their now-signature red lips logo and a cryptic message: “Welcome to this new adventure.”
Collins said this was his first time visiting Atlanta. And alas, he when commenting on the weather, he called the city, “Hotlanta” to a crowd of sighs.
First Aid Kit
The passion and comfort level by the artists of a 4:45 p.m. act almost didn’t compute. That’s how well the Swedish sisters sang and worked the stage. Their tight folk performance, which included trombone and mandolin at times, stirred the crowd. They introduced their song “Master Pretender” as a track about finding out life is a … female dog in heat. Lyrics like “I never expected to be struck by the fatal hands of fortune or by sheer bad luck” played atop black-and-white baby photos of the sisters.
The history of folk is one of making musical statements of the time. It seems Johanna and Klara Söderberg are carrying the torch. Their ballad against rape culture immediately resonated with the crowd. One woman simply gasped “yes” with a tone of exasperation. For those who didn’t get it, Klara broke it down: “The blame and the shame always, always, belongs to the perpetrator.”
The Brooklyn hip-hopper attracted a massive crowd to the Cotton Club stage and was awed by the turnout from the moment he stepped on stage. “I live for moments like this,” he said at one point. Opening his set with “Roses” and “Surf Club,” the man born Carlos St. John had no problem keeping the crowd amped, especially after he peeled off his shirt to showcase his admirable abs.
A DJ shared the stage – and spent as much time taking video of fans bouncing enthusiastically to “Traci Lords” as he did doing his DJ thing – while St. Jhn raced around the stage. He talked about writing “Reflex” on his friend’s couch – “Dreaming of a moment like this,” he said, with a few more words adding color to his comment, and also spoke of releasing a new “Collection” album.
When the sky suddenly darkened and a few drops hit the ground, St. Jhn assured the crowd, “If it rains, I’ll be right there with you in my leather pants.”
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
In name and spirit, Rainbow Kitten Surprise force a double-take. Rainbow Kitten Surprise, five facial-haired dudes from North Carolina, drew an incredibly young crowd that needed some help managing a music festival. How green are we talking? Here’s a series of things heard during their set: “Connor, we don’t have to leave!” “Where’s Palmer?” The silence of no one noticing a lit cigarette falling from the mouth of a woman mounted on some dude’s shoulders. The band has an infectious energy, partly due to frontman Sam Melo’s high kicks and rapping. Melo’s wrote “Hide,” a song about discovery, which makes sense because it’s the song he wrote when he accepted that he was gay. It became the single on their first full-length album “How to: Friend, Love, and Freefall” that was released in April.
So with a touching single comes a touching music video. Director Kyle Thrash explained to Billboard that during a conversation Melo referenced the film “Paris is Burning,” which chronicles '80s drag culture in New York, and how he wanted the music video to celebrate drag queens. The resulting six-minute documentary music video celebrates the struggles and success and mundanity of four drag queens in New Orleans, including one revealing to their father that they dress in drag. If you feel a band from North Carolina playing a song to a bunch of kids in Atlanta with a music video featuring four Louisiana-living men strutting in drag isn’t the New South, then you aren’t paying attention.
From the moment Chromeo graced the stage to a fun chant of “Chromeo, Oh, Oh, Cromeo, Oh, Oh,” music lovers were on their feet dancing. A musicgoer behind me (who was listening to Chromeo for the first time) commented he was sold on the band — even before they performed their first song.
That's because this electro-funk duo from Montreal delivered an upbeat fun show that quickly turned into a dance party.
From "Don't Sleep" to "Juice," Chromeo playfully energized the crowd with one feel-good funk song after another.
Formed in 2002, vocalist David Macklovitch, a.k.a. Dave 1 and bandmate, Patrick "P-Thugg" Gemayel met in high school and played together in various bands before going out on their own to produce their own music. They are an Arab-Jewish musical duo -- Macklovitch (Jewish) and Gemayel (born in Lebanon).
Dave 1 never stopped dancing himself — with a smile across his face.
At one point, they urged concertgoers to get on other people's shoulders, ensuring the crowd they had permission for a song titled, "Over Your Shoulders."
Chart-topping New Orleans outfit The Revivalists are big, and their sound is even bigger.
An alternative rock band known for their mix of jazz-funk grooves, rock and soulful sounds, they delivered a powerful, impassioned performance Saturday.
There are eight members - lead vocalist David Shaw, guitarist Zack Feinberg, drummer Andrew Campanelli, pedal steel player Ed Williams, bassist George Gekas, saxophonist Rob Ingraham, and keys-and-trumpet player Michael Girardot and PJ Howard also on drums percussion.
The music, featuring a trumpet, saxophone, and pedal steel player, has depth and complexity.
But they also have a charismatic front man with a stunningly good voice. Shaw’s vocals are crisp, strong, and he can pack punch and soul into a song.
The band has been around for 10 years, and they performed a wide range on songs including a newer song, "All My Friends," to the song "Soulfight," which goes back about five years.
They waited almost to the very end Saturday night to perform their 2017 chart topping song, "I Wish I Knew You," a song that introduced many fans to the band.
Those who had the opportunity to check out The Revivalists Saturday night enjoyed a moving and compelling performance. Definitely a highlight of the festival.
Thirty Seconds to Mars
By this point, it’s well-established that while Jared Leto is an Oscar-winning movie star, he’s also a legit rocker.
The band, which also features his brother Shannon on drums, has been crafting taut rock with elements of electronica for more than 15 years and live, Thirty Seconds (Stevie Aiello tours on bass and keyboards) electrifies.
During “Up in the Air,” Leto was a blur of flying hair and spinning kimono as he did laps around the large stage. He also gave security much agita by, in a seemingly impromptu move, hopping off stage and down an aisle to lean into the crowd to sing. Later, he asked fans to sit on the shoulders of someone nearby and, during “Rescue Me” recruited four of “the best and the worst” dancers from the crowd, gleefully leading the circus onstage.
Leto is a charming frontman, chatting regularly with fans and expressing his delight in being back in Atlanta.
Musically, the trio sounded fierce as they dove into the pulsing midtempo “Dangerous Night” and the booming rocker “Hail to the Victor.”
Portugal. The Man
The Matanuska-Susitna Valley has created some of the world’s largest cabbages and one hell of a band.
Portugal. The Man, born in Alaskan basements, has been doing this nearly 15 years. It the name sounds familiar, they played Shaky Knees last year.
The band is the creator of “Feel It Still” – the song you couldn’t escape in late 2017; it also closed out their set Saturday night.
However, it kind of started the show, too. It was included in an introduction video that had MTV’s Beavis and Butthead roasting the music video for the song and lead singer John Gourley’s mustache.
Their set was incredibly dark, not in content; it was literally dark – probably making it tough for photographers to shoot, so don’t expect many cool shots of PTM from Music Midtown.
The band’s background graphics swirled with amoebas and worker bees. That makes sense because (play along here) the creators of the group say they got their funky name from the want to represent a larger group of people in one name, like a country. They know that’s not a good reason to name a band and have said they regret it.
Fall Out Boy
You know what the opposite of too dark of a stage? Fire shooting out of Pete Wentz’s guitar. Fall Out Boy, born at the turn of the century from Chicago’s hardcore scene, did a visual number as the headliner opposite Post Malone on Saturday night. Wentz thanked the crowd, saying her knew they had other places to be and was happy he chose them. If you’d been walking past Piedmont Park at 9:46 p.m., you would have heard one of the biggest songs of the mid-2000s – “Sugar, We’re Goin' Down.” Wentz introduced the song as “the first song that really took us around places like this.” Five notes in, the crowd erupted.
Then, in case you at all doubted this band’s ability to connect with the youths, the two monsters were seen on the screen during a song playing Fortnite – the wildly popular multi-platform game that is currently all the rage with whippersnappers. When you’ve been appealing to kids for more than a decade, like Music Midtown, you get pretty good at it.
It was interesting that a couple of songs into his headlining set, Post Malone introduced himself by his full name – Austin Richard Post. The singer-rapper has crafted a swiftly escalating career under his stage name by adroitly blending lovelorn lyrics with the expected raunchier fare, and he presented both sides of himself Saturday night.
Pacing the stage alone in a white outfit, Post rapped to the slinky drum track that powers “Better Now” as the crowd swelled to capacity size (it appeared that packs of fans previously watching Fall Out Boy trekked down to the Salesforce Stage after the other headliners played “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down”).
Post sang in a strong, if non-descript voice on “Over Now,” a song co-written by Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on Post’s latest album, “Beerbongs & Bentleys.” He also chatted with the crowd frequently, giving a backstory to a song (“Over,” he said, was about getting revenge on your ex and “Sugar Wraith” about “working hard).
Though he cut a lonely figure on the massive stage, which was bathed in solid-color lighting and cloudy smoke, Post engaged easily with fans, making sure not to neglect his first album, “Stoney,” with the song “No Option.”