For as long as he’s been the architect of Music Midtown — from its inception in the mid-‘90s — Peter Conlon wanted Music Midtown to be synonymous with Atlanta.
“It’s important for cities of this stature to have a signature festival,” he said recently in the Buckhead offices of Live Nation, which produces the festival. “Austin has City Limits, New Orleans has the Jazz and Heritage Festival and we have Music Midtown. It’s an Atlanta brand, an Atlanta festival.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the brand returns, as it has every year since coming back in 2011 after a few years’ break, to Piedmont Park.
The lineup is an exceptionally diverse one, with “Rockstar” rapper Post Malone and emo-punk-rock band Fall Out Boy snagging the marquee spots Saturday night and Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar and anthem-rockers Imagine Dragons — who have an Atlantan among them — closing out Sunday.
In between will be sets by Khalid, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Janelle Monae, Kacey Musgraves, Gucci Mane, Portugal. The Man, Foster the People, The Revivalists, Butch Walker and a couple dozen more acts.
Tickets have been selling briskly — at a stronger clip than last year, Conlon said — which he attributes to the young, varied lineup.
“We are young. We’re staying young. That’s who comes to festivals. I don’t want to buy all the chairs if we go too old,” he said with a smile.
Conlon is the president of Live Nation Atlanta, but two-plus decades ago, when he launched Music Midtown with longtime friend and business partner Alex Cooley (who died in 2015), they already had specific parameters.
“Alex wanted it to be an urban festival. He wanted it to be in town, which at that time was ahead of the game. We wanted people to come for the day and then leave. We wanted it very eclectic,” Conlon said. “If you go way back, we had more of an adult audience coming then. We were up to 100,000 people a day, maybe eight or nine stages. This is the millennials’ version of that. I couldn’t afford to book that many stages now because of the act prices. When Alex and I started, we had a rule — we didn’t pay any act over $100,000. You can’t even get an opening act for that now!”
So, to prepare for your weekend of big-name entertainment, here are some tips to help you navigate the Atlanta mainstay that is Music Midtown.
Weather: Yes, we know. There is a hurricane pounding the East Coast. Here’s how it looks as of press time: We might get some rain. Then again, we might not. Sometimes Super Doppler XTreme Weather Wizard 8.0 is incorrect. But it’s always better to be prepared, so pack a poncho because umbrellas are not allowed. Once more, with feeling … umbrellas … not … allowed.
Tickets: $155 for two-day general admission. There are no single-day tickets. Fans can also upgrade to GA+ — which provides a dedicated viewing area at the stages — for $100 each day (additional to ticket cost). Upgrades can be done in advance at musicmidtown.com or on-site if space is still available. VIP tickets are $600 and Super VIP is $1,250. All prices are for both days and do not include fees.
Box office: There are two locations — at Grady Stadium on Monroe Drive between 10th and Eighth streets, which is only open during the festival (starting at 10 a.m.); and at the Piedmont Park Community Center at the 12th Street and Piedmont entry to Piedmont Park, which is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Friday and 10 a.m. until close on Saturday.
Will call: Located at the ticket booth at the corner of 10th Street and Charles Allen Drive, across from the Charles Allen Gate.
Transportation: Parking is sparse; however, this year, fans can reserve parking in the 10th Street Parking Deck for $20 per day. Visit the FAQ page on musicmidtown.com for more info.
The nearest MARTA stations are Midtown and Arts Center (MARTA also has handicapped parking and shuttle services).
A bike valet is available near the Charles Allen Gate entrance and, as always, attendees are encouraged to use ride share.
Security: It’s always been a priority, but, as Conlon noted, “It’s a new world and we prepare for it. We spend a lot of money.” While he understandably was reluctant to talk specifics, Conlon said that many new safety procedures would be implemented, for fans as well as employees. “Even I get scanned,” he said. “If I drive on-site, my vehicle gets scanned.”
That said, re-entry to the festival IS permitted, but you must have your wristband “scanned out” upon exiting if you want to re-enter that same day.
Bag policy: You can check out the Music Midtown page for a photo gallery of permissible bags, but know that these are the only ones on the “yes” list – clear bags (up to 14 inches by 11 inches by 5 inches); small bags (4.5 inches by 5.5 inches); fanny or waist packs; zip-top clear plastic bags (up to 1 gallon size); empty hydration packs (limit two pockets).
Other stuff that is allowed: One factory-sealed bottle of water or an empty reusable water bottle that can be filled for free at any of the hydration stations located throughout the festival grounds. Binoculars, blankets, signs or posters no larger than 11 x 17 inches.
Stuff that is not allowed: Alcoholic beverages from outside; aerosol containers, including sunscreen and personal beauty products; any and all professional audio/recording/video equipment and professional cameras; selfie sticks; any remote flying device; coolers; hammocks; baby strollers; glass and metal containers; illegal and illicit substances of any kind; outside food and beverages; bikes, skateboards, scooters or any personal motorized vehicles; weapons or explosives of any kind; chairs, festival totems and flags.
Here is the 2018 Music Midtown’s daily schedule. Gates open at noon both days.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 15
1:30 p.m. (Roxy Stage) — Mattiel
1:45 p.m. (Salesforce Stage) — The Aces
2:30 p.m. (Cotton Club Stage) — Yuno
2:45 p.m. (Great Southeast Music Hall Stage) — Arthur Buck
3:30 p.m. (RS) — lovelytheband
3:45 p.m. (SS) — Twin Shadow
4:30 p.m. (CCS) — Saint Jhn
4:45 p.m. (GSMHS) — First Aid Kit
5:30 p.m. (RS) — Borns
5:45 p.m. (SS) — Rainbow Kitten Surprise
6:30 p.m. (CCS) — Chromeo
6:45 p.m. (GSMHS) – Kacey Musgraves
7:30 p.m. (RS) — The Revivalists
7:45 p.m. (SS) – Thirty Seconds to Mars
8:30 p.m. (CCS) – Awolnation
8:45 p.m. (GSMHS) — Portugal. The Man
9:30 p.m. (RS) — Fall Out Boy
9:45 p.m. (SS) — Post Malone
SUNDAY, SEPT. 16
12:30 p.m. (RS) — Lyric Rachae (Berklee College of Music)
1 p.m. (SS) — Sir
1:30 p.m. (CCS) — Robert DeLong
1:45 p.m. (GSMHS) — Black Pistol Fire
2:30 p.m. (RS) — K. Flay
2:45 p.m. (SS) — Two Feet
3:30 p.m. (CCS) — Maggie Rogers
3:45 p.m. (GSMHS) — Arizona
4:30 p.m. (RS) — Butch Walker
4:45 p.m. (SS) — Janelle Monae
5:30 p.m. (CCS) — Billie Eilish
5:45 p.m. (GSMHS) — Bazzi
6:30 p.m. (RS) — Foster the People
6:45 p.m. (SS) — Gucci Mane
7:30 p.m. (CCS) — Sylvan Esso
7:45 p.m. (GSMHS) — Khalid
8:30 p.m. (RS) — Imagine Dragons
8:45 p.m. (SS) — Kendrick Lamar