The second day of the 2019 installment of Music Midtown drew more sweat from the 50,000-ish fans who crowded Piedmont Park. But despite another round of hot-even-for-Atlanta temperatures, the festival rolled along like clockwork.
Travis Scott and Vampire Weekend capped Sunday’s lineup, which kicked off at 1 p.m. with Goldspace & Good Company. Sets throughout the day included Walk the Moon, Jaden Smith, Leon Bridges and a thoroughly packed gathering for Billie Eilish.
Here are some recaps of many of the acts (and click here for reviews and photos of the Saturday performances).
Hero the Band
Kicking off the day on the Great Southeastern Music Hall Stage was Decatur’s own Hero the Band. Upbeat and ostentatiously dressed, the group had the early afternoon crowd moving with them to big –‘80s guitar solos, thick mid-aughts pop-punk drums and tight vocal harmonies. The band is comprised of four brothers; bassist Jerramy Barnett (aka Goku Love) shouted out their parents, who were in the crowd. “We always dreamt of being here on this stage, so after 10 years of being a band, this means a lot,” Barnett said. Midway through their set, the band performed its single “Back to Myself,” a recent feature on “Advanced Placement,” the new music program on SiriusXM’s AltNation.
Sporting a black shirt that said “leader of the pack,” Dominic Fike seemed surprised by the size of the crowd for his afternoon set during day two of the festival. The Florida-based artist’s set was only 45 minutes long, but that was just enough time for him to show off his curious blend of alt-pop and hip-hop. From the recent release “Acai Bowl” to all six songs from his debut EP “Don’t Forget About Me,” including the fan favorite “3 Nights,” Fike’s breezy, nonchalant hooks proved perfect for a carefree festival crowd. As he closed out his set with “Westcoast Collective,” people in the crowd twirled in the open field and lounged under a tree.
Local Natives brought their breezy L.A. indie sound to the Coca-Cola Roxy Stage Sunday evening, playing to a large crowd of sun-drenched festivalgoers and many more taking refuge in the shade. Maybe it was the heat that led lead singer Taylor Rice to introduce the dystopian, end-of-the world tune “Megaton Mile” as “a happy song about the apocalypse, which is very apt for the time we’re living in.” Rice said Atlanta was one of the band’s favorite places to play, and dedicated the song “Airplanes” to the city. The song was part of the band’s first show in Atlanta nearly a decade ago, Rice said.
Walk the Moon
The Cincinnati-reared band kicked off their set in the blazing sun with some snippets from “The Lion King” soundtrack before tackling “Lisa Baby” and “Portugal,” both imbued with their pleasant blend of synths and percussion. Guitarist Eli Maiman was particularly energetic as he tossed his hair and hopped on monitors, while singer Nicholas Petricca, slender and leonine, shimmied behind his keyboard and down the catwalk for “Timebomb.” Petricca recalled the band’s days living in Atlanta to record their first album earlier this decade (which he also discussed in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) before they burst into the new “Eat Your Heart Out” and a credible rendition of The Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” (some Led Zeppelin riffs would come later in the set as well). From “Kamikaze” to mega-hits “One Foot” and “Shut Up and Dance,” WTM proved an agreeable crowd-pleaser.
Jaden Smith was the perfect act to watch ahead of Billie Eilish and headliner Travis Scott. The rapper delivered a high-energy set that showcased the eccentric image and sound that has helped him draw a dedicated fan base. Whether he was encouraging fans to form a mosh pit in the audience during “Mission” or singing “Summertime in Paris,” Smith had the crowd hanging on to his every word. At one point the rapper commented on the hot weather and stripped down, taking off his shirt and performing only in a pair of shorts. “This last song really describes how I feel about Billie and Travis,” the rapper said, giving a nod to the other festival performers, before performing “Icon” toward the end of his set.
Dreamy Danish singer-songwriter MØ started her Sunday evening set not on stage, but among the audience, separated from the screaming hordes by an aisle of metal fencing. Once she got on the Great Southeastern Music Hall Stage, the crowd continued to pulse along with her bright, joyful electropop. She headed back down into the crowd during audience favorite “Red Wine,” an upbeat track with a reggae twist. MØ told the crowd that Music Midtown would be her last festival performance “for a long time” after six years of nearly non-stop touring. She said she was sad that her time on the road was winding down, but launched into a partially a cappella version of “Nights With You” to shake off the blues.
Leon Bridges brought the soul to the Coca-Cola Roxy Stage. The Texan singer-songwriter transported the audience to the late-‘70s not only with his sensual melodies, but also with his leopard print wide leg pants and thick, long sideburns. Despite Bridges’ sound differing significantly from the indie, pop and hip-hop that dominated Music Midtown, he found a large contingent of fans at sundown Sunday, with the crowd singing an entire verse of “Coming Home” for him. Bridges’ energy was infectious, at one point teaching the audience a dance before continuing with his set.
Despite her earlier set time (7 p.m.), the 17-year-old singer with the streaked green hair and seductive eyes demonstrated she was absolutely headliner material given the massive crowd swarming the main stage. Eilish marched onstage, sunglasses on and right foot in a walking boot, to bounce through “Bad Guy,” one of the many formless meanderings that have captivated her generation. Those who didn’t know the words to “My Strange Addiction” and the atmospheric “IDon’tWannaBeYouAnymore” wouldn’t be able to decipher them over the buzzing instruments and throbbing drums – but those who didn’t have every syllable memorized were anomalies in this crowd. Eilish led fans through the singsong chorus of “Copycat” from the catwalk, where she spent much of her set, then sprawled on the stage floor to sing the quiet “Watch/&Burn.” She took her hair down and sat cross-legged for “Xanny” and cooed the feathery “Ocean Eyes” with a backdrop of blue, as fans sang along. Her appeal might be polarizing, but her popularity is undeniable.
Cold War Kids
The California quintet has been cranking out music since 2004, making them the elder statesman on this year’s lineup. With a blues-rock-bar-band sound that incorporates elements of Springsteen, U2 and some Velvet Underground, Cold War Kids produce a mighty sound live. Singer Nathan Willett possesses a robust voice, which filtered through the sticky air on “Hot Coals” and the new songs “Calm Your Nerves,” a steady rocker, and “Dirt In My Eyes,” stuffed with a deep bass groove. Though the band was playing to a light crowd (their set overlapped with the end of Eilish’s and the start of Vampire Weekend’s), they sweat and rumbled with the passion of pros.
Music Midtown attendees got to see 6lack as the East Atlanta native was fresh from celebrating the one-year anniversary of his sophomore album, “East Atlanta Love Letter.” Sporting a black jumpsuit and black Balenciaga hat, 6lack performed songs from the album that pays homage to the neighborhood he grew up in, as well as his debut album, “Free 6lack.” Standouts from the set included breakout hits “PRBLMS” and “Ex Calling,” as well as “Pretty Little Fears” and “OTW.” “I don’t know what they told you, but I’m the next king of this [expletive],” 6lack said at the end of his set. “Now let’s go watch some [expletive] Travis Scott.”
A couple of weeks removed from their show at the Fox Theatre, the quirky indie rockers returned for a headlining slot that sizzled from the moment the seven-piece trotted onstage for the percussive “White Sky.” Singer Ezra Koenig effortlessly hit the high notes over his staccato guitar riffs on “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” while bassist Chris Baio swayed his hips and clapped through “Bambina.” The band rolled through their set of taut melodies – including “Unbelievers” and the Latin-tinged “Sympathy” - as an inflatable globe hung behind them. Koenig noted that while Vampire Weekend had recently played the city, this was their first Music Midtown performance, so he felt comfortable asking for crowd participation on the snare-drum smacker, “One (Blake’s Got a New Face).” Songs such as “Horchata” and “Giving up the Gun” rounded out a set that ended with “Ya Hey,” from the band’s 2013 “Modern Vampires of the City” album.
- M.R. and A.C.
Houston native Travis Scott closed out Music Midtown with a set that paid homage to his hometown and the now-shuttered amusement park he grew up visiting. For an hour, Atlanta fans got to experience Scott’s version of Astroworld. In his signature distorted vocals, Scott performed many of the rager-friendly hits from his discography, starting off with “Stargazing,” the opening track from the 2018 album ‘Starworld’ before revisiting earlier records (“Mamacita,” “90210”) and treating fans to his verses from recent collaborations including Young Thug’s “The London” and Kodak Black’s “FeFe.” Scott’s set was a fun blend of controlled chaos as the rapper kept the hits coming while fans jumped around in the crowd. Watching his show, it’s no surprise that many of the acts from earlier in the day look up to him as a performer.
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