When Music Midtown debuted in 1994, about 25,000 people showed up.
Peter Conlon and his then-business-partner Alex Cooley slapped the fest together in about six months, mostly due to Cooley’s impatience, and lost $500,000.
“I wanted to wait a year (to start the festival), but Alex was adamant to do it that year because he felt someone else might do something and he wanted to do it first,” said Peter Conlon, who would go on to become president of Live Nation Atlanta, which produces Music Midtown. Cooley passed away in 2015. “We were dead set about doing it again (after losing money), but I put the (production) money together with sponsors and we made money and it took off after that, with about 100,000 people.”
The Sept. 14-15 weekend marks 25 years since Music Midtown started – it took a hiatus from 2006-2011 – and the landscapes and lineups have, as all things do, changed.
The old days of numerous stages packing midtown streets with artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Joan Jett to Tony Bennett have condensed to four stages at Piedmont Park, where this year’s lineup skews younger than any of its years since that 2011 return.
Rappers Cardi B and Travis Scott share headlining honors with recent Rolling Stone cover girl Billie Eilish, New York indie-rockers Vampire Weekend and theatrical pop stars Panic! At the Disco. The undercard boasts the sizzling Lizzo, consistent chart-toppers Charlie Puth and Walk the Moon, Atlanta-bred rappers Lil Yachty and 6lack and buzzy names such as YOLA and Banks.
“I think it’s a good lineup for our audience,” Conlon said. “We have artists who have never played here in a major situation.”
About 50,000-60,000 people converge at the park each day for the event, which Conlon said generates more than $50 million in goods and services for the city every year.
“It’s important to have a culturally broad-based city,” he said.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the 2019 installment of Music Midtown.
Weather: It might be September, but it’s still 90-something degrees. What, you were expecting fall? Ha. Did you forget where we live? Prohibitive heat aside, there is a teeny chance a shower might roll through during the weekend, so be proactive and pack a poncho because umbrellas are not allowed.
Tickets: $165 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.-5 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. But you already knew that. So here is another reminder that if you park in a neighborhood that requires a parking pass, don’t expect your car to be there after the festival.
The nearest MARTA stations are Midtown and Arts Center on the Red and Gold lines (MARTA also has handicapped parking and shuttle services).
Walkers/bike riders can take the Beltline Eastside Trail from Inman Park to Old Fourth Ward straight into Piedmont Park. Bicyclists can also use the complimentary bike valet. And rideshare is also always an option.
Security: If you can travel light, your experience through security will be much quicker. Backpacks are not allowed and inspections via metal detectors will be instituted.
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 – drawstring bag, 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 (up to 1 liter) or an empty reusable water bottle (no metal or glass) that can be filled for free at any of the hydration stations located throughout the festival grounds. Binoculars; non-professional cameras (no detachable lenses); personal-sized beach towels; signs or posters no larger than 11 x 17 inches; prescription medications (with label to match your ID).
Stuff that is not allowed: Smoking or vaping; 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; mace/pepper spray; bikes, skateboards, scooters or any personal motorized vehicles; weapons or explosives of any kind; carts; balloons/inflatables; chairs, festival totems and flags.
Nourishment: Yes, there is food. Vendors this year include Shake Shack, Taco’s & Tequila, Rice Rice Baby, Makara’s Mediterranean, The Pickle, YOM, Soul Vegetarian, Sherri’s Crab Cakes, Island Noodles, Willy’s Mexicana Grill, JD’s Bar-B-Que, King of Pops and more. As well, a craft beer garden and numerous bars are on site.
Also: A partnership between Live Nation and Hyundai means fans who download the Music Midtown app can take advantage of 360-degree camera technology inside the #HyundaiBackstage lounge, where they can be virtually transported side stage and backstage for different vantage points of some performances. Those who aren’t attending Music Midtown can also download the festival app and stream live performances from select artists (point your smartphone at a flat surface and a three-dimensional, four-sided viewer will appear).
Saturday, Sept. 14
1:30 p.m. – Kevin Garrett (Salesforce Stage)
2:15 p.m. – Faye Webster (Roxy Stage)
2:30 p.m. – YOLA (Great Southeaster Music Hall Stage)
3:15 p.m. – Band of Skulls (Cotton Club Stage)
3:30 p.m. – Hembree (Salesforce)
4:15 p.m. – Madison Beer (Roxy)
4:30 p.m. – Reignwolf (GSMH)
5 p.m. – Sigrid (CC)
5:30 p.m. – Lord Huron (Salesforce)
6 p.m. – Banks (Roxy)
6:30 p.m. – Tash Sultana (GSMH)
7 p.m. – Quinn XCII (CC)
7:30 p.m. – Charlie Puth (Salesforce)
8 p.m. – Lizzo (Roxy)
8:30 p.m. – Lil Yachty (GSMH)
9 p.m. – Kali Uchis (CC)
9:30 p.m. – Panic! At the Disco (Salesforce)
10 p.m. – Cardi B (Roxy)
Sunday, Sept. 15
12:30 p.m. – Goldspace & Good Company
1 p.m. – The Coathangers
1:30 p.m. – 99 Neighbors
2 p.m. – Hero the Band
2:30 p.m. – Bad Suns
3 p.m. – Shaed
3:30 p.m. – Taylor Bennett
4 p.m. – Dominic Fike
4:30 p.m. – Local Natives
4:45 p.m. – Walk the Moon
5:30 p.m. – Jaden Smith
5:45 p.m. – MØ
6:30 p.m. – Leon Bridges
7 p.m. – Billie Eilish
7:30 p.m. Cold War Kids
8 p.m. – 6lack
8:30 p.m. – Vampire Weekend
9 p.m. – Travis Scott