Summer is the season of major music festivals and blockbuster touring acts like Ariana Grande, Cardi B and the Rolling Stones. These multi-stage extravaganzas and 18,000-seat amphitheater shows have become a defining characteristic of the season in Atlanta.
But sometimes less is more. There’s something to be said about an intimate music festival featuring local up-and-coming acts where you can bring your own beach chair, and children are encouraged to attend. All the better if it’s held in a unique setting like the Historic Oakland Cemetery, which hosts the ninth annual Tunes from the Tombs music festival June 8.
A cemetery may seem like an unlikely place to have a music festival, but the Historic Oakland Cemetery is no ordinary burial ground. The Victorian-era cemetery was historically a place where folks picnicked and strolled in their leisure, and that tradition continues today. The cemetery hosts a myriad of special events held throughout the year, one of the biggest being Tunes from the Tombs. Part of the festival’s appeal is its emphasis on all things local.
“Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta’s history,” said program director Richard Harker, “so whether it’s the artists in our artist market, whether it’s the musicians, whether it’s the food trucks or the beer we’re selling, we try to celebrate all things Atlanta here at Oakland.”
The musical lineup features a baker’s dozen of acts, including the twangy, vocal harmonies of Southern rock band Futurebirds; the smooth, old-school soul sounds of Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics; and the Haraway Brothers, an Americana duo with a vintage country vibe, featuring Will Haraway of The Sundogs.
Other acts include Mike Killeen, Kylie Odetta, The Artisanals, She Returns From War and Distilled Butter Band.
The one-day festival boasts four stages: Platform Main Stage on Potter’s Field; Larkin Underground Stage on the North Public Grounds near the cemetery’s main gate; New Realm Beer Garden; and Acoustic Stage in Lion Square in the center of the cemetery.
About the Acoustic Stage, Harker said, “Some of our acts who are playing full sets on some of the other stages will do some other stuff there, and we’ll have some unique acts play on that stage as well.”
New this year is the Bell Tower Busker’s Stage near the business center, featuring lesser-known artists. Other new additions this year include an expanded artist market with more than 20 vendors and field day activities with King of Pops, featuring cornhole, giant Jenga and other games.
The cemetery will also host mini guided tours of the burial grounds, the final resting place for such notables as golfer Bobby Jones, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and “Gone with the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell.
For those who like to go in style, Rest in Peace VIP ticket holders get a special viewing area near the main stage with restrooms, three drink vouchers, a Tunes from the Tombs T-shirt, free parking and shuttle transportation throughout the cemetery.
In addition to New Realm Brewing products, beers by Sweetwater and PBR will be available for purchase, and a variety of food trucks will be on hand, including Angelfire 7 BBQ, Mixed Up Burgers, The Pup Truck, The Pickle and Super Tot Truck, among others.
All proceeds from the festival benefit the Historic Oakland Foundation, which oversees the restoration and maintenance of the cemetery’s gravesites, mausoleums and buildings.
Tunes from the Tombs. Noon-8 p.m. Saturday, June 8. $20 advance, $25 at the gate, $10-$15 for children and $15-$20 for seniors. $75 VIP, advance purchase only. Historic Oakland Cemetery, 248 Oakland Ave., Atlanta. 404-688-2107. oaklandcemetery.com.
IF YOU GO
• Blankets and low beach chairs permitted.
• No coolers or outside food or drink allowed.
• Event is rain or shine. No refunds for inclement weather.
• No pets allowed; service dogs only.
• Parking is limited. Concert-goers are encouraged to walk, bike, carpool or use public transportation. The closest MARTA train station is King Memorial on Decatur Street.
Upcoming at Historic Oakland Cemetery
Juneteenth. Guided tours of African-American grounds at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Performance by Gullah Geechee Ring Shouters at 6:30 p.m. 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday, June 15. Free, registration required.
Summer Photo Walk. A 90-minute tour with guides who can help capture striking photographs of the architecture, statuary and flora. 7:30-9 p.m. Saturday, June 15. $15-$20.
Malts and Vaults: Where Beer Meets History. Just in time for Father’s Day, a one-hour guided walking tour and beer tasting. 6-8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16. $16
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