Music Midtown made its return to Piedmont Park on Friday, a year after the 2022 festival was canceled, a decision that multiple government officials linked to an expansive Georgia gun law.
As the fest began, fans of all ages made their way into Piedmont Park for the first night of the three-day festival.
First up at the Venmo stage was Leah Kate, who released her new album just a day before taking the stage of Music Midtown. Kate sang for about an hour calling her set “a release party” for her new album.
”I [expletive] love you Atlanta,” Kate told the crowd.
As some made their way between stages, remnants of Thursday’s storm caught a few revelers off-guard. If they weren’t paying attention, it was easy to wind up ankle deep in puddles of water.
Most people headed in to get a bite to eat or grab a drink ahead of the headliners for Friday, Pitbull followed by Pink. Others headed straight to the merchandise store to grab a T-shirt or a hoodie to remember the festival or their favorite artist.
Michele Ingle-Dodge and Wendy Gentry flew in from Maryland just to see Pink, Pitbull and Sunday’s headliner Guns N’ Roses live, while Ingle-Dodge’s daughter wanted to see Saturday’s top-billed Billie Eilish.
”Drinks first, T-shirts second, so I can change into my Pink shirt right now,” said Ingle-Dodge, who walked down the aisle to a Pink song at her wedding.
Ingle-Dodge didn’t know about last year’s cancellation and just found out about this year’s festival because her daughter saw that Eilish was performing.
“I saw the other acts and I said ‘heck yeah we are going’,” she said.
They both liked the fact Piedmont Park is open and spacious. ”I’m going to embarrass my children,” Ingle-Dodge said about her dancing.
Forrest and Shirley Rogers, who are from Atlanta, decided to come down to Music Midtown for the first time for Pink, who is one of Shirley’s favorite artists. ”I like her. She has great music, she puts on a show,” she said.
Armando Christian Perez, AKA Pitbull, turned a patch of Piedmont Park into a Miami nightclub for a tight hour of rousing bangers.
After two decades in the game, the 42-year-old son of Cuban immigrants remains the human embodiment of an Ecstasy pill. Donning an all black outfit and supported by six scantily clad backup dancers, Pitbull brought high energy, earnest positivity and a message not much more complex than what could be found in a fortune cookie: party and be happy!
“There’s one race and one race only,” he proclaimed, “the human race!” And: “Every day above ground is a great day!”
It’s hard to deny the ear worm pleasures of his best work including “Give Me Everything” featuring Atlanta’s Ne-Yo and “Timber” with Kesha. The artist had no guest singers; they were all on taped tracks.
And Pitbull was not shy about referencing his Atlanta bonafides, thanking Lil Jon for breaking him into the business and mentioning how he spent part of his childhood with a foster family in Roswell.
Known to many for his futurist bass tracks, Australian DJ and music producer Harley Edward Streten, known professionally as Flume, took the crowd by surprise. For “Never Be Like You,” Flume brought out Australian singer Vera Blue to perform alongside him. The song featured in his 2016 album “Skin” is still one of his biggest hits.
As soon as the first beat of the song dropped, the crowd went wild with many rushing towards the stage to be closer to the mixture of vocals and Flume’s exceptional control of the beat.
Later in the set, Blue returned to provide vocals for her and Flume’s song, “Rushing Back.” Throughout the hour-long performance, Flume never left the center of the stage, bringing out his own dance moves for his song, “Sleepless.”
Some fans prefer his older tracks, while others couldn’t get enough of the DJ’s newer productions. Each song brought more dance moves from the crowd that stayed until the end of his set before making their way back to the main stage for Friday’s headliner, Pink.
Pink is one of those unique artists that could be called a crazy genius with an emphasis on crazy.
But her type of crazy means learning to sing in tune while hanging upside down 100 feet in the air or making acrobatic flips in jaw-dropping fashion like she’s auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. The 44-year-old singer songwriter brought a level of happy crazy fun to Music Midtown Friday night with a seemingly insouciant flair.
Over a 21-song hit parade that covered more than two decades of pop magic, Pink provided the massive multi-generational crowd on a perfectly pleasant night a master lesson in pure entertainment without a single dull moment.
This meant merging Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” with “Just Like Fire” or covering Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” with a soft interpretative dance or bringing out a joyous “Soul Train”-style dance line for “Never Gonna Not Dance Again.”
Even when she had to re-start an a cappella version of “Please Don’t Leave Me” after feeling she sang too many notes in the first word, she did it with such a sense of casual bemusement, it simply felt human.
And that’s what Pink has always managed to feel on both records and in concert: feel real. You can feel her pain in “Who Knew,” her anger in “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” her triumphant resolve in “Raise Your Glass,” her romanticism in her cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.”
Like Pitbull, she also has a genuine connection to Atlanta. She signed with LaFace Records in Atlanta in 1996 as a teenager. Her tough experience there led to her early 2001 hit single “Don’t Let Me Get Me” in which she sang how LaFace executive L.A. Reid “told me, ‘‘You’ll be a pop star/ All you have to change is everything you are.”
Thank goodness, she did not.
(Oddly, she skipped that song from this particular set list, which was slightly shorter than her last concert Aug. 21. )