Imagine Music Festival

There’s a growing phenomenon on the horizon: hybridization.

Polar bears and grizzly bears are becoming pizzly bears, and beluga whales and narwhals are becoming narlugas.

And the latest development in this trend is the blending of psychedelic music and electronic dance music (EDM). The two cultures are normally separate entities; concertgoers may exchange smiles at Bonnaroo or Electric Forest as they head to different stages, but at Imagine Music Festival in Atlanta, the two musical species became one.

The festival filled the 17 acres of Historic Fourth Ward Park and extended into part of Atlanta (I could even hear one set from my parking spot at Kroger). The musical acts performed on three uniquely designed stages.

The smallest stage, called the Imaginarium, was located behind the park’s pond. One main stage was underwater-themed, with spumescent bubbles and mermaid-costumed dancers.

“It was easy to see that the Iris [Presents] event coordinators really thought about us when planning the event,” said Ashley Connor, a College junior who attended the festival.

Instead of the common flow of music festivals, where fans follow a strict, structured schedule, sticking to their pre-arranged stages throughout the day, the short distance between the two main stages encouraged a peregrine attitude among the fans weaving through bright stage lights.

And light shows weren’t the only source of color. EDM favorites like neon tutus or “fluffies,” and psychedelic items like body paint and flower garlands were the habiliment of the festivalgoers.

“I honestly think these two cultures are intertwined nowadays,” Connor added. “You’re surrounded by people with positive attitudes.”

The aura was contagious in these crowds. “Positive vibes are all you need” has been the message the two cultures have been spreading for years ­– it’s actually amazing they didn’t come together sooner.

Hybridization, however, did not just occur within the people: the acts were also greatly affected. Musical acts like Beats Antique, Infected Mushroom and Crystal Castles can transcend both genres.

Some of the more mainstream acts played alternative shows. A sliver of people disparaged the changes.

When the first notes of “Crimewave” played, one festivalgoer sprinted to the front of the crowd. He later complained, “this is not Crystal Castles,” as he headed towards the exit. Most fans, however, seemed to embrace the new dynamic tunes, as evidenced by their liberal dancing and wide smiles.

As a seasoned music festival veteran, few things surprise me. But Destroid, a live bass band consisting of Excision, Downlink and KJ Sawka, was the final act on Sunday night, and by far the coolest show I saw all summer.

It was frightening. The bass felt more powerful than a mid-sized earthquake, and each artist looked like the original Predator, except with an LED skeleton. Excision and Downlink played custom MIDI guitars with LED fretboards, and KJ Sawka brought the bass on the drums. The frenzied show of Excision would have been too much for old-school psychedelic hippies, but the new generation was jumping, dancing and borderline moshing.

If you missed the festival, Iris Presents hosts EDM acts every Saturday at Rush Lounge on Buford Highway. In fact, KJ Sawka is playing there this upcoming Saturday.

And if his stellar performance at Imagine was any indication, it’ll be kickass.

– By Caroline Eggers