Music Midtown Headlines Fresh Faces, Veterans

Last weekend a surge of music lovers filled Piedmont Park as over tens of thousands of people made their way to Atlanta’s annual Music Midtown Festival. Compared to last year’s one day festival, Music Midtown now boasts two days worth of renowned artists and genres, ranging from grunge rock to hip-hop. Well-known artists, both current and classic, graced the stage throughout the weekend.

Friday’s lineup consisted of artists Van Hutt, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Avett Brothers, T.I. and headliner, the Foo Fighters. Saturday featured Ludacris, Neon Trees, Florence + the Machine, Girl Talk, Pearl Jam and more.

Beautiful weather and a lot of sun welcomed concert-goers at The Meadow in Piedmont Park, along with an excessive amount of vendors and merchants, providing the perfect atmosphere for the festival as fans waited for their favorite artists to take the stage.

In all black, with her signature hard-rocker aura, Joan Jett, accompanied by her band the Blackhearts, transformed the audience just as she did back in the ’70s. A mix of young and old in the audience all sang along to “I Hate Myself For Loving You” and the infamous “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Jett also performed newer singles, including the catchy “TMI” and “Reality Mentality.”

After Jett, T.I. took the Electric Ballroom Stage — the first artist to bring rap and hip-hop to this year’s festival. Performing with a live band for the first time, the Atlanta-native showcased familiar songs from “Top Down Low” to “Whatever You Like.”  T.I. received cheers from the audience when he performed a cover of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Ni**as in Paris.” T.I. ended with his billboard hit “Live Your Life.”

The Foo Fighters closed the night with an accumulation of songs from over almost two decades of the band’s history. With a stunning opening of “White Limo,” the Foo Fighters leapt into full gear, making the most of their two-hour set. The band performed classics such as “Rope,” “My Hero” and some of their more recent songs, such as “Arlandria.”

A turning point in the set came when the 20,000 plus audience members started singing lyrics to “Best of You” without the band, something frontman Dave Grohl said was a first with any American audience. To show his appreciation, Grohl started singing “Times Like These” alone with only his guitar, something rarely done in concert.

Towards the end of the act, Ghrol called out one of his rock ‘n’ roll idols and earlier artist that day, Joan Jett, who came on stage to perform alongside the band for an improvised and exhilarating “Bad Reputation.”

The Foo Fighters ended the night just as they began: with a powerful following, this time to the hit “Everlong.” When the lights finally came up and the band left the stage, there was no doubt that Friday’s headliners created an atmosphere of musical reverence that would carry on to day two of the festival.

Saturday brought over 50,000 fans to The Meadow, all eagerly ready to experience the second day of music.

Hip-hop artist and rapper Ludacris, another Atlanta-native, performed for a full hour in the late afternoon with singles from his past eight albums. Songs such as Usher’s “Yeah,” Fergie’s “Glamorous” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were intermixed with Ludacris’ own top hits, allowing the concert to become a showcase of smash hits.

While Neon Trees was one of the more contemporary bands in a lineup of classics, it was clear that they were able to transfix a crowd just like Joan Jett and the Foo Fighters. Lead singer Tyler Glenn engaged the crowd, from “1983” to the hit single “Animal.”

One of Saturday’s most commanding artists was the impeccable Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine. Welch’s eclectic personality was evident from her plum-colored gown, her gripping voice and her eagerness as she moved about the stage. After a soulful “What The Water Gave Me,” Welch coolly looked at the audience and said, “I’m giving myself a big drink, here’s to you.”

Her musical prowess shone during “Spectrum,” and she ended her set with the famous “The Dog Days Are Over,” which prompted sing-alongs and bursts of excitement from members of the audience.

Girl Talk provided a break from the typical rock bands and hip-hop artists, led by mash-up artist Gregg Michael Gillis.The stage became one large dance party as certain guests were allowed on stage to dance behind Gillis and toilet stringers and confetti were released on the audience throughout the set. His combinations ranged from Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” to Drake’s “The Motto” and Swizz Beatz’s “Money in the Bank.”

During Girl Talk’s hour-long set, the other side of The Meadow was completely filled as audience members waited with anticipation for headliner Pearl Jam to come on. It was evident that their act would rival the Foo Fighters from the night before.

Pearl Jam brought with it its die-hard fans from the ’90s, as almost half the crowd was comprised of people older than 30. Frontman and iconic vocalist Eddie Vedder lead the grunge-rock band with energy. Vedder belted out “Animal,” praised Florence + the Machine’s performance earlier that day and proceeded to play the softer “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”

“Love is as deep as let’s say the ocean,” Vedder said. “With love there will be waves.”

This dedication led into Vedder’s vocals of “Amongst the Waves.”

More celebrated songs were also performed, such as “Better Man,” which started out solely on Vedder’s guitar and eventually gained momentum as the band joined in along with the echoes of the audience. Pearl Jam’s most recognized — and possibly oldest — song “Even Flow” was belted out and finished off with a long guitar solo by Stone Gossard on lead guitar.

While Vedder took the time to remind the audience to vote this coming November, the music was not lost on the crowd, especially with the timeless “Jeremy.”

Pearl Jam closed the night with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” leaving the crowd mesmerized as the momentous rock set came to an end.

Building off of last year’s comeback success, Music Midtown went above and beyond to secure the approval of music lovers. The lineup will be a tough act to follow, but if this year’s return is any indication, there is little doubt that next fall’s festival will be stronger than ever.

— By Rachel Duboff