PREVIEW: Music Midtown Makes a Triumphant Return to Atlanta Live Music Scene

Being a recent transplant to Atlanta, Music Midtown is a festival I’ve heard a lot about but never had the pleasure of attending. The event previously ran annually as a 2-day and later 3-day festival from 1996-2005, in various locations throughout midtown and downtown Atlanta, and was a huge success. In its later years the festival drew over 300,000 people and brought acts such as Tom Petty, The Killers, Bob Dylan, and Dave Matthews Band to Atlanta. In comparison, Bonnaroo typically draws around 100,000, and Lollapalooza, a similar in-town festival, draws around 160,000. Music Midtown was obviously a huge success and a cornerstone of the Atlanta live music scene for some time.

And Music Midtown returns to Atlanta this Saturday, Sept 24th, choosing scenic Piedmont Park as the location. The festival is starting out much smaller than it was at its peak, with only one day of music across two stages, but its a day packed with talent and exciting artists. Here’s the lineup

Manhattan rockers The Postelles open the festival, bringing their raw guitar rock to a bigger stage than usual. Local favorites The Constellations follow and look to showcase their “twisted circus”, as they call it, to the town they featured in their debut album Southern Gothic. Walk the Moon and The Joy Formidable occupy the middle of the afternoon. In the near future they’ll be touring in support of Fitz & the Tantrums and The Foo Fighters, respectively.

Band of Skulls, one of my favorite young bands, closes out the afternoon from 4:30-5:15. The British trio puts out a dark and dirty but very crisp brand of hard rock that you’ve probably heard on a commercial or two. I saw them live for the first time on Thursday night at Bonnaroo, and they absolutely killed it. I’m sure they won over a number of new fans under that packed tent.

Another local favorite, Manchester Orchestra, follows to begin the evening portion and will definitely put on a good show for the home crowd. Young the Giant follows, coming off a big performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards. I honestly haven’t heard much of this band beyond “My Body”, so I’m looking forward to hearing more of their material live. I’m sure this performance will be a crowd favorite though.

Next up we have one of my favorite bands of all time, The Black Keys. This will be my 12th time seeing these guys live, and its amazing to see how far they’ve come without really changing who they are or their sound. They’re drawing such a bigger audience now than they did even 2 years ago, but yet myself and many longtime fans I know still love everything about them and their live shows. They’re still the same old 2-man (and sometimes 4-man, now) blues-rock machine. You just don’t see many bands do that successfully. From talking to other Atlantans it seems that The Black Keys are really the big draw of Music Midtown, although they’re occupying a slightly earlier spot.

Second to last we’ll have Cage the Elephant, a band that’s really caught mainstream fire this year with the single “Shake Me Down”. I’m definitely looking forward to these guys and I think they’ll bring some good energy to a crowd that might be getting a little tired at this point. I’ve never seen Cage the Elephant live but they seem like they would put on a great live show.

And lastly we’ll have Coldplay, who’s been a rather controversial headliner for the festival among Atlanta music circles. Once one of the most popular bands in the world, they have definitely fallen from that pedestal the last couple of years. Regardless, you can’t deny that they’re a very talented group and have put out some of the biggest hits of the last 10-12 years. I think that while people love to profess they’re dislike for Coldplay, we’re going to hear a lot of people singing along to old favorites like “Yellow”, “Clocks”, and “Speed of Sound”. Who knows, I might be one of them.

Overall, its going to be a great 1-day festival and I think the organizers have done a great job with the lineup. For a pretty low price ($55) you’re going to see one of the best bands around today, one of the biggest bands in the world over the past decade, and a number of very talented up and coming groups. Its a can’t-miss if you’re in the Atlanta area.