Quick! Name a music festival. Did you say Bonnaroo or Coachella? Maybe you just attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival ? I bet you didn't think of Music Midtown, did you? If not, there's a reason for that. The newly re-minted Atlanta gathering has been on hiatus since 2006, but returns this weekend with a craftily curated lineup that will remind festivalgoers why this particular fest was so influential during its heyday in the late 1990s -- and how, if the shoe fits this year, it could once again become one of the most talked-about annual music events in the U.S.
Although Music Midtown's expected turnout of around 60,000 people during its one-day tenure in Atlanta's Piedmont Park this Saturday (September 24) pales in comparison to its largest three-day capacity of between 200,000 - 300,000 in the early 2000s, Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta and who co-founded the event in 1994, says that bigger isn't necessarily better.
The new smaller scale, he says, will allow for a "remolding of the Music Midtown model" -- and a chance to connect with a "new core audience" targeted by a uni-genre alternative rock bill starring Coldplay and rounded out by Manchester Orchestra, The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant, The Constellations, The Postelles, Walk the Moon, Young the Giant, Band of Skulls, and The Joy Formidable.
If Music Midtown's going to make a comeback in 2011, it doesn't hurt to have one of the biggest bands in the world as the headliner. Plus, nabbing Coldplay for this appearance was somewhat of a coups for promoter Conlon, since the band is only making a very small handful of live appearances in the U.S. prior to its much anticipated Mylo Xyloto release on October 24, and won't officially tour stateside until well into 2012.
It also doesn't hurt to place the festival in one of the oldest and best-maintained city parks in the country, either. Atlanta's Piedmont Park, thanks to its vintage architectural details, has morphed into a sort of "Central Park" of the South, and has played host to a range of public gatherings since the Cotton States International Exposition of 1895, which attracted 800,000 visitors to the park and featured a prominent speech by Booker T. Washington. More recently, the park has featured one-of-a-kind concerts by the likes of Paul McCartney, The Eagles, and Dave Matthews Band (who filmed their signature 2007 live DVD there).
One city resident, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, is particularly optimistic about Music Midtown's new trial-run. Tickets, which cost $55 for the entire event, included a $1 add-on donation for the Mayor's "Centers of Hope" initiative, dedicated to refurbishing and maintaining Atlanta's recreation centers.
"Piedmont Park is a world-class venue that is perfect for a world-class music festival," Reed said at a July 6 press conference. "This is going to be a win-win for our city, for our neighborhoods, and our children."
For tickets or more information about Music Midtown, click here.