Music Midtown Festival

Piedmont Park / Atlanta, GA

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Photos by Kalyn Oyer

As I entered Piedmont Park on Saturday, I enjoyed the sweet serenades of City and Colour from afar… this was my second Music Midtown encounter, my last one being in 2014, when Eminem, Jack White and John Mayer headlined. This time around, however, I had my trusted Rebel T5i and a photo pass in hand.

DNCE: Lo and behold the god of the Jonas Brothers, the desire of my middle school affection, the poster child from my high school wall of dreamy musicians that I never thought I would ever meet in real life. Dressed in a pink tee, with his hair slicked back to perfection, my favorite Jonas Brother- Joe- was feet away from me as I stared longingly through the lens into his soul. He serenaded me with new melodies, though I longed for some “Year 3000.” Oh, well. It will have to do.

Joe Jonas performs with DNCE

CHVRCHES: I didn’t realize how adorably awkward Chvrches was until this festival. The Scottish blend of sweet vocals and synth created a unique synthpop space for an atmosphere that set up the rest of the festival afternoon.

BIG BOI: I wasn’t sold on attending the Big Boi show, but I’m glad I did. Because of the band’s high energy radiating from the stage and the glowing presence of Big Boi himself, it was actually one of the most fun sets of the festival. I have never seen a performer smile so much while singing. I followed up the Big Boi set by standing back in the crowd for G-Eazy, who hit us with a certain political song that involves profanity plus a potential future President’s name. *cough* FDT.

Twenty One Pilots: There are Twenty One Pilots fans and then there are Twenty One Pilots diehards. I, myself, am a Twenty One Pilots soulmate to the heart-wrenching, goosebump-inducing lyrics created by the godlike duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. The entire Vessel album is burned into my very core, and I get chills every single time I hear “Addict With a Pen.” The second time I saw Twenty One Pilots I was in the third row and got to hold Josh Dun and his entire drum kit up on a platform as he crowd surfed, but a headlining show at night in the dark was even cooler: A) Because they used some incredible light effects, like a red ball of laser light and glowing microphone, and B) Because Tyler Joseph climbing the scaffolding at night is much more terrifying; when Tyler let go from his only stronghold while screaming the lyrics to “Car Radio” from the top, I almost had a heart attack.

Twenty One Pilots

“The Rainpocalypse”: That’s how a fellow photographer appropriately dubbed the chaotic Sunday happenings. I have never been rained on so much in my entire life, and that is fact. Soaking-wet streams of people waited it out for Grouplove, only to hear the dreaded evacuation announcement: “Everyone must clear the festival grounds until further notice.” So, we did—some more willingly than others. The press continued on to the bar to wait out the atrocious weather; about an hour and half later the mad dash back inside ensued.

Grouplove: A must-see for me, the band just dropped a brand new album a couple of weeks before Music Midtown, creating some great new content for their live set. Though shortened because of the rain, the show still included some classic favorites (e.g., “Tongue Tied”). Most people in the crowd didn’t even know the newer lyrics yet, but the danceable beat gave them plenty to groove with.

KE$HA: I didn’t make it to the photo pit for KE$HA, so I just decided to go with the flow and dance. KE$HA’s set was full of stabs at her infamous impending lawsuit, mixed with motivational words of wisdom and bizarre dinosaur choreography. It also included some harder rock ‘n’ roll compared to her traditional pop-’til-you-drop sound. It was grungy, it was soulful, it was heavy and it was definitely out there, along with her rainbow fringe cowgirl costume that looked straight out of a unicorn rodeo.

Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes
Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes: Alabama Shakes definitely hosted the best vocals of the entire festival. There was passion in Brittany Howard’s facial expressions that the crowd couldn’t fully appreciate from the big screen, but ten feet away, it was palpable, and I caught some of it on film.

The Killers: I ended my 2016 Music Midtown Festival with the Killers. Photographers weren’t allowed in the photo pit, but I wanted to be back on top of the hill anyway, with an incredible view of tens of thousands of festival attendees all gazing up at one of the most influential bands of our time. It was a moment for the books. As the festival faded away and the excitement and chaos wound down, “Mr. Brightside” played, giving my millennial childhood all the closure it ever needed.

—Kalyn Oyer


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