Imagine Dragon’s Wayne “Wing” Sermon remembered hearing all the childhood stories drummer Daniel Platzman used to tell about the Music Midtown Festival.
“He made it seem like an epic thing,” said Sermon, the guitarist of the four-man rock group. They’re among 22 acts that will perform at the two-day festival, which kicks off in Piedmont Park in downtown Atlanta on Friday.
“It’s kind of where (Platzman) fell in love with live music,” Sermon said. “It was always one of his ambitions to play there. With all the people performing, it’s going to be ridiculous. I definitely can’t wait.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Phoenix, Kendrick Lamar, Journey, 2 Chainz and Weezer are some of the top acts at the festival, which drew more than 90,000 people last year. This year’s performances will take place on three different stages.
Sermon is looking forward to checking out and meeting a few of the other acts, especially the Red Hot Chili Peppers – one of his favorite bands.
“I might have to break through security to get to them,” he said. “They’re one of my idols. I grew up listening to them from the early days. They’re very influential to me and the band. They are legends.”
Ryan Merchant, singer of indie pop duo Capital Cities, said he is hoping to join the crowd as a spectator after the group’s Saturday afternoon performance.
“I think people believe it’s better to go backstage or see the bands from the side of the stage,” Merchant said. “But the reality is that it sounds crappy from there. It’s more fun to watch the show out in the crowd in front of the speakers.”
Music Midtown, which was first held in 1994, drew as many as 300,000 people over a spring weekend as a three-day festival. For 12 straight years, three stages stretched through several blocks.
But Peter Conlon, co-founder of the event with Alex Cooley, decided to cancel the 2006 festival because the event became too expensive. He also said the rain each day put a damper on the festival, which was held in what he called a “congested area” behind the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.
At the time, Music Midtown became too much of a hassle.
“It just didn’t make any sense,” said Conlon, who is also the president of Live Nation Atlanta. “I didn’t feel the urge or need to do it any time soon. People were asking me when I was going to bring it back. But they just didn’t understand the issues.”
In time, the festival was resurrected. Conlon said the support of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the newfound location at Piedmont Park helped convince him to bring the event back in 2011.
Since the festival’s return, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, T.I., Black Keys, Ludacris and Pearl Jam have performed.
Conlon doesn’t foresee Music Midtown going back on a hiatus any time soon.
“I want this to go on for a longtime,” he said. “I hope this becomes the annual festival that is associated with Atlanta.”