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Music Midtown wows crowds, breaks bank

Bruno Mars sets off fireworks on the Salesforce stage during his performance on Saturday night.

Bruno Mars sets off fireworks on the Salesforce stage during his performance on Saturday night.

Gaby Paez

Gaby Paez

Bruno Mars sets off fireworks on the Salesforce stage during his performance on Saturday night.

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By Alex Langan and Flynn Kelly
Another successful year of Music Midtown has come and gone on the rolling hills of Piedmont Park. Headliners Bruno Mars, Future, Blink-182 and Mumford and Sons all put on great shows in the sizzling nights of the waning Atlanta summer.

The peak attendance on Saturday was measured at over 78,000, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This is the highest attendance for the festival since it returned from a five year hiatus in 2011.

While the two-day music festival hosted by Live Nation, a live-events company, historically features genre diversity, the past two years have marked a change in the lineup. Genres that typically appeal to an older audience, like classic rock, have been replaced by bands popular among 17-34 year-olds, according to Live Nation Atlanta president Peter Conlon. There were, however, some classic-sounding bands that were not the main draws, including Vintage Trouble and Judah and the Lion.

Impressive performances included AJR, whose electronic-pop sound wowed followers and newcomers alike, and Young the Giant, whose lead singer Sameer Gadhia sported an all-gold, full-body romper, which was surprisingly not the highlight of the show.

From 1997 to 2006 before the hiatus of the festival, three-day weekend passes were an affordable $30. The current price to see fewer bands in fewer days is $145, and fees bring the total to $178.72 for a two-day pass.

This is highway robbery for the savvy consumer. Although neighbors prevented the festival’s expansion to the Active Oval, located in the upper regions of Piedmont Park, there are still many places throughout the park for Music Midtown to potentially expand while not astronomically raising its operating costs and upsetting the community.

The high ticket prices are a possible explanation for ticket resales and evasion of event security to attend the festival for free. Live Nation desperately tried to prevent this with their digital wristband tickets. Of the 100 Grady students surveyed by the Southerner, 20 said they sneaked in to the festival and seven paid less than full retail price for a ticket on the resale market. According to Music Midtown, the removal and resale of a wristband automatically renders it useless, and tickets not purchased through Front Gates Tickets are not valid.

Sixty-six Grady students surveyed also admitted to consuming illicit substances, including alcohol and marijuana. While Music Midtown prohibits bringing in ‘illegal and illicit substances of any kind’ and ‘outside beverages (including alcohol),’ the weak security protocols allowed underage drinkers and smokers to effortlessly consume such substances.

The festival also impacted traffic for nearly a week before and after the actual execution of the festival. Traffic on 10th Street was restricted to one lane each way as the festival set and packed up. This made getting to school on time a nightmare for students. Tardies during first period on Monday, Sept. 18, the first day after the festival, were excused due to a surge in late students.

However, the economic impact is worth the headaches, as the event generated an estimated $8.6 million in revenue from ticket sales in 2016, according to Billboard magazine. Despite traffic issues, high ticket prices and a consistently trashed park (especially after a rainy festival), the economic benefit to Atlanta and impressive performances forgive the problems created by the annual music festival.

Related photo essay:

Music Midtown takes over Piedmont Park

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Music Midtown wows crowds, breaks bank