Promoter Peter Conlon on Music Midtown's return: "This is not Year 13. This is Year 1"
At a noon press conference at the downtown W hotel Wednesday, Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed couldn't resist "stealing a little thunder" away from the city's veteran concert promoter Peter Conlon as the Live Nation president waited to be introduced. "Music Midtown is back, Atlanta!" Reed said. "We're going to have a world class show in a world class venue. We're having Coldplay!"
After a six year hiatus. the city's signature music festival will return September 24, this time in Piedmont Park. Instead of a sprawling three-day event spread across several acres in the city's Renaissance and Central Park neighborhoods, the one-day event on two stages will be confined to Piedmont Park. Headlining the show will be British pop group Coldplay with opening act The Black Keys. Other acts set to perform at the day-long festival include cage the elephant, Manchester Orchestra, Young the Giant, Band of Skulls, The Joy Formidable, The Constellations, The Postelles and Mona.
Tickets will be $55 each and will go on sale July 16 through Ticketmaster. Piedmont Park's capacity is 55,000 (compared to 2005's final Music Midtown event in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood which held roughly 100,000 attendees). The festival will run roughly from noon to 11 p.m. Conlon is hopeful that the festival will once again be an annual event but moved to the Fall from the previous festival's spot on the city's Spring schedule.
While not yet inked, Conlon and Reed hinted that a major act could open the festival on Friday, September 23 with an evening concert (Intel has heard consistently for weeks that iconic pop star Prince is being sought for the bill).
Conlon cautioned the media not to consider the scaled down reboot of the festival to be a continuation of the previous decade's massive music experience. "Things have changed in the business. We're not trying to pick up where we left off. The festival right now is envisioned as a one-day event. But we're working on a Friday night possibility. If that comes together as planned, we'll be announcing another event shortly. "
"None of this would have happened without the mayor's support and the support of the city," Conlon said. "Events like this just can't happen without a lot of people working together. It's a large undertaking. It usually takes a year to put together a festival like this. We're starting on kind of a short fuse this year but we wanted to get a festival this year."
In response to Intel's question regarding how Live Nation will be working with the Piedmont Conservancy to maintain the integrity of the city's signature Midtown green space, Conlon said: "The conservancy is a great organization and we have a great relationship with them. The previous events we did there [The Eagles in 2010 and Paul McCartney in 2009] resulted in no damage whatsoever to the green space. We go to great extent to protect the green space. We lay down roads that we build with flooring. Nothing touches that grass. You can't even tell we were there."
Added Reed: "I'm going to be working with Peter and the Piedmont Park Conservancy to ensure that this a complete success for all parties involved. We have been having very warm conversations with the conservancy on this." Reed said that part of the proceeds from Music Midtown will go to his mayoral initiative, the Centers of Hope recreational facilities for children. "This is going to be a win-win for our city, for our neighborhoods and for our children."
After the press conference, Conlon told Intel that the absence of a signature music festival in a major American city in the post-Music Midtown era was one of his incentives for getting back in the festival game. "Atlanta needs one of these and if I wasn't going to do it, someone else was. I felt the time was right."
The 2011 Music Midtown line up's mixture of established acts and baby bands continues the festival's legacy of bringing lesser known bands to the city before blowing up big. Conlon said that mix is intentional. "The Black Keys next year will be an arena band. Manchester Orchestra, an Atlanta band, will go on to play the Fox and then arenas. Every one of these bands you will see grow over the next five years just like Coldplay did when we first brought them to Atlanta at the Tabernacle. These bands have those kinds of legs. They're the future big acts."