Photograph by Brigid Burns
If Friday’s joint appearance at a charter school by governor Nathan Deal and rapper Ludacris wasn’t evidence enough for the influence of hip-hop on local politics, consider this: Saturday was officially declared “Outkast Day” by mayor Kasim Reed who commended the duo “for moving and inspiring millions of listeners from around the world with their incredible artistic talent” and helping to put Atlanta on the world stage which “solidified the band’s status as one of the most influential groups in music history.” The mayor’s proclamation was read from the concert stage that evening by city councilmember Kwanza Hall.
Reed’s proclamation also noted Outkast’s 20-year career and sales of more than 25 million albums. Of course, recognition from City Hall isn’t new to Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton; Outkast performed at the 2002 inauguration for Reed’s predecessor, mayor Shirley Franklin.
More than 60,000 people attended the three concerts held in Centennial Olympic Park, according to Pat O’Brien of the promotions group Bowery Presents South. The economic impact to the city has not been tallied, but attendees took over surrounding downtown hotels, restaurants, and bars, paid handsomely for parking, bought T-shirts, and took plenty of $13.50 rides on the Ferris wheel ($50 for the VIP gondola). As a point of reference, this year’s Dragon Con convention reportedly attracted 63,000 visitors and generated an economic impact of $55 million while 2013’s inaugural three-day TommorowWorld EDM festival pumped $85 million in the economy, according to one study.
Certainly attendance at the concerts is only one way to measure the weekend’s reach. For fans looking to celebrate Outkast’s milestone away from Centennial Olympic Park, there were plenty of other options. Call the phenomenon “Outkast Adjacent.” Tailgates popped up at nearby parking lots. Some people booked rooms and watched the show—which could be heard clearly for blocks—from their hotel balconies. Others did the same from their downtown condos.
At the rooftop deck of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce building, a group of friends (including a couple of mine) hosted a party, #ElevatorsATL, that offered attendees a near-concert experience with skybox amenities. The event featured a few hours of an open bar and appetizers, with a clear view to the stage and crowd below.
I incorrectly presumed this crowd would be people who weren’t necessarily fans; on the contrary, some were as hardcore as anybody I saw in the park at Friday night’s show.
For Atlantans of a certain age, who may have known each other from high school or law school, this was a pretty ideal plan. I’d definitely popped a couple of ibuprofen after standing and dancing for five hours two nights earlier. On the roof of the Chamber of Commerce, there was plenty of seating, restrooms that weren’t portable, and a very popular photo booth.