At the beginning of August, a not-so-perfect storm trashed the festival plans for tens of thousands at Lollapalooza in Chicago, and then again at Veld in Toronto. I happened to be at both, disappointed and drenched, so the festy feels were real and desperately needed when I stepped off the plane in Atlanta for Imagine Music Festival to close out the month right. After two less-than-orgasmic festivals in the past month, the bar was set high for Imagine Music Festival and I was nervous it wouldn’t live up to the vision I created in my head. My worries began to fade away as I set off through the terminal toward baggage claim past two Southwest gate agents singing an impromptu rendition of Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch on a karaoke machine one brought from home. Thank you, Southwest Airlines, for being you, and thank YOU Mr. Wahlberg for your 90s gold.
Once I had retrieved my bags it was a quick $2.50 ride on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) light rail to downtown and a short walk past several video billboards splattering colorful TomorrowWorld cinePLUR all over the shops, bars, and restaurants of The Mall at Peachtree Center. I reached my destination of the Omni Atlanta Hotel at the CNN center. The Omni is the best pick of hotels in the area and an easy choice to make, given its reputation for quality, convenient walking distance from main attractions, and most importantly a quick five-buck Uber ride to the festival grounds. When prices surged around 3AM, my total ride only cost $10.
Getting to the festival is incredibly convenient. The drop-off points are all right next to ticketing, check-in, and security. The team at IRIS Presents has learned the ropes quickly with Imagine Festival. With only two years in Atlanta under their belt, they have fully utilized the grounds of the park and with adequate staffing. All of my interactions with security, staff, and volunteers were pleasant and without issue. It’s not exactly rare to run into an overly aggressive security, or even worse, a clueless staff member.
This year, Imagine featured a powerful lineup that pulled in a diverse crowd and some very dedicated fans. I met Derek, a psychedelic cactus farmer when an infectious smile who made the drive all the way up from Tampa by himself. “I’m just here to see Glitch Mob, man!” He gestures to his arm, where he is proudly displaying a tattoo of their logo. “I mean, just look!”
The plan, he tells me, is to get their autographs in order to have them added to the logo. Imagine just happens to host a great artist meet and greet area for fans and Derek followed up with me after, texting me a picture of all 3 signatures.
“Dude, I did it! Met them not once but TWICE! I was fan girling so hard haha!”
Inside the world of Imagine it is easy to forget that you are in the middle of bustling Atlanta. While I tend to prefer the laidback vibe of a camping festival such as TomorrowWorld over the urbane swagger of Ultra Miami (with the exception of EDC Puerto Rico – you just keep doing what you’re doing), Imagine Music Fest delivers a nice blend of the two that’s not only refreshing but works very well.
Bass heads hurried past yoga mats and hoopers on their way to the thundering Amazonia stage while weekend warriors and veterans alike clad in all manner of favorite festival attire pushed to the front of main stage Oceania. Those seeking a something a little harder could find drum and bass at the amphitheater of the Imaginarium or you could get out of the sun with a drink in the Chill House at The Masquerade, a venue on the park grounds which also conveniently hosted the official after parties. Another area worth note was Incendia – a large dome structure with misters that served as a cool-off zone by day and featured fire spinning at night. See my interview with fire spinners here. Numerous entertainers could be found throughout — an oversized robot, a card-trick magician, fire spinners, live art, aerial acrobatics, and roaming squads of beautiful women in various manners of intricate blue-green costumes and glittery makeup.
“I just love the whole like theme and vibe, with all the costumes and art,” Krista, a local college sophomore enthusiastically told me. “There’s a lot going on and Imagine definitely has a really cool energy to it.”
I just really need to talk light-up foam sticks and inflatables. Often, I find myself arriving just after everyone has received those little ubiquitous LED foam batons and I wonder where they all came from. At Imagine, they dumped/threw/tossed BOXES of these things to the attendees! I was equally impressed with the work of the squad working not only to distribute those foam sticks, but also inflating all of the many monkeys, bananas, oversized beach balls and numerous other inflatables that were bouncing around out over the crowd.
Yes, a whole squad.
Imagine Music Festival is a festival of all sorts. Staying true to its name, the festival is truly imaginative, with people from all over, all celebrating good vibrations and funky sensations. For a newcomer to the festival world, Imagine brings an impressive amount of production and creativity to the table. For presale tickets at $69 for 2016’s fest, who can resist?
Written By FestPop Staff Writer: Robert Wieland