Walking out through the color shifting bubbles of the exit sign Friday night, I wondered how the acts of Day 2 could live up to performances of the night before.  O’ Brother and Civil Twilight drew the thankless 1:00 and 1:30 slots and adequately served to knock the cobwebs loose and familiarize the crowd with their music.

New York born and LA based singer/songwriter LP proved to be the festival’s most pleasant surprise (for me anyway – her devoted fans knew what they were getting).  The diminutive, ukulele playing powerhouse with towering black curls was the best singer in a lineup that featured force of nature Florence of Florence + the Machine.  LP’s angelic, operatic and often goose bump inducing 8 octave vocal range was showcased with “Salvation” and Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over.”  LP’s voice was so beautiful that she literally brought my girlfriend to tears.


Garbage played next, with Shirley Manson confidently owning the stage in her black bloomers, tights and cape and red hair, lips and glasses.  Manson cut a dramatic figure with cape flowing in the fanned air and addressing the audience with her friendly Scottish brogue.   Manson and Garbage pounded through their submission/domination/ devotion themed yet incredibly poppy hits and made it feel like we were partying like it was 1995.  Joan Jett was right – it is hard to grow up.



Adam Ant and the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse followed in what seemingly was the only misplaced act at the festival.  Taking the stage in a demented pirate costume, Ant looked like Johnny Depp and Cap’n Crunch had a baby.  It’s not that he wasn’t good, and I suppose it was fun to hear “Goody Two Shoes,” but the set just seemed weird.



Both hometown acts were hip-hop heroes.   Ludacris was next.  Playing up the hometown angle, Luda tested the crowd to see if they were truly Ludacris fans.  Getting the lyrical awareness he was looking for, Luda launched into his rapid fire and clever deep voiced signature style and got it going with hits “Act a Fool,” “Area Codes,” “What’s Your Fantasy” and “Move Bitch.”  He announced proudly that he was part of a festival was sold out with 53,000 people, who all were jumping with the “Jump Around/Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover that could be felt in from Piedmont to College Park.



The upstart and ubiquitous Utah quartet Neon Trees intensely burst on stage led by eye and vein popping front man, Tyler Glenn, resplendent with silver hair and shiny pink combat boots.  From Buick commercials to “America’s got Talent”, these rockin’ Mormons can be seen and heard everywhere.  “Everybody Talks” and “Animal” are absolute smash hits and gave all the young fans what they came to hear.



Florence + the Machine are a musical tour de force.  Florence Welsh was radiant – looking elegant in a red and black gown with flowing red hair.  She and her band, back-up singers, and a harpist were set against a backdrop of art deco stained glass and mirror balls.  Despite initial hiccups with the sound, the band got on track and brought their unique brand of indie pop to the festival.  Pounding drums that echoed of Celtic battle hymns provided a haunting sonic foundation for Florence’s soaring vocals.  Florence ecstatically ran through the center aisle of the crowd and at one point took a crown of flowers from a fan.  Once adorned, Florence gave the appearance of ancient ethereal royalty.  It seemed a perfect fit for a sound that is at once ultra modern and hints to the distant past.



Girl Talk was next and was quite simply BONKERS!! By the time GT took the stage the throng (those who weren’t staking out a spot for Pearl Jam) numbered some 30,000.  Bringing 100 people on stage to dance alongside him, Girl Talk turned Piedmont Park into the world’s largest discotheque.  With crew using blowers to shoot rolls of toilet paper over the fans, balloons being released in large sleeves for the crowd to tear open, exploding confetti canons and a pitch perfect video/light show, Girl Talk created the experience that Atlanta’s music fans were clamoring for.  GT’s mash ups included nods to ATLiens Outkast, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Little Richard, Metallica and just about anyone else you can name.  The aural and visual onslaught reached its climax with a spark shower that lasted minutes as GT beat the hell out of his magical musical laptop.



Pearl Jam started the moment Girl Talk finished, which created a frantic migration from one side of the meadow to the other.  Though a cliché, it was absolutely true that Music Midtown had saved its’ best for last.  Since 1991 Pearl Jam has established itself as America’s biggest band with records sales over 60 million units worldwide and a reputation for epic live shows.  PJ has a recording history in Atlanta, as Eddie Vedder pointed out.  He assured the crowd when he said they were thrilled to play Atlanta, in the perfect setting that the festival offered, was not a platitude.

This concert was truly special.  It is difficult to express the enormity of emotion I felt experiencing these artists and this art in this city and at this festival.  As a kid who remembers buying “Ten” as a sophomore in high school at Tower records by Lenox Mall (before grunge was called grunge) Pearl Jam has been a constant companion and a part of the soundtrack of my life.  A man now, with kids of my own, it’s impossible to describe how powerful and thrilling it was to hear these men, as vibrant and more skilled than they’ve ever been, play their hearts out to 50,000 plus.  Do this: don’t take my word for it.  Go find this set list and find a way to pay for it.  Listen to it and hear how amazing it was for yourself.

    1.  Why Go
    2. Save You
    3. Animal
    4. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
    5. Corduroy
    6. Got Some
    7. Amongst The Waves
    8. Wishlist
    9. Better Man
    10. Do The Evolution
    11. Even Flow
    12. Know Your Rights
    13. Nothingman
    14. Supersonic
    15. Jeremy
    16. Porch


    1. Crazy Mary
    2. Given To Fly
    3. The Fixer
    4. Rearviewmirror

Encore 2:

    1. Unthought Known
    2. Black
    3. Alive
    4. Rockin’ in the Free World

 photos © 2012 Emily Kelsey