Columbia Live: Imagine Music Festival
Atlanta's EDM Festival draws big names and big crowds.
On the weekend of September 21 - 23, Imagine Music Festival closed out the summer festival season at the Atlanta Motor Speedway with some of the biggest names in all genres of electronic dance music. The majority of sets were played after sun-down, which dramatically enhanced the festival atmosphere. Whether you were walking down Main Street in the festival grounds or walking through the campsites, music and art could be found everywhere to satisfy anyone’s creative and music-loving personality.
After arriving to the festival campgrounds on Friday night, my weekend started off at Oceania Stage with one of the acts I looked forward to the most: 12th Planet. Armed with handfuls of songs yet to be released by several artists along with himself, he brought the heat to an eager crowd just after Riot Ten ended. After screaming “Make some noise for me!” when his set ended, the crowd went nuts. Fans of 12th Planet and Kill the Noise should be expecting one of the heaviest collaborations, based off what was previewed this weekend. After dropping a brand-new VIP (Variance in Production) of Virtual Riot and Datsik’s track “Nasty,” the “riddim gang” in Atlanta got one of the few first looks at what might be one of the most anticipated tracks for the end of the year.
Taking a step towards the more ambient side of EDM, Galantis brought it with a mix filled with songs that put the crowd at Oceania Stage in their feelings and others to make them dance their hearts out. What grabbed my attention were the drums both members played during build-ups and instrumentals. It added a layer most DJs do not provide that gives off heavy-hitting sounds and natural drum tones some producers may be missing while performing.
Moving to the Disco Inferno stage, Boogie T. and Squnto brought the heavy dubstep to a stage filled with architecture, fire and an eager crowd. After seeing them at Okeechobee Music Festival earlier this year, it was an act I was not going to miss. With his knowledge of music and technical expertise, Squnto brought Megachop to the Disco Inferno Stage. Playing up to four songs at once and rapidly switching between them during the drop, Squnto created a unique effect for the crowd that brought out the excitement in everyone, especially for those riding the rail. Boogie T. took his time during the back-to-back to bring the riddim dubstep and funk inspired music. With hippie vibes and hard-hitting synths, Boogie T. created an environment that is unique to his own production style.
Closing out Day 1 at Oceania, Armin van Buuren brought the state of trance to Imagine. Being one of the biggest names in electronic and having two sets at Ultra Miami earlier in the year, the anticipation was through the roof for the King of Trance. While observing the crowd throughout the set, I couldn’t help but notice not one person was standing still. Everyone was dancing like no one else was watching. It was the perfect way to kick off the weekend, and an amazing artist to close out Day 1.
Day 2 was one for the books. With some of the heaviest artists on the bill playing, it was non-stop energy and head banging for those on the rail.
One artist I want to spotlight is Leah Culver. She has been featured in one of Marshmello’s most recognizable songs “Fly” and Adventure Clubs ambient dubstep track “Reaction,” along with many others. Before the show I was expecting a relaxing start to the day with ambient melodies and calming vocals as some of her features entail, but I was pleasantly surprised to see she had one of the hardest sets of the weekend. She played tracks from artists like Spag Heddy, Adventure Club, Marshmello, All-American Rejects, and many other huge names in electronic and alternative music. For songs featuring her vocals, she was backed up by her own band and strutted on stage to give a powerful performance even with a voice that was borderline hoarse. She is an artist I am going to be looking out for in the future on festival lineups, featured tracks and local shows. She put on a show I am not going to forget.
Shortly after, Bear Grillz went on another level of hard for the dubstep lovers in Atlanta. Although I had to leave early because my camera sensor was burnt by a laser during the set, my time in the photo pit was filled with energy from people all around, and I couldn’t help but dance at some points when several of my favorite tracks came on. When “Rumble” by Excision and Space Laces was queued up as the intro for the set, attendees (including me) started preparing for a set that was about to be one of the most intense of the weekend. I managed to catch the last five minutes after attempting to fix my camera. When I returned to the stage I was greeted by a family photo and Bear Grillz telling the crowd to scream “F*** Bear Grillz!” after the countdown. Just as the next act was about to go on, a long-time fan of his was given access to Oceania stage to propose to his girlfriend. If you caught my Garnet & Black Magazine Instagram takeover, you can attest to how loud the crowd roared when she said “yes.”
After a short break, I made my way back to catch Adventure Club who gave 110 percent for their rapidly growing crowd. Their set was perfectly mixed with ambient and feelsy tracks, hard-hitting dubstep and chart topping hits in the pop rock, soul, punk and hard rock genres. Dropping hard hitting songs from A Day to Remember’s “The Downfall of Us All” and The Beatles’ “Come Together” brought roars of excitement from the crowd bringing out the hard rock and pop rock lovers in the crowd. Some may say it was a crime to drop a dubstep track from a song by The Beatles, but many in attendance will argue that it was a highlight of their set.
Taking the stage shortly after was Bassnectar. Although I’m not much of a fan of the style of music he plays, his visuals and lighting are on a completely different level. Lasers from his set grabbed the attention of the crowd and the visuals brought everyone on an optical journey throughout his hour-long mix. His massive fan base could be seen in attendance almost everywhere you looked and took up the majority of the crowd. There were many holes in the crowd after the set finished when there was a complete migration to another stage before Alesso began his set to close out Day 2.
The dispersal of the Bassnectar fan base made the Alesso fan base more intimate for the people dedicated to the Progressive House lifestyle. When I first started listening to electronic dance music, Alesso was one of the first artists to grab my attention with his lyrical tracks that take listeners on a journey through melody. There was a classic rave atmosphere with songs like “Heroes (We could be),” “Under Control” with Calvin Harris and “Calling (Lose My Mind) with Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia. Fireworks were set off after his set which made the night’s end extremely powerful as the music began to fade out.
Although the third day’s schedule was set earlier in the day with the heat in full effect, it didn’t get close to stopping everyone from going as hard as they could during the afternoon sets. Famous vine star and producer Getter kicked the third day off with a bang. With a set featuring songs by Space Laces, Excision, and exclusive previews to songs coming out on his album “Visceral” on September 28, he brought the head bangers and the mosh pit lovers out early. His love for rap was shown when songs like “1000 Rounds” by Pouya and “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes blasted through the speakers to the mostly college-age crowd. I waited three years to see Getter and his set at Imagine topped any live mix I listened to in the past.
After recently dropping a new album, RL Grime brought some of the biggest hits in trap to the Oceania stage and an intimate crowd. Even with the heat still high, fans hydrated so they wouldn’t miss one of the biggest names on the festival’s lineup. When RL Grime shouted, “You all know this one, I better see everyone get hype to this,” I immediately knew what attendees were in for. One of the most recognizable song intros faded in and excited screams could be heard from the campgrounds. He completely played through “Core,” which gave everyone the second wind they needed to keep on partying throughout the day. Coming off of his new album Nova, the lyrics to “UCLA” featuring 24hrs were recited by both dedicated and new fans.
With this being the third time I saw them, I knew Zeds Dead was going to put on a show to remember. This set felt different from previous sets I’d seen in the past, featuring a longer house section and an “OG Zeds Dead” section featuring some of their original songs. For those of you that follow Zeds Dead, they have many songs that were previewed featuring Bassnectar and Snails that I thought brought the energy up in the crowd the most.
Closing out the Amazonia stage was an act I also got to see for the first time, GRiZ. I didn’t know what to expect going in besides the funky vibes he brings in his released music, but he shattered expectations. I now realize why his fan base is as large as it is. He opened up his set by performing a rap verse and playing a style of dubstep unique to his name, starting the party off perfectly. The good times really rolled when the funk was brought out for a crowd eager to hear the hits that brought them into his fan base. “PS GFY” and “Good Times Roll” are tracks that almost everyone has heard no matter if you are into electronic music or not, and it brings in a crowd of genre-diverse fans that can all enjoy what he has to bring. The iconic saxophone riffs from his biggest tracks could be heard all around as he played his sax live for the expanding crowd. Although his set time competed with Kaskade, I was surprised to see how many people came to attend and I definitely would not recommend missing a GRiZ set if given the opportunity to see him.
Overall, Imagine Music Festival was a huge success. The campgrounds were full of amazing and helpful people, the staff members were very funny and helpful when anyone was in need. Their mission to keep fans hydrated with water refill stations and by having volunteers in the crowd handing out free water was a huge success. If given the opportunity to attend again, I will 100 percent.