Photo Credit: Rosemary Scott
Those who know many performers on a festival's lineup and have a full schedule planned will easily enjoy themselves, but the challenge is getting those who attend for one band or just the headliners to have a good time and discover new artists they enjoy. This year's Music Midtown was scheduled well in that, even if you chose to camp out near one stage all day, you could see a variety of talented artists with breaks of about an hour and a half in between.
The first day, I saw SAINT JHN, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Kacey Musgraves, Portugal. The Man and Post Malone. I had high expectations for these shows, and surprisingly, not one of them disappointed. The one that stuck out for me was, without a doubt, Portugal. The Man. When the band came on stage, there was a message that said, “We are not good at stage banter, so tonight’s performance will feature some slogans written by our management.”
True to their word, they never spoke, instead letting the music speak for itself. I was blown away by the amount of talent on stage, specifically from guitarist Eric Howk. I barely sang along, as I was focusing on the quality of the sound and the complexity of the music—it was undoubtedly and unexpectedly the best show of the weekend.
Directly after Portugal. The Man’s set, the crowd sprinted over to see either Fall Out Boy or Post Malone. I chose Post Malone, even though I have never been a fan. In fact, I was expecting the show to be cheesy and overblown. All expectations left my mind, however, after the first song. Post Malone was relatable, the ultimate hype man, getting the crowd excited all the way to the back row.
His voice was clear and smooth, and he is obviously gifted in that aspect, but what I did not expect was the quality of his performance. He managed to make the show accessible and enjoyable for everyone, causing me to leave all my preconceived notions at the festival and go home with nothing but a positive impression of him and his music.
On Sunday, the theme of surprise continued when the shows I was most looking forward to and the ones I found the most enjoyable did not line up. After watching Maggie Rogers’ Tiny Desk Concert for weeks leading up to the festival, I had high hopes for her 3:30 p.m. show on the smallest stage, and was hoping for my own sake—and the sake of this review—that she wouldn’t disappoint. Fortunately, her show was every bit as positive and easy to enjoy as I expected, and her voice took center stage as she belted the lines to songs from previous releases, as well as her upcoming album.
The show was as good as I had hoped until the very end, when she invited a special guest onstage. I squinted to see if it was really who I thought, as the crowd sprinted to the front of the stage. As I fought to remain upright in the mob of people, I realized what I was seeing—Lil Yachty was standing on stage with Rogers, dancing along to one of her songs.
Photo Credit: Rosemary Scott
After Rogers, I went to see Billie Eilish and Foster the People. Eilish was amazing and exceeded my high expectations, and I watched her from afar as I waited for Foster the People on the next stage over.
I should preface my description of their performance with the information that I have not actively listened to Foster the People since high school, so I went to the concert with expectations based on what the band was like back then. But the group has clearly changed since I knew it four years ago, as the first two songs had an edgy, industrial feel that I was not expecting at all, especially considering the band’s latest pop hit, “Sit Next to Me.”
I was so disappointed, in fact, that I immediately left the show and sprinted to the opposite side of the park to see the set I had been most upset about missing: Gucci Mane. His show was fun, but it felt more like being at a club than a concert. Though he eventually came out and rapped along with Lil Yachty, the majority of the set was simply a DJ playing songs that Gucci Mane had featured in, leaving fans wondering if he was ever going to appear at all.
After Gucci Mane, I saw both Khalid and Kendrick Lamar. Khalid has a beautiful voice, and the best parts of his set were not the upbeat tracks or backup dancers, but rather the show, soulful tracks the crowd knew by heart. It was the perfect intro into Lamar’s set, as it was smooth, relaxing and easy to enjoy.
Lamar is the performer I was most excited to see, and I was nervous his set would not live up to my incredibly high expectations. Fortunately, it was incredible. The set was mixed with old and new tracks, including many from his latest album, DAMN.
The only confusing part of the set were the intermissions about every four songs that featured a cartoon in which Lamar played a turtle who performed kung fu. If there was a message, it was lost—disappointing, since Lamar is outspoken on social issues such as police brutality and poverty. I was hoping the cartoon would have something to do with the issues his music discusses, but it was hard to piece the two together, and though the set was outstanding, the crowd became noticeably less excited every time the graphic came on and the story of the turtle continued.