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LIVE: Music Midtown 2016

LIVEBy: Madison Sharp 

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky- Michael Scott.

With that being said, let me tell you about the journey it took to reach the media pit at Music Midtown. When I applied I was overall denied by the festival but, that was not going to stop me. This is my fourth Midtown but it was my first as a concert photographer. Each year I sat in the crowd dreaming of what it would be like if I could be on the other side in the media pit. So, knowing how hard headed I am I decided to email every single artist/ press manager on that line up. Which included, The Killers, Twenty One Pilots, Beck, The Lumineeers, Alabama Shakes, Kesha, Leon Bridges, Melanie Martinez, GROUPLOVE, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Zella Day, Peter Bjorn and John, Etc. 

Mind you I probably got blacklisted from many record labels from the amount of emails I sent. But the gray skies soon turned blue and I go an in with Peter Bjorn and John. Who by far have the nicest and most corporative press manager. Then finally, it was the day Atlanta had been waiting for.

Saturday September 17th, 2016 was here. I watched the acts on Saturday preform from the crowd but it was worth being packed in like sardines. I saw Zella Day (she’s a goddess), DNCE, Leon Bridges, ColleGrove, and Twenty One Pilots. Each act was wonderful especially Leon Bridges. I think he might be Sam Cooke reincarnated. Bridges puts on a show incomparable to anyone in modern music. His retros style of fashion/ music holds a special place in those hearts who listed to old records with loved ones. This day was filled with sweat, third degree sunburn, and some of the best festival food out there.

Then came Sunday. The day I had been waiting for since I was in middle school. I remember saving every penny I had when I was younger to buy Kesha’s Animal + Cannibal album. And on Sunday September 18th 2016 I finally got to see her. The day started off with me waiting at the media desk for over an hour to get my press pass. As they put the media wristband on me along with the sticker that said Peter Bjorn and John only I devised a plan. As I walked backstage to tour buses and staff who gave me questionable looks I knew I was home. I got to Peter’s set right as they came on.

Peter Bjorn and John: First off if you haven’t heard this Swedish indie band you are missing out. If you look them up I bet you can recognize a catchy tune called, “Young Folks.” Which was featured on every ABC drama for two years. These guys were full of energy and were ready to take on the large crowd that had gathered at their set. As I danced/ took pictures I discovered a brand new favorite song, “What You Talking About?” This song is filled with bells and whistles has been on repeat since Midtown. Check out their new album, Breakin’ Point. This is the band’s newest album since 2011.

Melanie Martinez: After Peter’s set I made my way back up to my friends. Four of my favorite people were camped out front row at the Roxy stage for Melanie, Grouplove, and Kesha. When I arrived I saw that they had been pushed back and we were no longer front and center. Many frequent concert goers know the feeling of not being front and it’s horrific. So, I decided my photo journey was not finished, I was not taking no for an answer. I knew I wanted to take pictures of Melanie so I did. I looked down at my sticker that read, “Madison Sharp- Peter Bjorn ONLY” I got an idea. I asked around for a pen and of course the old woman next to me pulled a sharpie out of her purse. As I crossed out the word ONLY and looked at the security (all volunteer college boys) I politely asked if media could enter a different way than all the other photographers. Of course, he opened the gates and I was in. As I stood there in fear that I would get kicked out of the pit, or worse the festival, Melanie finally came out. During my journey to the pit I noticed a pink crib being rolled out onto the stage. It matched the oversized teddy bear’s, building block, and bottles. When her set time rolled around she was no where to be found. The clock kept ticking 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 8 minutes…. Then finally the pink crib began to rock and with one kick of the drum, there she was. She started her set out with Cry Baby. As she began to sing each and every person in the audience did as well. Over 90% of the crowd was full of die hard Melanie fans. With each dance move, the crowd mimicked her. Melanie earned each and every one of those fans by putting everything she has into her music. She has embodied the persona of an adult baby… and she does it well. I kinda kept it a secrete that I loved Melanie because of her heavy pop sound but after her set, I don’t care who knows. She is not only entreating in her frilly socks and bloomers but she also becomes the person she is singing about. Whether that be, a psychopath or a lost baby. Safe to say, she was one of the highlights of the day. Her debut album Cry Baby is available now.

GROUPLOVE: Despite Atlanta being not only my home but one of my favorite places in the world, the weather is unpredictable to say the least. This day was no exception. In the time that passed between Melanie and GROUPLOVE we had to evacuate the festival. Which isn’t ideal to people who have been waiting at the front of a stage for 6+ hours. After what seemed like days (and hour and 1/2) we got to re-enter. The flood gates were truly opened as people ran eagerly to get their spots back. As my friends took off I ran slowly behind, trying to keep my camera safe. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. As I slowly made my way back I got tacked by a man who might have been slightly smaller than John Cena. As I laid on the ground contemplating if my minor concussion was worth it, I finally got up after seeing the literal stars you see in cartoons after Wylie Coyote gets and anvil dropped on his head. I made my way back to the stage and waited for GROUPLOVE. The crowd seemed to multiply 10X it’s size before GROUPLOVE came on. When they entered the stage you could feel the earth rumble. Each and every person was excited to see them and they were no different. The band’s electric energy translated to the soggy crowd. The familiar clapping sound started playing as the opened with Itchin on a Photograph. Each person in the audience screamed the lyrics, “Feel the rain come down and you know now…” I truly cannot put into words how electric GROUPLOVE is. Every single on of their songs is happy and can be screamed at the top of your lungs. LadyGrouplove and her husband (Yes, they are married and have a baby) put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, much less at a festival. These two translate the love they have for one another into their mesmerizing performance. With each hit of the drum, the crowd shook their wet hair in true ecstasy. Check out GROUPLOVE’s newest album that came out this September, Big Mess.

Kesha: Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for. I thought when we arrived at 10 AM that we would be the first in line for the Kesha set. Apparently 2000 people had the same idea. This set was a huge deal to me because not only is Kesha a female icon but I have been obsessed with her since I was in middle school. Especially now, more than ever because of her ongoing struggle with Dr. Luke. As it got later and later each member of the ever growing crowd got more and more anxious for her set. As it neared 8 the stage was set with colorful streamers. The lights them dimmed 5 men in bolo ties walked onto the stage. These western men with mustaches are The Creepies. Ever since the battle with Dr. Luke, Kesha is not allowed to release any new music. So, she took the matter into her own hands and created a new band, Kesha and The Creepies. As an organ began to play, one of the Creepies introduces Kesha as “Hell’s prettiest angel, Kesha”. Then like magic she entered. The crowd erupted in blood curdling screams, and I was no different. The goddess herself began her set with a rock version of “We R Who We R”. Like I said above, Kesha is not allowed to release any new music so she put a twist on all her pop hits and changed them into hard-core rock ballads. Each one of her classic hits became a mash up of rock and experimental pop. This set truly blew me away. She exudes this beautiful confidence while putting her heart and soul into each lyric. Not only is she amazing but so are her Creepies. They were a show all on their own. Theses guys would put on dinosaur heads and dance in synchronized rhythm with Kesha during her hit song Dinosaur. They would also willingly participate as Kesha threw them on the ground to kiss/ kill them. During the song Cannibal she drags one of The Creepies to the ground then rips out his heart, which of course is full of glitter. As the set went on she spoke about her never ending battle with Dr. Luke, explaining that she is not allowed to release new music but she can do covers. The crowd could see her heart was aching as she played Dolly Parton’s Jolene. After that she did  cover of “You don’t Own me” by Grace. She began to say, “This song says everything I couldn’t”. Kesha puts her whole self into her music. Her set made us dance and cry but it was by far the coolest festival set I have ever seen. Kesha has reinvented herself into a beautiful strong rock and roll woman. If you have a chance to see Kesha and The Creepies on their fall tour, TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY.  Noisey recently did an article about how a Kesha show will change your life. And it does.

In conclusion, Music Midtown 2016 was an eventful one to say the least. It was a soggy dream I wish I never woke up from. I truly had the time of my life because I got to do what I love in the city I love. Each year somehow Midtown outdoes itself. If you ever have the chance to go to Music Midtown take the opportunity.

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