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Music Midtown Day 1: Drake, Hozier, And August Alsina Shine

Live at Music Midtown.

Erika Goldring // Getty Images

ATLANTA, GA — On Friday (September 18), Atlanta’s Music Midtown kicked off this year’s lineup at the city’s Piedmont Park. There were tens of thousands of music fans pacing the park grounds from stage to stage over the course of just a few hours, hoping to see everyone from Tove Lo and Elton John to August Alsina and Drake.

Alsina shocked life into the festival early with his colorful language during the daylight hours. Patrons of the two-day festival, who were passers-by, either frowned at the singer’s easy profanity or snickered and took a seat, trying to see what his deal was. The New Orleans native and his dancers gave a show for sure. “Which one of y’all taking me home,” he sang, while walking out from backstage. Although he was a few minutes late to the Honda stage, the R&B crooner managed to drop quite a few smash hits and album cuts (“No Love,” “Kissin’ On My Tattoos,” “I Luv This”) from the Testimony LP for the mainly female crowd — including one special lady that he had fished out of the audience. “What’s ya name?,” he said, smiling as the young woman sat on a stool onstage. “You look beautiful. I got a lil’ gift for you too.” Then the woman beamed as he handed her a giant teddy bear and a bouquet of roses.

It seemed that by the second half of the show where Alsina was revisiting his life in the 504, both pre- and post- Katrina, he was getting into his groove. It wasn’t the saccharine romance from earlier — this second half was the grit that’s credited with much of his appeal since the singer’s debut. He hopped through tracks like “Make It Home,” “Downtown” and “FML” before his tardiness to the stage came back to haunt him at the close of his set. “They saying we outta time y’all...,” he revealed as the sound crew unceremoniously cut his music.

Shortly after August wrapped up his set, Hozier sat with his acoustic guitar perched on his lap at the Electric Ballroom stage. The 25-year-old singer dove into “Like Real People Do” — there were subtle strings from the violinist onstage complementing the sad sweetness of this particular track. The crowd for Hozier was one of the biggest that this writer’s seen at sunset on any first day of Music Midtown. Typically, the park is still filling in for the later shows, but for the Irish musician it seemed that most everyone in Piedmont during the 6:45 to 8pm block, was there to see Hozier. And he was grateful too. “I must admit,” he said with a smirk. “Some of greatest crowds I’ve even played to, have been in Atlanta. I’m so glad to be back.”

Then he ribbed, “Think you guys can sing a couple notes for me?” The crowd hollered in affirmation and Hozier moved on into “To Be Alone,” “Someone New,” and “Arsonist’s Lullaby.” But possibly the most interesting part of his set was the mashup between his rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Problem” and Warren G’s “Regulate.” Incredible! Finally, he closed out with the biggest song of his career thus far — “Take Me to Church.” I spotted teenagers standing in line for the portable toilets, run from where they were waiting to look at the stage as Hozier warbled, “Offer me that deathless death / Good God / Let me give you my life...”

Later in the evening, as Elton John rocked out on the Belk stage at one end of Piedmont Park, Drake took over the Electric Ballroom stage for the evening. He started off strong with hard-hitters like “Crew Love,” “Trophies” and “Worst Behaviour.” Then of course, the Toronto rapper smoothed things out just a bit with tracks like “Hotline Bling,” “Find Your Love” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”

Then, “F--- that romance s---! You know Drake. Champagne and bubble baths. Shrimp and lobster for the ladies. Thigh massages... Bites on the earlobe... You know. We ain’t gotta make it the whole show.”

In between flirting with the girls in the crowd and putting his charismatic manners on display, the T Dot MC also expressed that he has a formidable soft spot for Atlanta. It’s something Drizzy says every time he’s in the A, but this time, his profession of love came with a juicy detail that hip-hop heads have been wondering about as of late. At the end of “Back to Back,” the OVO general rapped, “I took a break from Views, now it’s back to that / And me and Future got the tape coming right before that...”

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After a quick run through his verse on the “100” joint with Game, he shouted, “On Sunday, we about to make a muthaf------ movie.” So, not only did we hear the confirmation of the joint project, but the tentative date as well.

It makes sense that Drake would reveal this news here — years ago, Atlanta hosted one of his very first sold out shows in Midtown — right around the time So Far Gone dropped. The first time. This was even before Young Money came knocking.

“I been staring at the calendar a long time waiting on this one right here,” he said, nearly breathless from performing. He name-dropped Hot Beats Studios just down the street from the park — a place up-and-coming artists record when they don’t want to be in the middle of too much, but it’s a hotbox, with a single exit. He mentioned staying at the 12 Hotel, a boutique spot in the city that housed plenty of nouveau riche rappers and athletes on their come-up. So in saying all of this, the “If You’re Reading This” creator reestablished yet again that his history with this town is rooted in something substantial.

“Atlanta,” he started again. “I love you so much. You’ve given me so much and as long as you allow, I’m going to come and give you my very best.”

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