ATLANTA, GA — On the second day of Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival, there were pockets of college kids, yuppies and middle aged couples out for a night under the stars with everyone from Run The Jewels and Van Halen to Icona Pop and Sam Smith.
In 80-degree temperatures, music fans trooped through Piedmont Park from one stage to the next, but the biggest show of the afternoon, easily, was Daryl Hall and John Oates on the main Electric Ballroom stage. Hall & Oates hosted the most people we’ve seen on the grass in front of one stage while the sun was out.
The crowd for the duo extended from the stage to a meadow, across a walkway and back to another meadow. Classic songs like “You Make My Dreams,” “Rich Girl” and “I Can’t Go For That” echoed through the front end of the park — even at the entry gate, the staff bopped from side to side. One worker dragged, “Can’t go fa’ that, nooooo, no...” The Philly band was in their element as the sun was setting on their performance.
Just after the soft rock vibes, Run the Jewels brought the ruckus. “Atlanta!,” screamed the duo’s DJ, Trackstar. “Are you ready to run the jewels?” Then Killer Mike offered his own introductory words, “Please inform the mayor of Atlanta that like General Sherman, we’re here to burn this muthaf----- down!”
Groups of high school seniors and college freshmen ran across the field to catch “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “Blockbuster Night, Part 1” and “Banana Clipper.” Mike brought out his Dungeon Family OG Big Boi for the latter and that wasn’t the only trick up the group’s sleeve that evening.
Not much time had passed before it was time for another special guest — Gangsta Boo was next up for a raw and uncut performance of “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” “He want this c@%$ in his mouth all day / I put my c@%$ in his mouth all day...,” she rapped. Concertgoers were either amused or completely puzzled.
As a final surprise El-P and Killer Mike paid their respects to their beginning with R.A.P. Music. “That album put us exactly where we needed to be!,” Mike shouted to a cheering crowd, before dipping into “Big Beast” and bringing T.I. and Bun B out for their verses. Pretty awesome. And surprising that the Run the Jewels set was the most star-studded, especially since Drake’s the one dropping a tape with one of the city’s sons, later today (September 20).
Finally, Sam Smith was at the Electric Ballroom stage to close out the evening and the couples were in abundance. Even the single cats were out on Saturday night. I saw a guy in a Two-9 tee shirt walk briskly to the front, singing the lyrics to “Nirvana.” Before then though, Smith was sure to do one of his biggest hits first. He kicked off his set with “I Know I’m Not the Only One.” A group of girls nearby let out bloodcurdling screams and jumped around. “Atlanta!,” Smith shouted. The audience hollered in response. “You guys are so loud. This is amazing!,” he said with a laugh.
Two grown women imitated his British lilt and giggled to each other like fifth-graders. With the encouragement of the crowd, the soul crooner glided through even more: “Like I Can,” “Lay Me Down” and “La La La.” Smith even found a way to include his influences from Amy Winehouse to Motown. His wardrobe change allowed him to let his three background singers get some shine. From “Tears Dry On Their Own” to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Chic’s “Le Freak,” the crowd was hyped all the way up until “Stay With Me,” closing out this year’s Music Midtown on only the sweetest note.