Imagine Festival 2015: Review
Photos and Review by: Ryan Blair
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Festival: Imagine Music Festival
Date: August 29th & 30th
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Price: Weekend Pass $129/ V.I.P $229/ After Parties: $25 advance/ $40 door
This years Imagine Festival is the second year in Atlanta, Georgia at the beautiful Historic Fourth Ward park. The 2015 experience is focused around DJ’s and electronic music with over 75 artists including headliners Datsik, Griz, The Glitch Mob, Tipper–Jones, and Dada Life. The Imagine Festival venue offered three stages and a chilled out house bar with air conditioning and DJ’s that played throughout the day. Additionally there were craft tents/vendors but what makes Imagine Music Festival stand out is it’s keen sense of artistry and experience. They hired dancers, performers, and live artists that make Imagine feel like a mini Electric Daisy Carnival. There were 25,000 people in attendance in 2015 up from last years 15,000 proving that Imagine is a must see festival.
The Imagine Festival grounds absolutely blew me away with their location and production value. From the moment I walked through the gates I could tell that this festival was going to stand out from anything else I’d been to. I was immediately greeted by a group of smiling women dressed as mermaids who welcomed me to this years Imagine Festival. Their costumes were just one of the many different outfits I saw throughout the weekend as performers transformed from fairies to go-go dancers and everything in between. It was very clear from the number of performers, artists, and the stage production that this festival was about more than just packing a bunch of people into a park for a day of music. Imagine Festival is an immersive experience meant to entertain from the moment gates opened, up until they closed.
The way people interact at a festival can truly make or break the experience. It’s more than just the festival attendees, it’s the staff, security, and artists as well. Imagine Festival couldn’t have provided a better atmosphere for a positive experience full of memorable moments and great social interactions. Even staff members that worked long days out in the sun were eager, excited, and happy to help festival attendees with any questions or concerns. Saturday night festival staff was clearing out the venue and with a big grin I was told I could still enjoy my music, but It would help if I started heading towards the exit. The staff member actually said it was my music. It was this small word choice that accurately reflected the staffs intentions to put the personal experience first. It’s a welcoming environment with a festival crew that is dedicated to a great costumer experience.
The people who attended the festival were just as friendly and energetic as the staff. Festivals are great because they bring people of all different cultures and backgrounds together to share in a unique experience. Imagine seemed to consist mostly of the 18-25 age demographic but people of all ages attended to dance the night away. The artists this year must have been feeling the crowd’s energy because I often saw them out talking and interacting with fans after their sets. Imagine Festival provided a unique atmosphere full of smiles, high-fives, and good vibes.
The stage setup was generally well executed with a high level of production including crisp, clear audio and an intricate lighting setup. The stages were designed to fully entertain with dancers, laser lights, and large LED screens that projected out into the crowd. The two main stages, Oceania and Amazonia, were located close enough that you could walk between the two quickly. This close proximity made it easy to see portions of two conflicting shows, but it caused some sound bleed in locations between the two stages. This wasn’t generally an issue and could easily be avoided if you walked closer to the stage of choice.
Oceania was the largest of the stages and it was packed with entertainment value. There were huge screens on either side of the stage that displayed graphics and lots more scattered behind the artists. This stage also included an elaborate light setup complete with lasers that made for memorizing light shows that enhanced the musical experience.
Oceania offered the most memorable festival experiences with large inflatables that were tossed into the crowds at various points throughout the festival performances. With each passing set a new set of inflatables was introduced to the crowd. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into buying, inflating, and distributing hundreds of beach balls, inflatable clown fish, and more to fans. This is just one of the ways that Imagine went above and beyond to deliver the best festival they could.
In addition to the musical acts there was also an array of performers on this stage throughout the night that included stilt walkers, dancers, aerial dancers, and trampoline acrobats. On the left side of the stage was a platform with a wall that an artist was painting throughout the weekend. This all provided a lot of excitement to the atmosphere with incredible talents and vivid costumes. Wherever my eye wondered there was always something entertaining to fixate on.
The Oceania stage also provided the most space to dance or spread out during the performances. This was the largest stage and it had a huge open courtyard that allowed people to enjoy the festival from close or far away. The open space made it easy to settle into a spot without being congested and it was never too difficult to walk around in front of this stage.
Amazonia was the second largest stage at Imagine festival and it’s the stage I spent most of my time at. It had two screens, an intricate lighting rig that also included lasers, and there were always dancers or stilt walkers on the stage. At one point in the evening there were even aerial dancers suspended high above the center of the crowd. This stage had all the performance value of Oceania, except it lacked the fun inflatables.
The open space in front of the stage was smaller than Oceania, which made it a more confined area. This was great during the day because it allowed for close and personal performances with the artists and fans, but it became claustrophobic at night. All the vending options were located along the back fence and at night the crowd was backed all the way up to the vendors windows. It quickly became impossible to sit and getting to the other side of the stage became a huge hassle. It was all well worth the 15 minute journey through the dense crowd when I settled in to watch Tipper Jones close out Saturday night.
The Lost City of Imaginarium:
The Lost City of Imaginarium was a smaller stage located just a short walk from the main
festival area at the back of the festival grounds. The Historic Fourth Ward park has a built in amphitheater that a stage sat perfectly in front of. These performances drew much smaller, but equally energetic crowds which allowed for a truly intimate concert experience. The best view of the festival came from atop The Lost City that overlooked the stage and provided a beautiful view of the pond below. The stage was small, but the sound was loud and the lights impressed with laser beams that stretched over the crowd and across the night sky.
The Chill House:
The Chill House was tucked away deep in the corner of Imagine Festival and if you didn’t know
where to look, you could have easily overlooked this hidden gem. It was located past Amazonia and inside The Masquerade. As the name suggests, this was a chill spot to hang, get a beer, and listen to some music. There were DJ’s playing throughout the day with a simple light setup, but the main focus of the chill house was to give people an air conditioned place in doors to cool off. There was also a bar located inside that provided cold refreshments and benches so people can take a break while the enjoyed the cold air.
Unfortunately I was only able to attend Saturday Night of the festival because I fell ill while making the 10 hour drive. With great regret I was unable to see the many quality artists that performed on Sunday night including Dada Life, Datsik, Papadosio, Crizzly, MartyParty, 12th Planet and more.
A three piece electronic music group that started in Los Angeles back in 2006. The members have been touring for several years now building a fan base around their live performance style. The members opted not to go with traditional turntables and chose to build what they call “The Blade” which is a set that incorporates their lemur based midi controllers and lights all into a large performance platform. The Glitch Mob performance provided spectacular views of the members banging electronic drums through bursts of fog. Their unique performance style adds a lot of entertainment value to their shows.
Griz is a one man funk master who brought his saxophone skills all the way to Atlanta from
Southfield, Michigan. Grant Kwiecinski is the man responsible for the future-funk/dubstep melody that echoed throughout the park as the sun set on Saturday night. His smooth, jazzy style that incorporates saxophone solos and funk guitar had the crowd moving and grooving into the night. Griz has been around since 2011 but he has recently hit his stride after success supporting acts like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, and Big Gigantic on tour.
Tipper W/ Android Jones:
David Tipper, or Tipper for short, has an ambient, glitchy, trip-hop style that is generally uptempo and full of crazy sound samples. He is a well experienced performer who has been DJ’ing since 1997 and his talents as a sound designer for music software shine with his well mastered and tightly produced performances.
Tipper has teamed with Andrew “Android” Jones, a visual artist, to provide a unique visual experience with his performances. Jones is a visual Picasso who began his career with George Lucas and Nintendo. His psychedelic style has been featured on album covers for artists like Papa Roach and Tipper himself.
The combination of Tipper and Android Jones make for a powerful duo of two talented individuals in both the audio and visual fields and this reflected spectacularly throughout their performance. Tipper’s production was clean and his years of experience as a DJ have crafted his skills in turntablism and as a freestyle performer. Android Jones then provided vivid images of symmetrical psychedelic patterns that interacted with the music to create a unique audio-visual journey.
Ill Gates is a music producer/Ableton specialist that has become a popular music production
teacher in the electronic community. He is a seasoned artist who has been performing since 1995 and he incorporates many live midi elements in his performances.
KJ Sawka is newer to the scene than Ill gates but he has
performed with Pendulium as early as 2010 and Destroid in 2012. His experience as a live drummer for electronic music brings a unique style and drummers perspective to his performances.
Ill Gates and KJ Sawka put on a unique performance in the form of a electronic music battle. The two artists used midi instruments so they could play samples live and they battled back and forth right in front of the audience. Even though this was a “battle” there was plenty of chemistry between the two artists and it made for an energetic performance.
On The Rise
A couple weeks ago I witnessed Brillz tear the roof off of Summer Set Music Festival In
Wisconsin where he had people raging from the tent poles. His blend of hip-hop and trap has been making people get wild all over the country, so I was expecting something spectacular when I saw him at Imagine. He delivered with a purely energetic performance that had fans raging from the front of the stage all the way back to the vendors. One thing I noticed as I looked through the sea of people is that it’s very difficult for anybody to sit through a Brillz performance.
Illenium is a new artist that is worth looking into. He hasn’t been around long, but his ability to build dramatic performances full of highs and lows set him apart. His emotional musical style slowly grabbed my attention and carried it through a melodic journey. He utilized a drum pad and hammered in beats at points throughout his performance giving them the right amount of human touch. Look for 2015 to be a breakout year for Illenium.
Entertainment and activity are Imagine Festivals specialties. There are performers everywhere throughout the festival with my favorite being the flying acrobats that performed on trampolines by the Oceania stage. In addition to the many talented dancers and aerial performers were vendors that sold hoops, crafts, and other festival goodies. There was also a mechanical bull shaped like a shark that festival goers could test their luck at. The Lost City of Imaginarium provided space for flow arts, yoga, meditation, and thai massages for $1 a minute. There was also an art camp with live paintings and henna tattoos.
Like most festivals within city limits Imagine ended relatively early at 11 p.m. They knew fans would want more so they threw together an all night dance party. Saturday and Sunday Imagine Festival provided on site after parties at The Masquerade with special performances by festival headliners like Griz. Tickets were $25 in advance or $40 at the door and it provided musical performances until 3 a.m.
The Masquerade was setup with three different rooms for artists to perform in. There were two rooms on the ground level and a third room up the stairs that revealed a huge concert hall. It was difficult to determine which artists played in which room because the only information I could find was printed on a piece of paper and taped to doors that were in busy hallways. It was a minor issue because I enjoyed the layout of the rooms and the performances were the perfect way to dance a little longer into the night.
Imagine Festival is an incredible weekend worth repeating in every aspect. The festival is devoted to the fans that attend it which makes the festival one of the most enjoyable festival experiences. Imagine is only in its third, but its consistent growth is a sign that it is a worthy contender. The 2015 Lineup was packed with a variety of electronic artists both new and old and the after parties extending the music late into the morning both Saturday and Sunday night. If Imagine can continue the trend of growing bigger and better with their lineup, festival grounds, and fan dedication, then this will be a festival experience worth returning to year after year.