I know it’s rather late, as I’ve been busy with my last semester of college and working two jobs, however I finally got around to posting my Imagine Music Festival (IMF 2017) pictures, video clips and a general review. It’s a month overdue but let’s get into it.
Review Score: Imagine Festival 3.75/5 Stars ( B- )
Quick Sum-Up: Imagine Music Festival (IMF) is a high profile EDM festival hosted in Southwest Atlanta (about 20 minutes south of the capital) every year. Sponsored by iRiS Events and Management, Imagine is a large fest that features camping options. The experience itself (like most fests) is epic. IMF does a great job with killer light and laser shows, attractive stages with fire cannons, and activities for fest-goers.
Day 2: Walking into the House area, Chill Future House playing (possibly Nora En Pure).
Day 1: The end of Ill Gates set who performed on the Disco Inferno stage (a smaller but central stage of the fest).
All in all, the actual space of the festival feels a little unnecessarily large, and the actual management by the (almost nonexistent) staff leaves much to be desired (many, myself included, stood in line for 3 hours to enter the festival on Saturday).The lineup itself was pretty mainstream and filled with dubstep and dance house. It was the light shows, 3D hologram tents, cool people, good vibe and “free-reign” environment that made the fest enjoyable. I’d be remiss not to mention many good indie, up-and-coming and classic faves who also rounded out the roster: Buku, Nora En Pure, Gorgon City, DJ Tïesto, Ill Gates, deadmau5 and more.
It was almost exactly a month ago, I attended Imagine Music Festival in Hampton, Georgia. What can I say about my experience? It was pretty damn good. Would I do it again? Yeah, I would. Would I camp? Hell to the no. Here’s why, and the skinny on what you need to know (that they don’t tell you about) iMAGiNE.
I came across some extra cash this summer and decided to blow it on a 3-day pass to Imagine. I had been contemplating it since May of this year (about 4 months prior) as Imagine workers were handing out blue IMF wristbands at Shaky Beats 2017. Fellow fest-goers and friends of mine from Shaky Beats suggested going to Imagine. About a week before the fest I bought my tix (with fees ~$240), I really wish I had gotten them when they were $99, but nonetheless, I was excited to be on my way to my next EDM festival.
The drive up to the fest that Friday was a long one. From where I live in North Atlanta, it’s about 30 minutes (with no traffic), but add typical Friday rush-hour and it turns into an hour and fifteen minute commute. I decided to get my haircut and show up to the festival around seven P.M. instead of five. Getting there was actually not all that bad. Hampton is South of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and as you go further South from Atlanta, the roads sort of clear up as the towns and surrounding areas get a little more ‘country.’ Hampton itself is relatively modern, it didn’t feel like being in say, Blue Ridge Mountains, or a small rural town, it just felt like a smaller town in the city (also hence why I wouldn’t camp).
For such a large festival, at the location itself there was very little marking or signage to tell you exactly where to go. The entrance off the highway to the fest, Atlanta Motor Speedway, had a lone sign that ambiguously said “EVENT PARKING” which I missed going in. After circling the racetrack I asked an attendant where Day Parking was and they told me how to get there.
Once I reached the area where day-parking was, I waited in a long line of cars moving probably one car every minute or two for a half hour. This was the line to get into the entrance of the racetrack, where parked police in their cars and the Sheriff of Clayton County sat and waved cars in very intermittently.
I went to this main entrance following my GPS. The next day, I completely skipped this line and parked in about 5 minutes by going through a side entrance to the racetrack. I remember glancing in horror the 2nd Day at the poor fest-goers trapped in that abysmal line of cars, little did I know this was the BEGINNING of abysmal lines.
Staff and police on Friday waved me into a gravel pit lot when my car finally reached its turn in line. This particular parking lot was on the very edge of the complex and probably a good 15 minute walk from the entrance. Before heading in though I had to walk about 10 minutes across a large field (going away from the fest’s entrance) to the tents housing Will Call and Parking Permits. Upon getting to THAT area, I found out I had to wait in another line for an hour to get my permit. I did so begrudgingly. There was really no signage telling me this, nor anyone keeping the line in order (or stopping line-jumpers).
I just took a wild guess, got in line, then asked other people in line what the line was for. I made a few friends just waiting in line as people talked about other fests, DJs they liked, drugs, and as some played EDM from their bookbags and bluetooth speakers. The vibe did certainly feel electric and everyone was nice, helpful and very upbeat.
Finally, after getting my pass I put it in my car and proceeded to the entrance. I should’ve got there in 15 minutes, instead it took 30. With no real signage pointing to the entrance I walked around the perimeter of the racetrack and ended up walking under two bridge “overpasses” before I ran into this random black guy, then soon after a group of 3 white guys who were walking under the bridge/walkway overpasses like us.
“You guys together [with a group of people]?” they asked me and the other black guy, “No,” I replied, “We’re just looking for the entrance.” The five of us kept looking and at one point one of the white guys was like, “We should just find a fence we can hop and go for it,” I shrugged in response. As he looked for a break in the fencing, we finally saw the entrance and walked behind some storage facility to the front gate. One of the guys jokingly exclaimed “Don’t mind us! We’re just coming from behind the bushes tryna go to a fest!” I waited in line for about ten minutes before walking into the festival around 8:30 PM.
After walking in, I was greeted by booming bass, and lots of blue and green lasers set upon a huge field, much akin to a carnival. Before getting to the festival you have to walk down stadium-style bleachers that take about 2 minutes to traverse (when walking up/leaving you are out of breath by the time you get to the top).
I met up with a friend from Shaky Beats and got to catch the end of Buku’s set, most of iLL Gates set, and a few other artists. I actually left around 11:45 PM that day. I was extremely tired from working earlier in the day and then the 2-hour ordeal just getting into the damn festival wore me out. A DJ friend of mine texted me and told me he was there and to come back, but by the time I crossed all the fields and got back to my car I was ready to sleep in it. I could barely fathom the 30-minute drive home, leaving out of pretty much Nowhere Atlanta after dancing for 3 hours and contemplated sleeping in my car.
When I returned Saturday it was a whole different story. I went with a co-worker. I had my wristband already, but decided to be a pal and wait with my friend in the Will Call line so he could get his ticket. I also had to get another parking pass, funny enough, my friend and I avoided the 1-hour crawling car line by going through a side entrance that led right to the parking area, courtesy of Waze. I bought my Saturday parking pass while we were in the car waiting for the next staff member to instruct us where to go/park.
Unlike Friday, instead of waiting in a long line of people for the parking permit, I just showed a parking staff my online receipt and at first he was like “Where’s the barcode to scan?” I shrugged. He asked me my phone number, then gave me the sticker to put on my dash and we went in and parked (this time right next to the front gate mind you! A 5 minute walk instead of 15)! Immediately after I realized (due to the general lack of staff size or security) we could’ve said we needed to buy a pass, or needed to turn around or something, went past the staff and then parked anyway. No one was really checking passes in the parking lot, I probably could’ve easily gotten away with not paying for parking at all. This frustrated me a bit, but I said, what the hell, let me do everything legit for my first “real” festival.
The line to get in the fest on Day 2 was absolute hell. My friend and I showed up by 5 PM thinking we were early. Apparently, so did everyone else and the amount of people attending probably tripled from Friday (news reports say there were over 20,000 people each day, Saturday for sure). We waited for 3 hours in line. My other friend from Shaky Beats had given me a VIP wristband on Friday! I could’ve walked right in after 15 minutes, but I decided to wait with my friend. It was his first real fest too, and he seemed a bit uneasy. I had no idea the wait was going to be so long.
The endless crowd far as the eye could see booed, chanted, talked about other fests, tried to keep calm and several times attempted rushing the doors. Some around my friend and I started asking for water and Gatorade after about 2 hours. My friend offered a girl his Powerade we bought at the store and she gave him a few bucks. A guy next to me from Belgium passed me a flask of vodka and I took a swig. Despite the agony we were all suffering, the communal vibe of the “line” probably got all of us through it (though I hear some people couldn’t take it and left).
Finally, around 7:30-7:45 PM we got through the entrance gates. I immediately ran into a friend from college who said he had to wait forever as well. Walking down the bleachers my friend and I were greeted to pulsating deep-house music and trance, a much different vibe from the dubstep and bass focused lineup of Friday. We were then treated to Fisher’s “Ya Kidding” at the Disco Inferno stage. A pretty Asian girl in a blue mermaid costume asked us “Acid or DMT” then gave us a flyer. I think it was about a concert or something (you can hear my friend trying to explain this to me in the video above).
I don’t know for sure but I think Nora En Pure was performing. We hung out in the Disco Inferno area near the entrance for awhile, got some $2 cigarettes from Newport Lounge and looked for my other friend from Shaky Beats. We couldn’t find him. The whole fest I thought the Amazonia stage (the biggest stage; deadmau5, Datsik, Zomboy and other headliners played here) was at the entrance. It was actually the Disco Inferno. The stages that did not have headliners were not marked making locating people or getting your bearings very confusing.
During the wait in line earlier, because it was so long, I imbibed in some mind-altering substances out of boredom and to ensure a crazy festival experience. I was not disappointed. The experience I had could probably be a whole book or an essay, but in short, the whole fest vibe was enhanced. Due to it however, there were moments I had a few anxiety attacks and the whole day Saturday I pretty much missed all the artists I had come to see; getting caught in whoever was playing at the moment in front of me and watching the pretty lights, colors and sounds so loud and vivid they felt palpable.
At one point, we stepped off from the Disco Inferno stage and went to “the Jellyfishes.” This was an area of totem/statue like glowing luminescent jellyfishes with seats under them that was kind of a meeting area. We tried to call my friend once more, but ended up talking for awhile to a cute blond raver girl and her brunette short-haired hippie friend. The short-haired girl ended up giving me my first PLUR bracelet (a beaded bracelet with positive messages that people ‘trade’ or ‘give away’ at festivals). We then left as my friend wanted to see an artist he really liked, Zomboy.
My friend took me over to the Amazonia stage as we prepared to check out Zomboy’s show. I am not a big fan of dubstep at all, but I followed as we took a spot in the large field in front of the stage and ended up running into my DJ friend. Maybe it was because I was tripping, maybe it was just the collective mind/hive vibe of the festival, but I had a time like no other in my life. Each time the bass hit I felt my whole body vibrate. The crowd began head-banging to the earth-shattering bass flowing out of the speakers. I headbanged too, harder than ever have before, for the first time really since rock concerts at the Masq back in high school days. My neck was sore the next day, but I didn’t care. I felt one with the entire crowd several times during the festival and it felt amazing.
After the insane rush of energy that was Zomboy’s show, we headed back towards the Disco Inferno area where it was a bit more chill. I was tripping hard at this point and needed a break from all the people and high energy. I tried to eat a cheeseburger, but gave it away to my friend. My mind was fathoming my existence and the presence of 20,000+ people around me. We laid in the grass in front of a tent displaying 3D holograms of pyramids in front of it.
Several people walked up and tried to “touch” the hologram, or just sat and stared at it for moments at a time.
We hung out for a little while longer here then went over to the Oceania Stage (I believe), catching a real chill act (don’t know who) playing old-school Hip-Hop. I recognized some Common being played, Pete Rock and funky old school jams. Finally around 12:30 AM me and my friend decided to leave.
We were completely exhausted and could barely walk back to my car. From the area we were at to the parking lot, it was probably still a 15 minute walk (so on Day 1 for me it was like a 25 minute walk back or at least felt like it). We both nodded in agreement that the night was crazy. There were some things left to be desired, but it was still a great time and I made some new friends and danced harder and more freely than I ever have. I will very likely be at Imagine next year. Thanks for a great fest.
Background: Atlanta, Georgia has been a burgeoning music scene for the last decade. Quickly becoming the financial, business and most importantly media capital of the Southeast; ATL is a hub for music, art, movies, TV shows and American culture. As a city that, in the past, was lucky to even get concerts from certain artists, most artists now at least attempt to have a show in Atlanta; the same is true of music festivals. Lucky for us, we have been blessed with some of our own music festivals, some gone and defunct, but some still around. Imagine is one of these such fests. I, myself, have only experienced Atlanta’s Shaky Beats Festival (twice) and A3C Hip-Hop Festival so this is my frame of reference.