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Peter Conlon recaps Music Midtown

The crowd at Saturday's Music Midtown. Photo: Courtesy of Music Midtown

The crowd at Saturday's Music Midtown. Photo: Courtesy of Music Midtown

Five days after Music Midtown and Peter Conlon is still exhausted.

Who can blame him, considering the double-size scope of this year’s event?

Overall, he said he thought the festival went “very well. There are a few things – there always are – that you learn from every event. I watched everything and will make changes next year to reflect that, but it seemed people were having a good time. I’m pleased.”

Though Conlon, the president of Live Nation Atlanta, which produced the event, was reluctant to cite specific crowd numbers, he did say that Friday’s show with the Foo Fighters headlining was about the same size as last year’s main day with Coldplay (about 38,000) and that he made the call to halt ticket sales Saturday afternoon before capacity bordered on uncomfortable.

It’s a safe estimate that more than 50,000 people filled Piedmont Park on Saturday by the time headliners Pearl Jam took the stage.

(For all things Music Midtown, check out our page here.)

While the majority of attendees took the usual inconveniences of outdoor concert-going in stride – lengthy lines at portable bathrooms, cash only at most vendors, having to navigate through thousands of people to locate a good vantage point – many fans publicly groused about some of those issues, so I asked Conlon to discuss.

The complaint that there weren’t enough portable restrooms: “The problem is that people think they’d all be in one area, but we had them spread out. I noticed people standing in lines in the same area, but if you went over the hill [near the Ferris Wheel], there were no lines. There were hundreds of [bathrooms], but you can’t stick X-number of them down on the field because they’re terrible things to have to deal with. We always have a certain number of bathrooms per certain number of people, but people just went to the first bank they saw and followed the lines. We’ll need to do a better job with monitors or something to educate people and tell them where there are no lines.”

The complaint about the bathrooms being a bit, well, rank: “They were definitely serviced after Friday night’s show and during the day on Saturday. They have to be.”

The cash-only complaint that escalated when the ATMs ran out of cash: “I went to get cash around 6 p.m. Saturday and couldn’t and, since I couldn’t leave the site, I was just out of money. Whoever was providing the ATMS, they won’t be back. If they’re not going to service their machines and make money available, we won’t be using them again.”

Some attendees commented that the sound during Pearl Jam’s set was less than stellar: “They had some sound issues at the beginning of the day Saturday, but that got cleared up. I thought [throughout the event] the sound was great, the definition on the video screens was great. You could see the sweat on Eddie’s [Vedder’s] face.”

A happy Florence (and the Machine). Photo: Hyosub Shin/AJC

A happy Florence (and the Machine). Photo: Hyosub Shin/AJC

As busy as Conlon was during the event, he did experience a few cool moments, such as standing next to Florence Welch on the side of the stage as she watched Ludacris’ set. “She’s a big fan,” Conlon said. “I think they’re talking about doing something together.”

He was also impressed with the “incredible” show from the Foo Fighters, Joan Jett’s set (“Every song is a hit!”), the always-entertaining Adam Ant and the energy of Girl Talk.

This year’s expansion to include more diversity in the lineup also seemed to work well.

“Some people said when the lineup was first announced, ‘I don’t get it.’ But now that they saw it, they do. That was the point, to expose you to music that you might not get exposed to, but not be such a far reach that it turns you off,” Conlon said.

Conlon wasn’t yet ready to say whether next year’s event will grow again, to three days, but said he was meeting with his team on Thursday to recap what worked, what didn’t and to reassess.

But don’t worry – Music Midtown will be back, and, barring some unforeseen schedule problem, will remain on the first fall weekend of the year.

“The problem now is, how do we make it better? People are happy, but they want more. How’s it going to be bigger and better than the acts we just had?” Conlon said. “The good thing is that now we’re on everybody’s radar screen again. We established it as a major festival in the country and acts are starting to say, ‘I want to play that thing.’

Photo: Courtesy of Music Midtown

Photo: Courtesy of Music Midtown

26 comments Add your comment

southgate

September 27th, 2012
1:24 pm

All an all a good festival. Glad that he is going to remedy the ATM issue. He is taking a head in the sand approach to the restrooms. There were not nearly enough. He completely dodged the sound issue during the Pearl Jam. The fact remains that for the festivals biggest act the sound was never right. A huge black eye. If nothing else the bands should be heard. That is the point.

randomnessabounds

September 27th, 2012
2:08 pm

He mentioned that there were plenty of bathrooms but they were not in very convenient areas. A lot of us were stuck (for six hours) near the stage unable to move for bathrooms, drinks, food etc. due to the amount of people surrounding us. It would be more ideal to have those facilities closer to where the majority of people will be. Also, 52,000 Plus fans for this one venue, is a bit much. I think that goes beyond the uncomfortable point. I would recommend capping the ticket sales to 35,000-40,000. And with a crowd of that size, it would have been nice to see more security. There were a lot of people that had far far too much too drink and were not acting polite or well-mannered, and some were just plain rude. I also kept reading about how parking would be a major issue near the venue. But after leaving the train and walking miles to the venue, I saw plenty of spots that could be designated for event parking. That was frustrating, walking so far everyday only to see available spots near the venue. Another gripe I have with the event is that I paid for 3 people to attend the two day event, almost $400. We planned to see several of the bands on both stages, but due to the crowd, again, we were unable to access the Great Southeast Music Hall Stage. The barrier between the stages also poses an obstacle when it came time to move to the other stages. I think there could be a better arrangement for the stages to make them more accessible, so people have more of a choice in seeing the entertainment that they paid to see.

circle R

September 27th, 2012
3:45 pm

40 minutes in a bathroom line, followed by another 30 or so in a food line. I agree, limit the crowds and/or add more capacity in terms of bathrooms and food vendors (or allow outside food). Only thing easy to get was beer…but then you get back to the bathroom problem again!

ozzfest

September 27th, 2012
5:09 pm

PETER IS AN ABSOLUTE LIAR REGARDING THE RESTROOMS.

***THERE WERE NOT ENOUGH, YOU IDIOT…I WALKED EVERYWHERE BOTH NIGHTS. PERIOD***

I AM AN ACCOUNTANT AND KNOW HOW TO CRUNCH NUMBERS, DO YOU HEAR ME PETER????

MELISSA, GET ME IN A ROOM WITH MR. CONLON….THIS GUY IS A ******* WEASLE!!!

Bragg Jam

September 27th, 2012
5:25 pm

The sound was never an issue during the day on Saturday UNTIL Pearl Jam took the stage. Then, the sound dropped out, then spiked before righting itself only to begin again moments later. We had the same vantage point for the other bands of the day, and this was never an issue for any of them.
With that said, I would love to go back again next year. Great job on a huge event, but bring in some more portojohns!

Patrick

September 27th, 2012
5:26 pm

I liked the in-and-out option a lot.

IHeartAtlanta

September 27th, 2012
5:28 pm

Great event, wonderfully diverse line up. Enjoyed seeing people of all ages attending. More bathrooms were needed. When the lines got so long at the front, I walked back to the Ferris Wheel and the bathroom lines were just as long. Never experienced a long line for beer though. We needed more ATMS, more food choices, definately more restrooms and more festival merchandise. Owl T Shirts sold out on Friday! I never had a problem making my way to the stages, I had to carefully plan ahead when to leave one venue to have a ‘good’ spot for the next. I would not like to see this event grow too much more – three stages twith 60K tickets tops. Overcrowding can easily make this event go away again. Keep it in demand!

Joe

September 27th, 2012
6:09 pm

On the whole, I felt the whole thing went off well. I do think the porta-potty situation was a bit disconcerting. I didn’t have any problems on Friday, and on Saturday I was trapped at the front with no real place to go. I will say that by the time I finally made it to a porta-john on Saturday night at 11:30 it was in poor shape and very close to overflowing so I seriously doubt they were serviced during the day. However, I was pleased with how the event went off and that, from my vantage point, most people behaved themselves both nights.

uglyredhonda

September 27th, 2012
7:02 pm

For safety reasons, there needs to be a one-way “out” path from in front of the stage back to the middle part of the grass. They had the railings there, but there should have been a way for people to get through them to get out from in front of the stage. Most of the discomfort and cramming in the area up front came from people trying to get in and out and not being able to move. This certainly wouldn’t help people trying to sneak up front, but it would definitely help the people who are just trying to get out.

Realmusichead

September 27th, 2012
8:21 pm

Music Midtown is to real music fans as New Years eve is to alcoholics. A bunch of people who go see live music once a year and all of a sudden they are Peter Travers. Name one up and coming band that was showcased? Besides Pearl Jam and possibly Avett Brothers the lineup was a bunch of has beens. And besides a dopey Ferris wheel where is the entertainment? You are stuck in 1998 Peter Conlon. Go visit Bonnaroo, Coachella, Austin City limits. Alex Cooley come back, PLEA
SE!!!!

BeachBum

September 27th, 2012
9:03 pm

Saw the same bands on the same weekend, on opposite nights, in Pensacola, on the beach at Deluna Fest. Pearl Jam played Fri. night, Foo Fighters on Sat. and Florence and the Machine on Sunday night before headliners Zac Brown Band. Perfect venue, well-planned and far away from Atlanta. Perfect alternative for Music Midtown.

River City High

September 27th, 2012
10:33 pm

Apparently Conlon couldn’t even wait until the show was over to start withdrawing all the money he made hand over fist by jamming as many people that he could into Piedmont Park. Cash only means he doesn’t have to send 3% to Amex and Visa, so don’t act surprised that it was hard to use credit cards. He’s simply an arrogant lout who resting on what he once was, not what he is now. ‘Here people, go to the bathrooms far away from the places that you actually want to be’, isn’t a good response to the horrible sanitation situation at MM. In the end, people, you also have to understand you’re doing business with Live Nation, not a paragon of customer service and fan experience, but man do they know how to sell sponsorship and suck every dollar from your pocket.

Debbie

September 27th, 2012
10:53 pm

Where is the ferris wheel?

ozzfest

September 28th, 2012
7:21 am

DEBBIE….THE POINT SHOULD BE TO PETER CONLON:

DITCH THE FERRIS WHEEL………SPEND ANOTHER $25,000+ ON A TRIP FOR YOUR STAFF TO ATTEND COACHELLA OR LOLLAPALOOZA-GRANT PARK AND WILL THEN BE PURCHASING $26,000 IN AD SPACE TO APPOLOGIZE TO THE PEOPLE WHO ATTENDED MM2012.

MORE TOILETS, YOU PUNK!

GOD, I HOPE I SEE PETER CONLON “ON THE STREET” SOMETIME, I AM GOING TO BLOW HIS EARDRUM OUT.

middleman

September 28th, 2012
8:10 am

Conlon is purposefully avoiding the obvious (ill stop short of calling him a lier). The port o let problem was ridiculous and there were way too many people there on saturday for the venue. Limiting tickets each day to 35k is an absolute must or I will not be attending any more music meltdowns.

Senor Coughee

September 28th, 2012
8:36 am

Had an awesome time Saturday. Florence was great, and her alone was well worth the price of admission (earlybird tickets). Had a great time. No issues with any of the services/porta-potties, etc. However, I was shocked at $10 for ONE can of beer. As for ‘ozzfest’……DON’T GO BACK IF YOU WERE THAT MISERABLE AND IT MAKES YOU THAT ANGRY, IDIOT.

c

September 28th, 2012
10:30 am

Thought the show was fun – but totally agree on the bathroom situation. I missed the entire Florence and the Machine set while waiting in line. I would have attended both days if it had been more like the music midtown of the near past. Meaning – the local talent stage, the accoustic stage, and the opportunity to experience a variety of other styles of music that I am not usually esposed to. I liked Music Midtown when it was down by the civic center because it allowed more room to move and the option for more food and services options.

Mr.Obvious

September 28th, 2012
1:59 pm

I’m sorry, but I just cannot pay that much for an event that copied the name of a true original… ” Music Midtown Now” just and will never compare to the Original Music Midtown 10-15 years ago…. There were more performers and less of a price… I know times have changed, but this wasn’t “Music Midtown”

ozzfest

September 28th, 2012
7:07 pm

NO ANGER…BRO.; BUT WHEN PETER MAKES WHAT I CONSIDER FALSE STATEMENTS TO THE AJC, WHO THEN PRINTS “THERE WAS NO PROBLEMS.”….WELL, THAT IS A PROBLEM.

CONLON HAS WORKED MAJOR EVENTS SINCE HIS DAYS WITH JIMMY CARTER, I HAVE MET HIM MANY TIMES, AND ALWAYS SEE HIM ON THE OCCASSION THAT I PAY FOR THE VIP SECTION….WHICH I DID NOT FOR MM2012……THE CAT KNOWS BETTER…..HE HAS TO KNOW THAT THERE WAS A SERIOS PROBLEM SATURDAY AFTER 5PM…OR HE IS BLIND TO IT.

IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND HOW DUMB THE SITUATION WAS.
COME JOIN MY IN INDIO,CA FOR COACHELLA….THEY DO IT PROPERLY.

Robin

September 29th, 2012
11:34 am

No, please don’t put the portapotties closer to stage “where the majority of people will be” unless you want to be packed in uncomfortably, with drunk people crashing into you and having to breathe their smoke (legal and otherwise), PLUS have the stench of the toilets washing over you.

yeah com'on

September 29th, 2012
12:55 pm

I agree that there were too many people. We could not get to girl talk due to the crowd. Basically stuck at the Electric Ballroom stage, tired legs standing all that time.

GirllNeedaChillax

September 29th, 2012
11:25 pm

DAMN GIRL—I see NO ONE —talk more about TOILETS than you….even the KOHLER man knows when to stop selling…..Cochella…please …..”Snoop Lion’—has been…why he won’t be in ATL soon…
‘You go Holla Cochellla….tell them bout Toilets…..let Peter run his thang….

kf

September 29th, 2012
11:34 pm

Total cop out on the bathrooms! Some of us literally walked the length of the fest- with a map- and every single bathroom section was as bad as the next. I’d love proof that bathrooms were serviced during the day too, because that’s 100% impossible from the nonstop lines and the piles of filth I saw. Come on. Take notes from other festivals- please. That situation put a big damper on an otherwise great festival (thankfully I planned the day well enough to not miss my favorites). Kudos to a great lineup and otherwise well executed event, but seriously. Fix the bathroom issue. Please!

meh

September 30th, 2012
11:04 pm

The location of the bathrooms were not a problem. The QUANTITY definitely was! Is he for real? There were nothing but lines, lines, lines, no matter where you went! I’ve been to a lot of festivals, and this one was definitely the worst! I missed almost all of florence in line at the bathrooms…near the ferris wheel!!! (you know, those ones that didn’t have a line. i guess a 45 minute wait is considered “no line”). I’m not an idiot, and I’ve birthed two children. If pregnancy teaches you ANYTHING, it is how to find the bathroom with the shortest wait…NONE of those lines were short or fast!

TD

October 3rd, 2012
10:00 am

I was in VIP. On Sat. evening, there was even a line at VIP for the bathrooms! Peter, you’re at best disingenuous, at worst, an inveterate liar. If you did see open toilets at the back, that clearly was an exception to the general rule. Message boards always are for the complainers more than the complimentors, but the toilet situation was horrible, the complaints legit, the response from Conlon beyond weak. I saw it myself because the vantage point the VIP’s were given was so lame as too require any real fan who wanted to see the band from a respectable perspective had to leave VIP & deal with the crowd. Overcrowding was an issue Saturday. The Friday experience vs the Saturday experience was basically one that went from pretty nice to fairly poor. Period. Due to overcrowding.
Fwiw, the VIP experience was entirely underwhelming. Mediocre food, respectable free beer, horrible free wine, some shade, clean bathrooms, a vantage point at least 60 yards from the stage, all for $200 over the price of a regular ticket. Peter, what you charged for super VIP was so greedy that I’d I was ozz

TD

October 3rd, 2012
10:12 am

Oops! If I was ozz’ & knew you, I might hit you. Hard. Mind you, IF I was ozz. Glad I was able to complain! I’ d say, Melissa, that there is significantly more back slapping than is deserved. It was an ok fest, run somewhat poorly, and it is far too early to even mention Coachella or Bonnaroo in the same sentence, fellow posters. Those are entirely different situations, and their respective musical breadths are so beyond what MM is as to not merit comparison.

Or, maybe I am just too discerning for festival crap?!