Well, at least Saturday was sunny.
The second day of Music Midtown took a decidedly damp turn when a storm front dumped a steady stream of rain over Piedmont Park for a chunk of Sunday afternoon, resulting in an evacuation of the site for about 90 minutes (for those wondering, yes, there was lightning in the area when the decision was made to postpone and no, it’s never an easy decision – if fest organizers don’t call it off and someone gets injured or killed, it’s their responsibility, and when they do cut the power for a bit, fans inevitably complain, so…tough to win in this scenario).
Artists whose sets were interrupted by the delay were inserted back into the schedule and the festival concluded an hour later than originally slated, but in time for the 11 p.m. curfew.
Here’s a recap and photos from some of Sunday’s performances (if you missed our recap and photos from Day 1 of Music Midtown, check them out here).
Peter Bjorn and John: This Swedish power pop trio played a song called “Dig a Little Deeper.” But their intrinsically pleasant music isn’t really meant to be deep. Their biggest hit (and for many, their only hit) from 2006 “Young Folks” relies heavily on whistling. During their breezy 55-minute, 12-song set, their tunes also incorporated clapping, 1980s-era techno and the occasional anthemic chorus. It was the aural equivalent of a tasty macaroon. Lead singer Peter Moren was the cruise director, even noting that each of them wore a jacket with their name on them so the crowd would be dutifully informed. He politely promoted their latest album “Breakin’ Point,” the logo of three hands holding hammers imprinted on the drum set. Midway through, the jackets were off, the humidity mussing up Moren’s hair. As their set neared its conclusion, he introduced “Young Folks,” noting it was already 10 years old but that wasn’t that old. “55 years!” he mused. “That would be old. And I’d be dead.” But he wasn’t being morbid – just an observation before he began whistling the impossibly catchy opening earworm. For the final song, “Objects of My Affection,” Moren spent a minute dancing with spastic joy. The crowd, appropriately, clapped along and cheered.
- R. H.
Corinne Bailey Rae: Corinne Bailey Rae brought soulful cheer in a lovely blue velvet jumpsuit to the soggy Music Midtown crowd. “You can still get sexy in the rain,” she said coyly at one point. She recently released her third album “The Heart Speaks in Whispers” – her first in six-plus years. The 37-year-old, perpetually smiling, luminescent British singer brought plenty of silky, sexy grooves to songs such as “Green Aphrodisiac,” “Stop Where You Are” and her cover of Bob Marley’s classic “Is This Love.” And she happily encouraged the audience to sing the chorus to her big 2006 hit “Put Your Records On” a capella. They did, lustily.
Grouplove: There are five people in the indie rock band from Los Angeles, but it’s nearly impossible to look anywhere other than singer/keyboardist Hannah Hooper and singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi. Colorful, fun and possessing an exhausting amount of energy, the pair fronted melodic rockers “Itchin’ on a Photograph” and “Shark Attack,” as well as their bubbalicious hit from 2011, “Tongue Tied.” With his stringy dyed-green hair and ripped jeans, Zucconi appeared to be channeling Kurt Cobain (and he was usually more concerned with engaging with the crowd than being in key). But Zucconi and Hooper make an arresting pair onstage, as she, in her swirled pink bodysuit, assisted on “Welcome to Your Life,” a song from the band’s just-released third album, “Big Mess,” that paired its garage-rocker overtones with a big, airy chorus.
James Bay: It’s always a joy to see a rising star live, a musician who could very well be selling out arenas in five years and carve out a decades-long career. James Bay has that potential. As he bounded on stage, the 26-year-old British singer songwriter brought an immediate swirl of fire and turbulent energy that made the 90-minute rain delay well worth it. Wearing his signature wide-brimmed hat, he carried himself with rock-star confidence and had the Music Midtown crowd fixated. A trimmed set time leaving him time for just eight songs didn’t throw him as he barreled through meaty, driven takes on “Collide,” “Craving” and “Best Fake Smile” that contrasted to the quiet yearning of his breakthrough hit single “Let It Go.” He finished his set with the appropriately titled break-up song “Hold Back the River,” as sheets of rain poured down from the sky and he plaintively sang “lonely water/ won’t let us wander.”
Raury: It’s hard to believe that the Stone Mountain native is only 20-years-old because he expresses a soulfulness far beyond his years. Unfortunately, moments before Raury took the stage, a second deluge soaked a crowd that was much smaller than he deserved. With a seductive slither, he unspooled “Superfly,” then suggested his fans get friendly with one another while enduring the rain. While the weather continued to annoy, Raury simply removed his shirt and instigated his fans to bounce with his taut hip-hop-funk songs.
Kesha: Yes, the former pop tart talked about her very public lawsuit (with Dr. Luke, though she never mentioned him by name) and made it a centerpiece of her performance in that she informed the frenzied crowd, “What I cannot do is play you my new music, which sucks because I have so much good s*** waiting. Please don’t give up on me yet.” As if. More than a few “Marry me, Kesha!” shrieks were heard from guys in the crowd as the vivacious singer pranced around in outfits that made a Crayola box appear subdued and cranked out her multi-platinum hits “We R Who We R” and “Your Love is My Drug.” She slyly referenced the lawsuit again when she dedicated a cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” to “a special someone out there,” her husky voice taking on the drama of a torch singer. Kesha, who sounded robust and worked the stage with vigor and confidence, also showcased her range – not always noticeable on those processed pop hits – on a deliberate version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Trust us, the wild child has not been tamed.
The Lumineers: It kind of felt like England with the soggy conditions of the day, and onstage, it sounded like being in a cozy British pub as the New Jersey-formed folk rockers provided a set of foot-stomping singalongs including “Big Parade” and “My Eyes.” The band, which broke through in 2013 with “Ho Hey,” released its second album, “Cleopatra,” this spring. At one point, lead singer Wesley Schultz sang a few bars of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” an ironic joke for those who were still damp to the core.
Alabama Shakes: There really aren’t enough superlatives to praise the texture and richness of Brittany Howard’s voice. As Music Midtown began its wind-down, Howard commanded the stage with those pipes. Under a canopy of blue and green lights, she led the band through “Sound & Color,” the liquid groove of “Don’t Wanna Fight” and the visceral “Gimme All Your Love.”
The Killers: Taking the stage to the James Bond theme (after being introduced by Daniel Craig), the Vegas boys immediately launched into perhaps their most well-known song to casual listeners, “Mr. Brightside.” That’s when you know your career is in good shape, when you can start with one of your biggest hits. Frontman Brandon Flowers looked his Vegas lounge singer best with hair swooshed back and jacket sparkling. Sometimes he remained behind his keyboard, while others he ventured out to pose theatrically. A lighted blue “K” glistened at the back of the stage as the band bounced through “Spaceman” and the New Wave-influenced “Smile Like You Mean It.” The band’s set – which started an hour late due to the backlog of acts delayed by the rain – hopscotched through their 13-year-career, touching on “Human,” “A Dustland Fairytale” and the still-blissfully puzzling “Somebody Told Me.”