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Imagine Music festival was a combination of fantastic, questionable, risky, and, overall, out of this world experiences. My Friendphoria tribe traveled from around the US to reunite in Atlanta for our second fam fest. We were pumped for everything IRIS had been promoting but kept realistic expectations because it’s really only the third year of Imagine and the first year on the Speedway. Regardless, the ideas of aquatic rides, the splash pool, Cirque De Sol, workshops, and fireworks had our minds racing.
So, first, I want to premise that I am breaking my article into sections because it will help people understand the pros/cons of each part of the festival where festival goers are concerned. I’m going to start with the music because that’s what I went for most; next I’m going to cover security, camping, and water and discuss some areas that “needs improvement”.
Starting with the lineup itself, you knew this festival was going to be one that went hard when you saw Excision, Zeds Dead, Dillon Francis, Cookie Monster B2B Rusko, and Borgore. The lineup touched my trap soul and basshead heart. I also knew that, with such a lineup, going H.A.M. is to be expected and the place was going to be lit and full of fellow headbangers. Walking in on Day 1, I realized that the sound systems were going to be the kind I talked about for days and would compare other festivals to in the future. Although my sister wears ear plugs at all the festivals she attends, I never felt the need and tend to forget I even brought some. That definitely wasn’t the case this time. By the end of day 2, I asked my tribe who had ear plugs for me and as I walked into the grounds on day 3, I had plugs in place. If you are wondering if that affected my hearing ability, I assure you it didn’t.
The artists brought their A-game and IRIS came prepared to offer the systems to hold up to it. To give you a little more insight as to the power and force behind their systems- at Excision, my fam went to the front and every time the bass hit I felt as someone was tickling me all over. That uncomfortable feeling where you need to scratch because you’re being tickled and kind of want it to stop but you know it won’t because it’s from the bass and it’s running through your entire body. You could feel the bass in your bones. It hit your inner core. It was awesome.
I didn’t have to be near the front of the crowd to feel the intensity and force behind the sound systems though. I was only halfway through the crowd at Beats Antique, with ear plugs in, and still heard and felt the raw talent and bass streaming through my body. Boku- who performed at 2 PM on Sunday might have even had a better system than sets I’ve heard close to closing at other festivals. All in all- attendees could all tell that IRIS focused on the basics of a festival and that’s the music.
Anything I questioned about the festival and execution by IRIS was trumped by their focus and commitment to bringing me the best sets I have heard at a music festival in a long time.
I am sure that my experience was enhanced with the group I came with and maybe that is something others should think about too. When you go to a festival, the experience is always enhanced when you bring PLUR with you. My fam went into this fest having made tons of Kandi and Perlers to give out but people kept asking us how much we were selling them for. We were utterly confused and did not understand until we saw a booth selling perlers. Just remember that Kandi is a gift we share as a community. It’s gives us the ability to make even a 5 second connection with someone and give them something in return for either nothing or a piece of their heart as well. It’s our chance to share our love of art and expression. There are some dope pieces that take hours to make and may be worth buying but that single with a 2×5 perler isn’t it.
Also- we took care of each other. Everyone in my family made sure everyone had water, sat if they needed to, got shade from one of the many structures, and cooled down whenever we could. We watched our stuff and made sure no one forgot anything. Imagine Festival is located in Atlanta, a city known for crime. While I would love to say everyone went to Imagine with the same mentality towars love of music and the scene itself, the lack of security made it easy for people with bad intentions to sneak in too. (Pro Tip: buy a fanny pack or secret zipper pouch to wear and put your money in a ziplock and safety pin it inside your backpack or fanny pack)
Security was almost nonexistent throughout the entire festival. I walked into the festival each day, never opened my bag, and only showed my ID once. Let’s be real, I probably could have gone into the festival without a ticket! Camping had no security either but I wasn’t really shocked about that. Coachella was the same way. The difference with Coachella is that only one person needed a car camping pass. That’s how IRIS should have done it too. If they didn’t plan to offer campers security they only needed one person to pay for parking and secure an area. If you’re like my tribe and enjoy the luxury of waking up near the festival grounds or coming and going from the festival itself, you loved camping. Located less than a mile away from the stages, campers were treated with 24-hr showers and air conditioned bathrooms. That’s a HUGE luxury at festivals so I was wildly impressed. Never did I wait more than 15 minutes to shower but I also strategically planned when I’d go into them.
Also- IRIS did it right where they offered workshops upon workshops. If you were strong enough to wake up at 8 AM you could walk by to see people doing Yoga, Flow Arts, and meditation. You might even have mistaken the instructors for the Cirque De Sol performers themselves. The workshops, while intimidating, were mesmerizing and well thought out.
If you had any issues involving camping, just remember that it’s the first year camping was offered and I’m sure they have kinks they need to work out as well. This is only the third year for the festival itself! I’m sure they will focus their efforts on making improvements for the following years.
A lot of people complained about the water situation, me included. Realistically the water situation was only an issue the first night where only two stages were accessible and most people were rushing towards the main stage station. However, IRIS did their part to make sure water was widely available to festival goers with 8 stations. We weren’t offered a print out map until the third day and the only place we heard to get one was from box office. The real issue with their filling stations is that those were the same stations that Coachella uses for hand washing stations. Kind of gross and very slow.
The first two days, volunteers for water were basically nonexistent. Come Sunday, though, volunteers were everywhere. Every stage came equipped with a bunch of “Imaginary Friends” walking around to give people water and misting people all over the place. That was unexpected, impressive, and greatly appreciated.
All-in-all- IRIS needs to work on fulfilling promises and over delivering. The worst thing at a festival is when your expectations are not met. I would have preferred to be wowed rather than disappointed by lackluster follow throughs. Mainly because- all the bells and whistles didn’t matter to me. Cirque De Sol were only seen for about 30 minutes a night (still more than none), they had a blow up water slide on Sunday which was the only water ride, and the fireworks were a nice little touch at the end of the night. None of those extra features mattered to me though. I knew this was only its third year in production and I knew a ton of kinks would need to work itself out especially being at a whole new venue. All that mattered was the music, access to water, and bathrooms with plumbing and y’all delivered!
Would I go again- ABSOLUTELY. Do I recommend this festival for others- absolutely! Be smart when you fest, appreciate the music, go in expecting an adventure, and enjoy the memories!
Written by Doni Kalachi
Media courtesy of Joe Create