Big Beats, Big Ambitions – Two Major ATL Dance Festivals

Atlanta’s music festival season tends to heat up just as the physical heat is trending down and vacation schedules give way to more predictable routines and the desire to blow off some weekend steam. This year is no exception, and the fun kicks off with Imagine and ONE, a pair of happenings that have stepped up their already impressive games.

Imagine Music Festival – Three Days of Electronic Dance Music

The electronic music festival Imagine will be Aug. 26-28, 2016, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo credit: Imagine Music Festival.

The electronic music festival Imagine will be Aug. 26-28, 2016, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo credit: Imagine Music Festival.

The Imagine Music Festival proudly bills itself as “one of the country’s last remaining independent festivals.” After a two-year run at Historic Old Fourth Ward Park that saw attendance double to 15,000, Imagine is adding a third day of revelry and setting up shop August 26-28 at the 887-acre Atlanta Motor Speedway. Even with another near-doubling in crowds expected by organizers, this means ample room to spread out — after all, AMS regularly accommodates more than 100,000 for big races.

This year’s bill includes EDM heavyweights like Steve Agnello, Dillon Francis and Adventure Club. Although DJ sets dominate the lineup, live band performances from the likes of Disco Biscuits, Beats Antique and Break Science are on deck as well — not to mention more than 50 Georgia acts, including the Ying Yang Twins, Leah Culver and Herobust.

Imagine clearly aspires to offer an overall “experience,” built on an aquatic theme encompassing a splash pool, misting domes, fountains and 3D water hologram production on the main stage (oh, and throw in performances by Cirque USA and amusement rides for good measure). On-site camping and RV hookups are available, but several hotels are near the AMS site, just 15 miles south of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

ONE Musicfest – Progressive Hip Hop, Classic R&B and More

Lakewood Amphitheatre is located just 3.8 miles south of downtown Atlanta and 3.5 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Lakewood Amphitheatre is located just 3.8 miles south of downtown Atlanta and 3.5 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Back for its seventh year, the ONE Musicfest also has its roots at Historic Old Fourth Ward Park, having made the leap to Lakewood Amphitheatre in 2014. Its September 10 lineup is so deep you’ll likely do a double-take to confirm it’s a one-day throwdown. Although there are plenty of national acts (do Ice Cube and Erykah Badu do it for you?), this year’s lineup particularly shines for its assemblage of Atlanta hip hop royalty on a single stage.

Big Boi photo by Rick Diamond

Big Boi photo by Rick Diamond

The long-awaited Dungeon Family reunion is the jaw-dropper, but let’s not shortchange Cee Lo (both with and without Goodie Mob), Big Boi, Killer Mike, and a DJ set from Organized Noize – the production team behind TLC’s “Waterfalls” and several OutKast classics, among others. Get a room – even if you live within driving distance, you’ll be way too danced out after 11 hours of “classic and next generation hip hop, and soulful R&B,” as the organizers aptly put it, to make the trek home.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.

5 Fun Fall Small-Town Festivals

Not all the great festivals happen in Georgia’s big cities. Smaller, quieter towns throughout the state of Georgia offer festivals that are great fun for the whole family.

Dahlonega Trail Fest, Dahlonega (Sept. 9-11, 2016)

Appalachian Trail Marker on Springer Mountain via Shutterstock

Appalachian Trail Marker on Springer Mountain via Shutterstock

Explore the gateway to the Southern start of the Appalachian Trail with a weekend full of festivities for your whole family at Dahlonega Trail Fest. Based in the easily explored North Georgia town of Dahlonega, the festival features a schedule filled with music, films, presentations and (of course) hiking opportunities. There will also be a wine and beer garden, walking tours of the town, 5K and 10K runs, canoe and kayak trips, and chances to take a shuttle to Springer Mountain.

Sum Nelly Arts & Crafts Festival, Summerville (Oct. 1, 2016)

Festivals center around the historic Summerville Depot each weekend in October through mid-November.

Festivals center around the historic Summerville Depot each weekend in October through mid-November.

Since 1972, crowds have been gathering in Summerville for the annual Sum Nelly Arts & Crafts Festival. This year, the event will feature more than 120 arts, crafts and food vendors selling alongside live entertainment throughout Dowdy Park.

Georgia Marble Festival, Jasper (First full weekend in October)

Marble-Festival

Historic Tate Marble Quarry plays home to the annual Georgia Marble Festival, which will entertain guests with plenty of activities, including a road race, parade, fine arts exhibit, arts and crafts vendors, live entertainment, an area especially for children and tours of the quarry.

Kolomoki Festival, Blakely (Oct. 8, 2016)

Explore the Indian Mounds at Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Explore the Indian Mounds at Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Just outside of downtown Blakely is Kolomoki Mounds State Park, which hosts an annual Kolomoki Festival showcasing the history of Georgia. The 2016 festival will be filled with delicious festival food, shopping, boat tours, Native American cultural demonstrations, live musical performances, an antique tractor parade, and children’s area complete with arts, crafts and an inflatable slide.

Hogansville Hummingbird Festival, Hogansville (Oct. 15-16, 2016)

Peachtree City artist Laura Gfelner painted the signature artwork for this fall’s Hummingbird Festival.

Peachtree City, Ga., artist Laura Gfelner painted the signature artwork for this fall’s Hummingbird Festival. See more of her work at the festival Oct. 15-16. Photo from Facebook.

During two days in October, historic downtown Hogansville comes alive with an old-fashioned Hogansville Hummingbird Festival, featuring food, crafts, antiques, live music, local artists selling artisan crafts, open stores, rides, and a section just for children. All proceeds benefit the Hogansville Charitable Trust, an organization created to help restore and preserve historic and municipal properties.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen Falkenberg-Hull is Georgia’s official Festival Explorerand the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

18 Georgia Songwriters – Up Close and Personal

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The latest celebration of the Year of Georgia Music is pretty special. Georgia Tourism has launched the Songwriter Series, a set of six intimate performances each featuring three noted Georgia singer/songwriters playing and sharing the stories behind their compositions. Best of all, the series spreads the wealth, with evening events spanning every corner of the state.

The first of these shows, held July 29 at Dublin’s recently renovated Carnegie venue, set the bar plenty high. A capacity crowd experienced hometown blueswoman EG Kight, Zac Brown Band alum Levi Lowrey, and eclectic Georgian Greg Hester. The three had never played together but struck an immediate rapport, trading off leads and jamming in various permutations. The night delivered on the precise blend of organic, homespun music and storytelling envisioned for the series — and there’s plenty more to come.

Jake Fussell grew up in Columbus and will perform at The Loft Aug. 20 as part of the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series

Jake Fussell grew up in Columbus and will perform at The Loft Aug. 20 as part of the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series

Columbus’ August 20 installment should have a homecoming vibe. Jake Fussell was born there, jazz guitarist and singer Marshall Ruffin‘s career began there, and Alia Torres is an up-and-coming local. “Jake’s not actually a songwriter – he’s a song preservationist and interpreter, and he knows more about songs of our state and the South than anyone I’ve ever come across,” says series organizer Lisa Love. “And, I just saw last week that his song, ‘Pushboat,’ one of my faves on his debut album ‘Jake Xerxes Fussell,’ is on the soundtrack for XBox’s Forza Motorsport 6.”

That’s a perfect example of the often overlooked Georgia DNA running through popular music. The October 7 Albany show highlights the country side of this equation. Cole Taylor has written No. 1 hits for Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan, and Travis Denning penned songs on Jason Aldean’s and Chase Rice’s latest albums. Taylor and Denning play together often, and here they’ll be joined by 21-year-old high-flyer Trae Landon. “Of the Top 25 Hot Country Songs on Billboard today, 10 of the artists are from Georgia,” boasts Love. “And those are just the artists. If we looked up who wrote the songs, I’m sure there’d be more Georgians.”

Cole Taylor, from Cuthbert, Ga., had his first No. 1 hit as a co-writer of Florida Georgia Line's "Sippin' on Fire." He will perform in Albany Oct. 7

Cole Taylor, from Cuthbert, Ga., had his first No. 1 hit as a co-writer of Florida Georgia Line’s “Sippin’ on Fire.” He will perform in Albany Oct. 7

The settings themselves are part of the attraction with listening rooms housing 150-250, each night promises an up-close-and-personal experience. And, the locales are stately historic buildings, most (like the Holly Theater in Dahlonega and the Douglass Theatre in Macon) recently renovated to reclaim their original glory.

The Dahlonega show should also be a treat, with Nashville songwriters (and Georgia natives) Pat Alger and Tony Arata teaming with Indigo Girl Amy Ray on November 19. ”Tony and Pat are quietly hilarious in their storytelling but serious about their songs, and once they start playing, even if you don’t know country music, you’ll recognize the hits they wrote,” says Love. “And, having them in the round with Amy is going to be magical.”

See Amy Ray perform in Dahlonega Nov. 19 as part of the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series

See Amy Ray perform in Dahlonega Nov. 19 as part of the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series

The December 2 Macon show that closes the series offers a twist — the three performers (Lloyd Buchanan, Lola Gulley, Ike Stubblefield) are all organists/keyboardists. After a set in the familiar in-the-round format, the trio will throw down for a keyboard jam, bringing in drums and other instruments.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the Atlanta show (September 21 at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center), even if the bill featuring Michelle Malone and Randall Bramblett speaks for itself. On this occasion, they’ll be joined by Brent Cobb, a writer for the likes of Miranda Lambert, Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan, whose own solo debut is due out in early October.

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.

Georgia’s Fall Beer Festivals

The Decatur Craft Beer Festival will be Oct. 15, 2016. Photo from Facebook.

The Decatur Craft Beer Festival will be Oct. 15, 2016. Tickets go on sale in September. Photo from Facebook.

August

Augusta Beerfest (August 20, 2016) – Southeastern American craft beer will be celebrated during one session of festival fun from 3-6 p.m at James Brown Arena. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door.

German Bierfest (August 20, 2016) – Ja! It’s a beer party! Head to Woodruff Park for the best German beer tasting event Atlanta offers. Be sure to leave room for food: half and full pound pretzels, sauerkraut, schnitzel, brats and more! Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 on the day of the event. Designated driver tickets are available.

Macon Beer Festival (August 20, 2016) – The event, which usually sells out, is a Pints for Prostates event, meaning the money raised benefits the International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network and the Prostate Conditions Education Council. General admission tickets are $35 per person in advance and $40 at the door.

Dawsonville Music & Beer Festival (August 21-22, 2016) – This festival usually hosts two nights of fun in downtown Dawsonville, a town primarily known for its moonshine roots. Each evening features performances from multiple bands and brews.

Helen2 - Sussman Imaging - Copy

Helen celebrates Oktoberfest for two months each fall!

September

Savannah Craft Brew Fest (September 3, 2016) – This may be Georgia’s most beer fanatic-friendly festival. The event features unlimited sampling of craft beers from around the world, food, seminars about beer, a mixology garden and a cider garden, a VIP experience, music and a cornhole tournament. General admission tickets are $46.95 each, including processing fees.

Oktoberfest in Helen (September 8 – October 30, 2016) – The Alpine village tucked away in the North Georgia mountains goes big each year for their own version of Oktoberfest. You’ll find beer on tap, polka on the dance floor and plenty of bratwurst. Admission is $8 Monday-Friday, $10 on Saturday, free on Sundays.

Music, Beach, & Brew Fest (September 10, 2016) – Lanier Islands hosts this beer-centric, family-friendly festival where restaurants and vendors will be showcased alongside games of volleyball, activities, arts and crafts, live entertainment, and a section just for the kids. Tickets are $20 per person, and there is a $15 vehicle entry fee at the gate.

Rome Beer Festival (September 24, 2016) – Crowds will gather at Heritage Park to raise funds for the Rome Area Council for the Arts and enjoy tastes of nationally produced and local brew. This event also has a home brew competition. General admission tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Hop Harvest Festival (September 24, 2016) – Celebrate all things hoppy in Athens at Terrapin Beer Company during its annual Hop Harvest Festival. Guest speakers, live music and the release of the 2016’s So Fresh and So Green Green will make this family-friendly festival fun. The cost of a drink voucher and souvenir glass is $20.

Blues, Brews & BBQ (September 24, 2016) – Hinesville is home to this annual festival celebrating the best in music, beer and food. The 13th annual event will feature live entertainment throughout the day and night.

Jekyll Brewing Co. beers at the 2015 Rome Beer Festival. Photo from Facebook.

Jekyll Brewing Co. beers at the 2015 Rome Beer Festival. Photo from Facebook.

October

Oktoberfest (October 7-9, 2016) – Savannah’s River Street plays home to all things brew-tiful during the annual riverfront celebration. The event promises “wiener dog racing, bratwurst tasting, oompah dancing” and Friday night fireworks. This event is free to attend.

Great Atlanta Beer Fest (October 8, 2016) – Usually known as the home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field hosts the Great Atlanta Beer Fest each autumn. With more than 100 beers on tap, live music and college football games broadcast on screens, this festival offers hours of entertainment. Tickets are $40 advance, $45 after September 29 and $55 on the day of event. The first 500 tickets are just $30.

Oktoberfest Boutique Beer Tasting (October 14, 2015) – Sip and stroll through the shops in downtown Newnan during this unique annual event. Local, regional and national brews will be on tap. Tickets are $20 per person in advance and $25 per person at the event.

Decatur Craft Beer Festival (October 15, 2016) – Think of this as an adults-only afternoon of tasting set in downtown Decatur, featuring 80 craft beers, food for sale, live music and more. Tickets go on sale in September.

Grayson Blues & Brews Craft Beer Festival (October 22, 2016) – Music and a hop-ping good time come together at Grayson’s annual music and beer festival this October in Grayson Community Park. Tickets go on sale in September.

Appalachian Craft Brew, Stew & Que Festival (October 22, 2016) – This first-year festival will be held at Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee and will be a celebration of beer, food, art and music. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Boos & Brews (October 29, 2016) – The sixth incarnation of this Halloween-themed festival will take place at a still-to-be-determined location. Uniquely, this festival runs at night, until 2 a.m. Tickets start at just $10 per person and usually sell out, so be sure to get yours well in advance.

The Grayson Blues & Brews Craft Beer Festival, Oct. 22, will feature Georgia music and beers.

The Grayson Blues & Brews Craft Beer Festival, Oct. 22, will feature Georgia music and beers.

November

Hopped Up on Georgia Brews (November 5, 2016) – More than 20 Georgia-based breweries will take part in this third annual event on Savannah’s Riverfront Plaza. Ticket information is TBA.

Acworth Craft Beer Festival (November 12, 2016) – Downtown Acworth gets the full festival treatment when this adults-only festival brings more than 100 beers and live music to town. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 after November 3, and $50 on the day of the event. The first 500 tickets will be sold at $25 when they go on sale in September.

Before you go to one of Georgia’s beer festivals this autumn, make sure you figure out how you’re leaving the festival. Assign a designated driver, walk or plan to take Uber or a taxi.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen Falkenberg-Hull is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

The Return of Athens PopFest … and Bulldog Students

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The Georgia Theatre is one of three venues hosting PopFest performances Aug. 10-13, 2016

Athens’ dual roots as a music and a college town have always been intertwined. These two cultures will converge even more than usual on Wednesday, Aug. 10 when Athens PopFest returns to town, mere hours before University of Georgia students resume classes for the fall.

“It’s their first weekend back, so the kids all want to go out, and townies can have a last bit of fun downtown before it’s full-on students and football,” jokes festival organizer Mike Turner. Launched in 2004, PopFest established itself as a highlight of Athens’ summer calendar before going on hiatus in 2012. According to Turner, one of three promoters behind the earlier run, both fans and bands worldwide continually asked when the party would resume, and this year he finally felt sufficiently recharged to give it another go.

His Name Is Alive

His Name Is Alive

PopFest has always championed the outsiders and up-and-comers, with a heavy dose of local flavor. This year is no exception. Headliners include legendary Austin eccentric Daniel Johnston and long-running Athens favorites Elf Power. My personal picks include the newly reformed Love Tractor — who deserve to be uttered in the same sentence as R.E.M., the B-52’s and Pylon as the apex of 1980s Athens — and genre-smashing Detroit iconoclasts His Name Is Alive, who are equally likely to dispense cosmic jazz as swirling dream pop. Meanwhile, the roster of Georgia bands stands at 18.

One of the changes from past years is a smaller number of shows, but at larger venues with more extensive lineups. “None of the performances overlap this year, which was a really big thing for me,” explains Turner. “I hated that the festival had grown to a point where you had to make choices between which bands to see.” The nighttime bills at the iconic Georgia Theatre run into the wee hours, while Little Kings Shuffle Club is hosting afternoon throwdowns and World Famous (recently named one of the 100 Best Bars in the South by Southern Living) a pair of early evening interludes on Friday and Saturday.

Dudley Park railroad trestle in Athens

Featured on the back cover of R.E.M.’s 1983 debut album, the Dudley Park railroad trestle is one of the stops on the Athens Music Walking Tour.

There’s enough music to keep you busy from Wednesday through Saturday (assuming you sleep in, or spend the morning scrambling for textbooks), but Turner also recommends spending any spare time at the following:

glen-headshotGlen Sarvady is Georgia’s official Music Explorer. He has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, and has written about music both locally and nationally for at least as long. More recently, he has written regularly for the music/arts publication Stomp & Stammer as well as GeorgiaMusic.org.