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8 massive music fests at a glance

From Afropunk to TomorrowWorld, fall season kicks into high gear

As the summer heat gives way to autumn's crisp air, music festival season kicks into high gear. This year the city hosts an overwhelming amount of punk, hip-hop, urban music, and EDM. There's literally a seven-week stretch, from Sept. 3 through Oct. 18, when music festivals unfold every weekend. From the inaugural Atlanta edition of Brooklyn's Afropunk, to homegrown staples ONE Musicfest and A3C to the dazzling bass drops and laser lights of TomorrowWorld, here are eight massive music gatherings at a glance.

????The Atlanta Weekender??
Launched in the summer of 2011 by DJ/producer Salah Ananse, the Atlanta Weekender is a five-day series leading up to the city’s largest house music gathering, House in the Park. This year before the party starts, dancer, singer, and house music head Cortney LaFloy opened up about why she’s been a Weekender regular since day one.

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“When I first heard about the Atlanta Weekender, I thought it was brilliant. Atlanta is the best-kept secret when it comes to house music. If you’re in the know, you know. But there are a lot of transplants here — people who long for house music but have no idea it exists in Atlanta. But with House in the Park, I see more people there than I see at any house event in the city. So to cultivate a whole weekend around House in the Park is brilliant. Not only does it show people that we have a robust house community in Atlanta, it showcases local talent. And that gives people options when they’re ready to get their fix of house throughout the year.

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I’m originally from Chicago, and I attend the Chosen Few Picnic there every year. I also go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami every year. But to have something like the Weekender in my own backyard? I’m counting down the days. When the festivities kick off, it’s like, ‘All right, this is our weekend. I’ve got a babysitter. I’ve got everything squared away. Don’t call me.’”

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— As told to Carlton Hargro

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$45-$60. Sept. 3-7. Times and locations vary. www.atlantaweekender.com.

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????House In the Park??
Anyone who’s spent any amount of time around Atlanta’s electronic music scene has seen Melba Searcy. Originally from Nashville, Searcy moved here 11 years ago and took to the rave scene when venues such as Loretta’s and the Nike Pavilion were on point. As part of a small group of African-Americans in attendance at those parties, attending a more diverse event like House in the Park in its burgeoning years satisfied her love for house music and the sense of belonging for which the rave scene is known. Searcy owns and operates her own graphic design business, Toastedink.com, and has parlayed those skills into designing the House in the Park T-shirts for the past three years.

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“I’ve been going since about the third one. House in the Park really just proves that when ethnicity goes out the door, when religion goes out the door, people can just be free for the day. It just breaks down barriers and helps us see that through music we’re the same.

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It’s really interesting to see people who never would have spoken to each other speak and say what’s up. They’re sharing their food and the music pushes all that bullshit away, and people come together.

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With all the crazy elections, everything that’s happening in the Middle East, it goes away. It’s a blessing. We need more moments like this.

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You and I are ravers. This is what we do. For us, this is what makes it unique. It’s kind of a centering, especially for black electronic music listeners. Given the situation we’re in, the era of Michael Brown, it shows that we’re not violent. Look at this — here are 8,000 black folks and nothing’s going down. There are white people here and they’re kicking it, too.

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It really is a comment on all of that. It proves that we’re going to be alright. Word to Kendrick Lamar.

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I think the only concern is where would you put it next. How many parks do we really have? Every year I’m like, ‘Where would you have it next?’”

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— As told to T. Chante LaGon

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Free. Noon-8 p.m., Sun., Sept. 6. Grant Park. 840 Cherokee Ave. S.E. www.houseinthepark.org.

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ONE Musicfest

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When ONE Musicfest made its 2010 debut at the Westside's King Plow Arts Center, there was a dearth of festivals appealing to urban progressive types — the listeners who can be spotted at an industry album listening party and an art show the same night.

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Now in its sixth year, OMF has cemented itself as a festival that challenges Atlanta and music lovers who thirst for variety. With past shows pairing Big Daddy Kane with Big K.R.I.T., and the Pharcyde with the Foreign Exchange, this year's line lineup looks to be its most expansive yet. Ms. Lauryn Hill, the Roots, Wale, A$AP Rocky, and Janelle Monae are the headliners, but younger and more experimental names such as Raury, SZA, and the Internet appear just as big on the fliers. Blurring the hip-hop Mason-Dixie Line by placing East Coast rap titans Raekwon and Ghostface of Wu-Tang Clan on the same bill as Southern hip-hop pioneers 8Ball & MJG stresses OMF's "unity through music" stance even more. A lineup like this is quite the feat considering the burden of topping last year's Kendrick Lamar and Nas performances.

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Founded by Atlanta-based party promoter Jason Carter, this year's OMF returns to Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood and features three stages, an artists' village with live painting and art installations, food trucks, and a DJ area where more than 20 of Atlanta's favorite party rockers will keep you dancing while you wait (or drink) between sets. Get in where you fit in. $50-270. Noon. Sat., Sept. 12. Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood, 2002 Lakewood Ave. S.E. www.onemusicfest.com.

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Music Midtown

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Since Music Midtown's 2011 return from a five-year hiatus, the festival has become a grand buffet boasting varied musical selections that err on the side of mainstream tastes. The lineup boasts 30 acts performing throughout the weekend, some of which make strange bedfellows: Friday night's headliner Elton John creates ebullient pop tunes — perfect for a fall evening in Piedmont Park. His presence here is more than a little nostalgic, even though his spare 2013 album The Diving Board is great, the tunes aren't likely to crocodile rock a festival crowd. Other acts on the bill mine the past as well: Van Halen, Billy Idol, and Hall & Oates will have the crowd singing along to the hits, while Alice in Chains and Lenny Kravitz keep the '90s alive, as does current act Hozier. Pay attention to the more interesting contemporary acts: Sweden's Icona Pop, Ireland's Kodaline and A-Town's very own Run the Jewels. $125-$1200. Fri., Sept. 18, 4 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 19, noon.-11 p.m. Piedmont Park, 1342 Worchester Drive N.E. www.musicmidtown.com.

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TomorrowWorld

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Weather stimulating a deeper consideration of art, culture, and bass music — or simply letting one's mind and body go on autopilot — TomorrowWorld offers a gateway into a laser-light fantasyland on the bucolic rural setting of Chattahoochee Hills, just south of the city. The carnivalesque good vibes pulse to the tunes of iconic producer such as Paul Van Dyk and Armin van Buuren, while newer producers and DJs including Cashmere Cat, David Guetta, DVBBS, and too many other to name here keep crowds raving 'til dawn and beyond. Camping, immersive art experiences, massive projections, restaurants courtesy of Kevin Gillespie, creative attire without (as much) commercial excess as Coachella, and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world worshiping the bass set the scene for this world class EDM blowout. $137-$1,660. Fri.-Sun., Sept. 25-27. Chattahoochee Hills. www.tomorrowworld.com.

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Afropunk

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Atlanta's music festival landscape is a mixed bag of indie rock and EDM-heavy lineups. Afropunk fills a void by offering common ground to hip-hop, punk, and outsider music empowered by Afro-centric inflections. The festival's inaugural 2015 Atlanta edition — an offshoot of the Brooklyn-based festival — has already developed a fierce reputation for mixing established musical heavyweights and local underdogs. The festival takes its name from the lauded 2003 documentary exploring how primarily black punk rock acts such as Bad Brains and Cipher constructed their identity amid a largely white landscapes. The same identity politics lie at the core of Afropunk's ethos as it applies to rap and soul music as well as punk and metal.

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D'Angelo and the Vanguard top this year's bill after touring the festival circuit to promote the critically-beloved Black Messiah.

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Electronic music guru Flying Lotus, world beat-infused singer Santigold, and perpetually controversial rapper Tyler, the Creator round out some of the bigger names. However, the festival's bedrock is where the lineup truly shines. Hot off the release of its 13th album, Man Plans God Laughs, hip-hop legend Public Enemy takes the stage. And for those who missed out on Death Grips' brutally sweaty performance at the Masquerade, the noise-rap provocateurs grace Afropunk's lineup as well as old-school Los Angeles punk group Suicidal Tendencies.

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Afropunk stays true to its commitment to ATL's hometown heroes with a host of Atlanta talent. Party rock favorites Baby Baby, luxury trap DJs Vavlt Boyz (HXV and Blkkkmorris), and soul maestro/former CeeLo Green backup singer Curtis Harding perform as well.

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The festival's commitment to social justice and community involvement stands out as well. Though some of the specifics have yet to be released, the festival will feature Activism Row, which, according to Afropunk's website, will "shed light on the many different kinds of good work being done in Atlanta's minority community ... and inform youth about civic participation opportunities." $45-$289, Sat.-Sun., Oct. 3-4. Central Park, Central Park Place N.E. and Linden Avenue N.E. www.afropunk.com.

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A3C

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The annual A3C (All Three Coasts) hip-hop festival returns for its 11th year, this time centralized along the Edgewood Avenue corridor. That means the fest is making full use of the Atlanta Streetcar to shuffle hip-hop heads from the festival grounds (Edgewood Avenue) to the hotel (the Sheraton) and conference center (the Loudermilk Center). The lineup for this year is a generational hodgepodge of heavy-hitters touching on nearly all generations of the music: Rakim and legendary producer Pete Rock rep the Reagan era, while De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers, and more rep the '90s. From the aughts, rappers Jah Shaka, Beanie Sigel, and Curren$y hold down the fort, while Wiz Khalifa, Soulection, and more march toward the future. Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg as more than 1,000 rappers and DJs are lined up to throw down. Live performances, academic symposiums, guest speakers, film screenings, pop-up cyphers, and an entire day of activities dedicated to De La Soul, aka De La Soul Day, all point toward 2015 being the year that A3C's dedication to becoming a hip-hop institution come into full view. Download the app and choose your own adventure. $119-$399. Oct. 7-11. Edgewood Avenue. Various venues. Visit www.a3cfestival.com for more information.

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ParkLife

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Jason Isbell's alt-country storytelling skills appeal to Nashville rebels, Southern rockers who remember his stint in the Drive-By Truckers, and folk-loving festival junkies. That's why his latest album, Something More Than Free, topped Billboard's country, rock, and folk charts shortly after its July 17 release. With ParkLife's target audiences embracing his music, who better to be the festival's first world-renowned headliner?

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Isbell will be joined by a couple of other buzzworthy singer/songwriters in Jenny Lewis backing musician turned Columbia Records recording star Natalie Prass, and well-decorated country songwriter Chris Stapleton, who wrote five No. 1 country hits for artists ranging from George Strait to Darius Rucker. Rounding out this year's bill is Philadelphia folk rockers Strand of Oaks. This lineup of heavy-hitters is a step up from the inaugural festival, hosted Sept. 7, 2014, at Atlantic Station's Central Park and headlined by baby-faced British songsmith Jake Bugg.

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Such a tantalizing lineup justifies the $15 increase in general admission, with the $45 asking price worth it for Isbell and Stapleton alone. With two of the best songwriters and vocalists in Americana sharing the same Piedmont Park stage — on a fall Sunday without a Falcons game — ParkLife will be that weekend's sure bet. $45. Sun., Oct. 18, 2-10 p.m.. Piedmont Park Conservancy, 400 Park Drive N.E. www.parklifefest.com.



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