Imagine Music Festival 2016, Atlanta’s premier EDM festival set in the industrial Atlanta Motor Speedway, offered a weekend of non-stop electronic adventures. During my time at IMF2016 I was delighted to take part in a plethora of amazing experiences, from interacting with dressed-up mermaids at the splash pool, to raging on a dance floor surrounded by flame-throwing towers at the Disco Inferno stage. Unforgettable memories were made in the hot Georgia sun while dancing from stage to stage with EDM-fueled beats. Although I wouldn’t say IMF lived up to my expectations of their advertised Immersive Aquatic Fairytale, I definitely had a beautiful time exploring all of the magical things that Imagine had to offer.
IMF offered 6 expertly produced stages all with their own state-of-the-art speaker systems and light shows. The main stage, Oceana (pictured above), bolstered the festival’s biggest dubstep and electro house artists. It was the largest and most decked out stage at the festival. It featured several fire shooting arrays as well as unique AQUA fountains which projected 3-D holograms… woah. The main stage also featured ginormous Funktion-One Vero sound system, which packed a loud, heavy and crystal clear sound with extra bass. It was a true delight to hear artists like Zeds Dead and Adventure Club over such an impressive sound system.
The Disco Inferno stage featured mostly sounds of house music like Arty, Thomas Jack, and EDX. The stage was entirely constructed out of black metal with two fire-emitting geodesic domes on each side. The center was affixiated with a giant rotating disco ball which shot flames out of the top of the stage. The dance floor was surrounded by several fire-shooting towers with mounted LED displays. It was truly an immersive, creative, and HOT experience. I could literally feel the heat coming out of 15-foot or larger flames.
From a creative innovation standpoint, I thought Atlantis was the most impressive stage. Atlantis stage was built in a giant geodesic fire-breathing dome named Incendia. Incendia has been featured at other festivals like Mysteryland, but this is the first time I've ever seen music being played inside of it. I watched in awe as myself and other attendees danced underneath a DJ Pod suspended 10 feet from the ground as fire poured straight downwards from above our heads. Music from artists like PhuturePrimitive and Spankalicious blasted out of the loudspeakers from the Atlantis stage all weekend.
Over the weekend I didn’t spend much time at the Aeria stage, which was set up inside a large circus tent. Although I did stop by for some pretty noteworthy artists, like DJ sets from Pendulum and Dirtyphonics on Saturday night. I spent most of my time at the Amazonia stage, which featured amazing sets from The Polish Ambassador, Beats Antique, Opiou, and Lotus. Sounds of Jam Bands and Psychedelic Bass music came from this stage. Both Amazonia and Oceania stages had large tree-shaped tarp structures nearby for attendees to catch some shade in the scorching sun.
Although each stage was expertly produced, each with their own impressive sound systems, pyrotechnic, laser, light, and fog displays, I felt like there was something to be desired in the stage design and overall environment. For one, the aquatic fairy tale theme would really be better satisfied at a forested lakeside or beach in my opinion. You really had to use your imagination or be on a copious amount of substances if you wanted to feel immersed in an aquatic fairy tale like the festival advertised. For example, I wished Amazonia stage had a jungle-like environment like Nocturnal Wonderland's Labyrinth this year. Going to Imagine, I somewhat expected immersive environments like ones you might have found at EDC or Tomorrowworld, but didn't find any. The industrial stages and race-track environment reminded me of Moonrise Festival where less attention was given to the environment and more to the production and musical lineup.
Even though for me the racetrack environment left something to be desired, I did find moments of awe when observing the various dancers, circus performers, and fire-spinners brought in by CirqueUSA. I enjoyed all of the extravagant and creative costumes, the incredible fire-spinning, and impressive circus feats on the Amazonia and Oceania stages. Mermaids, jungle animals, and sea creatures of all kinds helped create the advertised Aquatic Fairly Tale. Performers in extravagant body paint, costumes and attire wondered the festival, helping Imaginers create a fun and interactive environment.
CirqueUSA also curated a transformational village called The Imaginarium next to the campgrounds. The Imaginarium featured a visionary artist tent, workshops, yoga, healing spaces and shaded structures. It offered a much-needed refuge from the blissfully chaotic environment inside the racetrack. On Sunday I attended an Acro-Yoga workshop, an Ice-Water therapy workshop, and a Mandala Making workshop. Each one of them were superb. I hope to see the Imaginarium area and programming expand in the future, as well as be featured inside the venue rather than next to the campgrounds.
The festival campgrounds were large and expansive, with plenty of room to explore and meet smiling faces. Most people I met were the raver type and were ready to rage at any given moment. I met quite a few awesome people in the campgrounds throughout the weekend, which I think contributed to the overall positive experience.
The campgrounds also featured a silent disco area, but the headphone quality was sub-par in my opinion. Several other amenities were available for both VIP and GA campers. The VIP area offered air-conditioned showers and bathrooms, which saved VIP campers from the long lines for showers in the morning. There were also misting and water refill stations, which were vital during the midday heat. Retail and food vendors were available both inside the venue and in the campgrounds. I was disappointed to only find fried food as an option, though. It's not the best rave recovery food even though it can be a hangover cure.
I’m excited to see where Imagine Festival goes in the future. The musical lineup at Imagine has always been fire, which I believe has attracted the growing crowds each year. The festival only took about half of the racetrack and had more room for campers, so I can see the festival expanding in coming years. I hope that the folks at Imagine will be able to put more resources into stage design and making immersive environments. Imagine Music Festival was a magical weekend, no doubt, and I am looking forward to seeing what directions the festival moves in for 2017. Tickets for next year’s Imagine are already on sale, which means that Imaginers will be able to do it all again in one year.
Written by Colin Eldridge