170918_OM_Music Midtown_-57.jpg

Scenes from Music Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia in September, 2017. (Photo/Olivia McDonald) 

A trashcan full of mud-soaked socks and ruined shoes; a bank account balance that fills you with sorrow and maybe a little panic; a lonesome girl trying to enjoy the music while also looking for her friends that she lost hours ago. These are just some of the scenes you can expect to see from the 2018 Music Midtown Festival. From someone who has witnessed the highs and lows of two years of the festival, here is all you need to know to survive.


1. Don’t lose your friends — you’ll never find them again.

Some people find bringing a totem is a helpful solution. A totem is usually a sign or balloon that’s tall enough to reach above the crowds so you can be easily identifiable, no matter where you go. Examples include a classic sign attached to a stick, a SpongeBob balloon or a stick with glow sticks wrapped around it. Balloons are probably your best bet, as you can tie them around your wrist so you don’t have to hold onto it the whole festival.

2. Understand your phone probably won’t work.

It won’t work for the Music Midtown app, Lyft and Uber or your friends. (Again, don’t lose your friends.) Once the crowds start to thicken in Piedmont Park, your cell signal will fail. You can’t text your friends to ask where they are or rely on the app for updates or lineup information, although kiosks advertising the schedule usually help with this. Most importantly, you won’t be able to call for a Lyft or Uber right when you leave the park. Be prepared to walk 10-15 minutes away from the park to have a working signal and find an easy pick-up spot.

3. Be careful about buying drinks.

Drinks are going to be vastly more expensive within the park. Although water stations are available, lines are long. Understand buying alcoholic drinks will add up quickly and will also make you more dehydrated. Alternatively, more liquid means more need to go to the Porta-Potties, which also have long lines. Be strategic about when you buy your alcohol or other beverages, and make sure you don’t go overboard. It sucks to miss out on your favorite band because your stomach isn’t handling the alcohol and heat combo.

4. Bring an empty water bottle and have your friend bring a factory-sealed full water bottle.

This way you can easily fill and re-fill the bottles while also sharing in the event you can’t get to a water station to fill up. I won’t go into the ways factory sealed water bottles can actually be manipulated…

5. Wear shoes you won’t mind throwing away, because you’ll probably have to.

Since the festival is rain or shine, there’s no telling when it might rain and leave a muddy mess. Even if it doesn’t rain, mud is inevitable with the sheer amount of people stomping around the park and spilling drinks. Understand your cute shoes may be ruined. Also understand that you will be standing, walking and dancing for over half of the day, so ditch the cute shoes. You’ll be grateful for comfort.

5. Eat a big lunch and plan for late-night snacks once you leave the festival.

I once spent nearly $20 for three chicken strips and then felt sick afterward. It’s in your best interest to practically carb-load in advance to make it through the day. Your alcohol will sit better and your wallet will be happier. Then once you leave the festival, hit up a Wendy’s or a McDonald’s for cheap, late-night snacks.

6. Hats and sunglasses will save your life.

It’s going to be hot and bright, even on a cloudy day. The sun’s glare can sometimes impede your view of the stage, so you’ll wish you had sunglasses or a hat to block it. The hat will also help you feel a little bit cooler throughout the day.

7. Pack so light you don’t even need a bag.

It’s much easier to enter the festival if you go in the “no bag” line. The no-bag line moves quickly. Further, carrying a bag around all day when you’re trying to dance gets annoying fast. Make sure you only carry the essentials. Music Midtown outlaws a lot of items, so it shouldn’t be too hard to pack light.

8. Leave the pepper spray at home.

As someone who once had to throw away their $20 pepper spray before entering a festival, leave it behind. They won’t let you enter with it, unless you can hide it well enough to avoid it being found in a pat-down or scan.

9. Never keep your phone in your back pocket.

As comfortable or safe as you may feel, be aware of your surroundings. Music festivals are the perfect time for people to steal items in large crowds.

10. Schedule which stages to go to in advance and keep it as an offline note on your phone.

Although the app is one resource and there are signs about the schedule in specific locations around the festival, the most convenient option is to make a list on an offline app of the people you plan to see, what time they perform and the name of the stage. It’s easy to forget or get to a stage late and you may pay for it by being far away from the action.