Midtown Atlanta is urban and residential


This time last year I wrote about taking my wife and two teenage girls to the Memphis in May music festival. Ginny and I were about the oldest people there. I predicted that would be my last music festival. But I was wrong.

My delightful daughter Ruth, who just turned 17, was planning to attend Atlanta’s Shaky Knees music festival with a friend and her dad. Perfect.

Perfect is never perfect. Her friend got sick and had to back out. Did we want the tickets, the dad asked?

It just so happens my wife’s favorite band, Tame Impala, was the Sunday night headliner. Ginny had been talking about going to see them for months. Mother’s Day and Ruth’s birthday were coming up. I got a sinking feeling Thursday morning that the die was cast. Another music festival was in the cards.

It’s not that I don’t like music, I do. But like Memphis in May, Shaky Knees doesn’t allow folding chairs. It’s tough on my old back to stand around in the hot sun for hours on hours listening to eardrum-shattering three-chord songs with unintelligible lyrics.

The weather report allayed some fears. High in the upper seventies. Then we found two affordable rooms at the fine and funky Hotel Indigo just a half mile from the festival. Walking back to the hotel and taking a mid-afternoon siesta changed everything.

So we loaded up the Cessna and off we flew to Atlanta: me, Ginny, Ruth and her friend Katie.

The departure weather was iffy. There was a break between storms and off we flew into low ceilings but improving weather. After some bumpy single pilot instrument flying, we broke out into beautiful Atlanta sunshine to land at Atlanta’s PDK suburban airport. A quick Uber ride and we were there.

What is it about teens and music festivals? They just love them. In fact, late teens are positively entranced with music festivals. Ruth and Katie worked their way up to the very front of the main stages and pretty much stayed there the whole time. What energy. Ginny and I were on our own.

As for me, been there done that. I hate to sound like an old fogey but I’ve heard it all before. After one band played a song, I turned to Ginny and said, “That was the most basic three chord song I have ever heard. I could write that in five minutes.”

I have to face it. I was spoiled by the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, Rolling Stones, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and a dozen other super creative bands of my youth. Today’s music pales by comparison. It’s formulaic and minimally creative.

Part of the problem is the new business model of the music industry. Back in the day, 70 percent of music revenues came from studio albums and CDs. But online streaming changed all that. Now 70 percent of the music revenues come from live performances. Music festivals are everywhere.

So what does that mean? Well for one, live music has to be loud, energetic and rocking. No need for the nuance of a studio album. That favors simplicity over creativity. Lyrics don’t mean much because nobody can ever hear them anyway.

It’s no wonder so many young people are still in love with the music of my generation. It was better. And boy do I miss thumbing through album covers at a retail music store. Those were the days.

It’s a joke how many ancient bands from my day are still touring and attracting big audiences. Rolling Stones? It’s a miracle they’re still alive.

I’ll never forget hearing The Boss (Bruce Springsteen) play at the Jackson Coliseum just a week after he made the covers of both Time and Newsweek. When he played Rosalita, it was like an epiphany. The crowd went wild.

The Shaky Knees venue was quite nice. It was all located in Atlanta’s shady Central Park. The volume was not ear damaging and the bands were eclectic and not vulgar. It was the same weekend as Memphis in May and Jazz Fest, so that kept attendance to a pleasant level, not too crowded. I was pleasantly surprised and actually had fun.

I was most impressed with Midtown Atlanta. It was like being in a less congested, more tree-lined Manhattan. Urban living is entrenched. Five, 10 and 15-story apartments and condos were everywhere, lined with pedestrian-packed sidewalks with local shops, bars and restaurants on every corner. Southern urban living is a reality. A few weeks earlier, I was visiting Baton Rouge where I noticed that urban living is really taking a foothold there as well. One day, it will happen in Jackson.

You really don’t need a car in Midtown Atlanta. Uber, Lyft and car share companies are everywhere, saving consumers from car notes, insurance and the cost and hassle of parking. The trend of declining car ownership is expected to accelerate rapidly in the near future.

Like Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and dozens of other cities, stand-up scooters are everywhere. Once you download the app and enter a credit card, all you have to do is grab a scooter, open the app and off you go up to 15 miles per hour.

A scooter allowed me to see much more of downtown and Midtown Atlanta than I could have ever walked by foot. It takes some dexterity, especially when the roads are wet, but these little electric scooters are exploding and offer yet another cog in the urban transportation wheel. New Orleans is one of the few cities that ban the scooters.

Sunday was the big night. Tame Impala (which I jokingly referred to as Lame Impala) took the stage with an amazing light show and pretty good music. Think of it as a mix of Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Bee Gees with some weird lyrics. This band from Perth, Australia has hit the big time. Ginny was a fan from the very beginning.

I realized that when Ginny and I first met, I took her to Atlanta to hear the Grateful Dead. How sweet that 25 years later she took me to Atlanta to hear her favorite band.

That Ginny. She was rocking out. Perhaps the oldest woman there was gyrating the most enthusiastically.

Like Peter Pan, she never gets old, physically or spiritually. One of the many reasons I’m still in love.

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