jakub | September 23, 2023

After Thoughts From Imagine Music Festival

I have known about Imagine for a long time now. I have local friends who are loyal to the festival because they are loyal to EDM and the festival is less than an hour from many of their houses north of Atlanta. Until this year, I had never attended the festival. Many years it conflicts with Music Midtown, my personal favorite festival as it was my first festival back in 2011. However, I got media access to Imagine this year and decided to check out the festival on the Friday of the event. It was the 43rd festival I’ve attended in my life thus far.

Photo Credit: Don Idio @divisuals

Upon arrival, I was directed to the media pickup box office which was on the opposite side of the property where Imagine takes place. I then drove down a road for about a mile or two to finally reach the festival grounds. I really enjoyed how the festival is tucked away from the main roads enough where you feel like you are nestled in the woods with mountains not far off on the horizon. After I parked and got to security, they were heavily searching folks coming in. Everyone had to empty their bag completely and shake out all cloth items like blankets and jackets. I found this to be a bit jarring for a standard security policy with the addition of a heavy police presence around security and inside the festival grounds. It wasn’t until I met up with my friends later that I discovered someone earlier on Friday had tried to bring a weapon into the festival grounds where the stages are located. The rumor is it was a gun, so it makes sense that security was being extra for this festival.

After going through the hassle that was security, I took a self-tour around the grounds to get familiar with the stage layout. The locations of the stages made sense, but it seemed like the festival was prioritizing VIP over having better quality stages for the attendees. Oceania was the main stage and had the pit split almost in the middle between GA and VIP, with the VIP area extending considerably far out from the stage area towards vending. The Amazonia stage was on the opposite side of the festival, facing a massive hill that matches the seating capacity of many amphitheaters, and even had a huge wading pool at the top for special exclusive pool events (although Friday it was open to anyone in GA because I think it wasn’t fully setup yet). The Amazonia stage clearly should have been the main stage as it could hold a larger audience and allow for seating on the hill above the pit, but the festival seemed to have picked Oceania as the main stage to push folks to upgrade to VIP for better viewing of the stage. My guess is this was done because of low ticket sales because although the festival was stating they were close to selling out of camping spots, the festival seemed very under capacity. Granted I was only there on Friday, but even with the headliners of DJ Diesel b2b NGHTMRE, the first ever Subtronics b2b GWN, and Sofi Tukker I could easily walk up to rail. After the festival, I saw a drone shot from above the event that clearly showed about half the campgrounds, if not more, not being utilized.

Photo Credit: Don Idio @divisuals

When walking around I decided to check out food prices and other vendors as I like to compare pricing and available experiences among different festivals I attended. I could not find anything less than $10. I kid you not, even a plain hotdog was $15. Most meals from vendors were hovering closer to $20 without including sales tax. I do understand that inflation is a thing and prices should go up. However, I have been to multiple festivals this year that have had food options for $10 or less. I noticed other non-food vendors seemed to be struggling to get sales throughout the day. There were two ground-level carnival rides that I saw maybe five people ride the entire time I was there on Friday. I know this because I was trying to get a cute reel video made of the rides going with people riding and in line, but the dozen or so times I walked by the rides were 99% empty. Sales could have picked up on Saturday and Sunday but at least on Friday everything seemed very dead. After the festival, I saw a vendor claim they paid $3000 as a fee to be at Imagine. I hope it wasn’t a loss for any vendors this year.

Now to talk about the good I saw at the festival. The vibes at each stage were what you would expect from an EDM festival. Lots of folks raging, headbangers rocking rail, wooks abundant. The production at the stages was also top-notch, especially in Oceania with the lasers and flame pillars. Noise bleed was there but not bad enough to distract you from enjoying yourself. There were plenty of water stations and restrooms where lines weren’t an issue. There was free body painting, free kandi making, and other various free activations around the festival grounds including the pool at Amazonia (but again I think this was only Friday). There was lots of open space, partly because of the lower capacity, which allowed for people to spread out and not feel cramped. There were plenty of cute spots to get a photo of your rave family that also served as very visible meet-up locations. Again I want to emphasize that it really felt like you were in nature as all around you could only see rolling hills, trees, and far-off mountain tops.

Photo Credit: Don Idio @divisuals

I think a lot of the issues I saw at Imagine were due to the growing pains of the festival as they are trying to expand into a much larger space at Kingston Downs in Rome, Georgia. With increasing an event capacity comes trials of meeting that capacity and finding what works in the newer space. I hope that Imagine continues onward and keeps pushing to improve the festival. I for one will definitely look for the lineup drop for 2024 and will consider making another trip!

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