I did not know what to expect when I first arrived at Imagine Music Festival. I had heard great things about this aquatic adventure, but great stories only go so far until you experience it for yourself. I am a firm believer in attending a new music festival every year versus attending the same local events over and over which many people get locked into for various reasons. With that said, I chose to fly out from Las Vegas to spend my 2018 festival experience at Imagine Music Festival.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Imagine Music Festival is a 3-day camping festival which has been held every year (for the last 5 years) at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Georgia. Within that short period of time Imagine has established itself as a staple among the other major festivals on the east coast and within the US. I was very excited to be attending their 5th year anniversary as they launched a stacked lineup to include artists such as Armin Van Buuren, Kaskade, Bassnectar, Alesso, Galantis, RL Grime, Zhu, Green Velvet, The Glitch Mob, Paul Oakenfold, Cashmere Cat, and Griz to name a few.
The Speedway is conveniently close to the Atlanta Airport, so my commute to the festival was a smooth transition after my flight (an approx. 30-min drive). Upon arrival I had to first pick up my wristband at will-call which had little to no wait in line. The staff was very organized and friendly which made for an easy pickup. We arrived to the campground entry which had one of the most thorough car checks I have experienced at a camping festival. They asked us to pop the trunk and ruffled through our camping gear along with multiple passes of K9 inspections. Safety is of the utmost importance but be forewarned. We pulled into our designated camping plot and set up what would be our home away from home for the next three days. We quickly made friends with the other camp mates, had a few kickoff drinks to relax, and left towards the festival.
We arrived in line to enter the speedway which did not take very long to get through the security pat downs and wristband scans. We walked into the speedway looking down at the Disco Inferno stage towards the center with main Oceana stage off to the far left. Amazonia is another one of the larger stages which is set off to the right but was not open/accessible until day two and three. I am not sure of the reason for this, but I think all stages should be active during all three days of the festival. We got inside a little late on the first day but made our way down the stairs and grooved at Disco Inferno for the end of Ployd’s set.
We headed over to the pool for a bit to relax and went to Oceana for 12th Planet, The Glitch Mob, Galantis, and Armin Van Buuren who always delivers!
We decided to swing by the Silent Disco for a bit before heading back to camp. I was exhausted from all the travel as I took a red eye flight, but I ended up staying out a lot later than I initially planned. If you have never experienced a silent disco, the headsets had a dual channel feature with two DJ’s on stage so you could tune into the sound of your choice. The headsets would light up blue or green depending on the channel, so you could see who else was listening to the same music.
One thing I immediately noticed about Imagine Music Festival, is the amazing vibe people carry. It’s never guaranteed that a festival with so many people will create such a warm and welcoming aura… but the people of Imagine Music Festival do this seemingly better than many festivals I have attended. For such a young and independently owned music festival they have done very well to create a home for their attendees. Granted, this was my experience and the vibe you bring plays a major factor, but IMF gets my personal stamp of approval for the atmosphere they create, and the people they attract.
Camping at festivals can sometimes be hit or miss based on the weather. It is often freezing at night, and you wake up in the morning feeling like you’re being baked in the comfort of your own tent. I am not sure if September was perfect timing or if the weather just happened to be perfect, but I did not experience any excessive hot or cold weather throughout the weekend. It was chilly at night, but I did not feel the need to wear every article of clothing I packed. Waking up was just as nice and the perfect start for day two. If weather happens to be one of your camping festival fears… RV camping is also available.
Day two of Imagine Music Festival was perfect. There was no worry about travel, traffic, or setting up camp. Just wake up, cook breakfast, or eat a PB&J and relax into the second day of the festival. If you happened to not bring any food, they had plenty of great food options inside and outside of the speedway.
Luckily our camp was set relatively close to the showers where the Iris Team did a really good job of making sure the porta-potties were cleaned out each morning. After freshening up we made our way to the speedway. Although there were several other great artists I wanted to see at the Amazonia and Disco Inferno stage (Ekali, Cashmere Cat, Jai Wolf, Green Velvet, and Zhu), I decided to stay with my group to catch Bear Grillz, Liquid Stranger, Adventure Club (which brought back a lot of great memories), Bassnectar, and closed out the night with Alesso. Every time I have tried to see Alesso, something happens and I either miss his set or I can’t make it to the event. It was great to finally have the opportunity to see him live and break my curse.
Although we were all sad to be flooded out from the speedway, the festivities in the campgrounds were in full effect, and we were not ready to go to sleep any time soon. The Silent Disco was overflowing with a long line to get in, but first, we decided to re-group at our campsite to grab a drink and head back out to the parties. We went to a stage that was set up close to our camp and a secret forest stage, which was going off!
After visiting both stages, we headed towards the Silent Disco, but were curious to see what the RV camp situation looked like and I am happy we did. We found ourselves at a private RV after party. It was equipped with a giant unicorn floaty ball pit, House DJs, and an eclectic group of people dancing into day three of Imagine Music Festival.
The vibe was great, and the music was better. We danced until sunrise but decided that 8am was time to go back to camp and sleep for a few hours. Luckily, it was a little overcast, so the sun gave us enough time to nap.
I felt like a zombie, but the after-parties were completely worth it. After a quick shower I felt refreshed and ready to regroup with my camp and the new friends I made over the weekend. Day three of any festival is always a little sad, as you know the adventure is coming to an end. Knowing the third day of Imagine ends three hours earlier (12am), we made sure to go inside relatively early. Half of my group split off to go to mainstage VIP, which was quite an experience within itself. The Oceana stage has the entire far left section available dedicated to VIP, which had a perfect view of the stage along with a large private bar, bathrooms, bottle service, and additional seating available. I preferred to be in the middle of the crowd, so I stayed with my new friends from camp and raged to Getter, RL Grime, and Zeds Dead at Oceana.
Although I wanted to see Kaskade, my friends urged me to go to see Griz instead. I am all about experiencing “new” artists and I had never seen Griz live. He blew my mind. He had live instruments (guitar & saxophone), a rapper came out, and the crowed was amazing. Griz’s set was full of positive subliminal messaging/propaganda that made for an amazing feel good atmosphere. Towards the end of the set, my friend looked at me and said, “I would like to welcome you to the Wook Society.” We both died laughing and enjoyed the fireworks set off from mainstage across the speedway, with the sounds of Griz playing past his set time.
Everyone began to head towards Disco Inferno, as Oliver Heldens was the final set of the night. It was nice to have one single performer close out of the festival as it brought all the attendees together. Although we were sad to end the night, we were all exhausted and ready for bed. Turn down for naps. We headed back to camp and checked out for the night. I decided to shower before bed, to make for a more efficient pack-out before heading back to the airport.
One thing to note, as not every festival has a “Leave No Trace” policy, EVERY camping festival attendee should make it a self-priority to pack in and pack out, to leave your camp as spotless as it was when you arrived. Many campers left a lot of trash at their campsites which I see happen more and more every year. Please do your part to keep the grounds clean so the Iris Team and others can continue to bring us these amazing events.
Header Photo Credit: Imagine Music Festival