Review: Rolling Stone

Hole, Everclear and Rick Springfield Storm Atlanta
May 3, 1999, by Blair R. Fischer

Music Midtown festival draws more than 300,000 over three days.

The beginning no one saw and the end was a sorry sight, but, in between, the radio-sponsored Sixth Annual Music Midtown in Atlanta proved, once again, a lot of bands plus a lot of Budweiser makes for not so many scruples. With more than 300,000 attendees blanketing the Centennial Olympic Park (the location where the infamous shrapnel bomb detonated three years ago) over a three-day period, there was plenty to see and plenty to drink to make it all the less coherent.

Festival openers and area favorites Trinket must have thought they were on an episode of The Twilight Zone when they hit the stage promptly at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening to the delight of a couple bratwurst vendors. Somehow security neglected to open the gates until three songs into their set, leaving the quintet playing to a field of tree bark. The coda was equally inauspicious when, two nights, later, on the 99X stage, Hole frontwoman Courtney Love spent the waning moments of the group’s encore challenging the guy who tossed a cup of beer at her to a fight. And though she wasn’t kidding, she couldn’t find the suspect among the throngs of moshers, and the tosser wasn’t about to fess up. “Good night, Atlanta,” Love said as she exited the stage. “Thank you very much except you f—er with the beer.”

Fortunately, Love did manage to front an impressive set of saccharine-grunge among the litany of awkward ramblings with respect to her fondness for Baptists and her take on public nudity. “I will show my tits when I’m in the mood and that’s the end of it,” she said. The rock candy radio staple “Awful” and junkyard dog version of “Miss World” were inspired, as was the crawling, almost y’allternative version of Guns n’ Roses’ “Paradise City.”

Covers certainly were aplenty: While Nashville’s Bare Jr. tried their hand at the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” (with the Wings’ “Band on the Run” instrumentation), Everclear crawled into their metal shop and emerged with a filthy punk treatment of AC/DC’s “Sin City.” Earlier, the group invited fans — mostly those with breasts — on stage to act like idiots during “Local God.” “You wanna know why all the girls are up on stage?” frontman Art Alexakis asked their personal beer tossers. “Because we’re in a band, motherf—er.”

Ageless punk Iggy Pop continued where Everclear left off, urging fans young enough to be his grandkids on stage during the singalong “The Passenger.” While Pop groaned “I want some life, something real, something real,” one overzealous invitee pulled a Jim Morrison-in-Miami while Iggy looked on with a been-there-seen-that ambivalence.

Artist-to-audience relationships weren’t all adversarial. On the 96Rock stage, another Behind the Music subject, Rick Springfield, was striking pop-rock chords with fistfuls of roses with just as many diehards waving record albums at the former Dr. Noah Drake for him to sign. One such devotee — named Kim — was asked on stage to share lead vocals with Springfield. With the fan positioned between Springfield and his guitar, Springfield offered, “Kim’s gonna help us out and I get to cop a free feel.” After Kim’s one shining moment was over, she was visibly elated as she was escorted from the stage. “I have every album, ever CD, every tape, every set of everything,” she said as she re-entered the swarm of fans. “He’s like my world.”

One of the odder moments of the festival — besides seeing real life Rick Springfield fans — wasn’t a moment at all. The Eighties synth-pop group Berlin, armed with only a few songs anyone knew, didn’t play their No. 1 single “Take My Breath Away.” Frontwoman Terri Nunn explained the snub wasn’t intentional, and the song was supposed to be the encore. “It was just confusing,” she said. “They weren’t sure [we were coming back] and then we waited and they put the [house] music on.”

Other festival highlights included the sweet melancholic stylings of Kent. “It’s the one moment during the day when you feel useful,” said Joaquim Berg after their set. “The rest of the day you sit around watching other people work.” Kid Rock, too, a decided favorite in Atlanta, evidenced by an on-site 99X billboard featuring his likeness, was the man, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his sample-laden rapcore. Rock, not afraid to let Bud influence his on-stage technique and tell the world about it, said from his tour bus, “You can’t fake it if you wanna make it. You gotta live it.”