Coming back for its fifth year, Imagine Music Festival went above and beyond to host what was truly the biggest party of the year at The Atlanta Motor Speedway. With perfect camping weather, mind-blowing stages, and a killer lineup, IMF turned out to be an unforgettable weekend for all.
This annual aquatic fairy-tale themed gathering has established itself as an event tailored to EDM lovers over the years. This time around, the lineup went all out to amaze fans from all ends of the electronic spectrum of music — so much so, that it was almost overwhelming. Bringing the biggest names in EDM from all over the globe, the schedule merged genres of house, dubstep, trance, and techno, and I made sure to experience my fair share of each.
The anticipation was high entering the festival grounds. Walking past the main “IMAGINE” sign, fans were greeted with a crowd of elders giving out “Free Mom Hugs” and “Dad Hugs” to spread good vibes before the three day adventure at the Speedway. It’s safe to say that most festival goers are college students or graduates living away from home, and personally, a tight mom hug was just what I needed to start my weekend off on the right foot. Arriving to the racecourse, the crowd was surrounded by bleachers rattling with heavy bass all above them: the final hype builder before being released into the venue. Then the mere sight of the set up on festival grounds — 3 main stages and 2 small ones — sparked even more excitement.
Oceania was hands down the most multi-functional stage I have ever seen, resembling an underwater castle with breathtaking lasers and light shows. I spent most of the weekend attending sets here and it never failed to make every moment incredible. Riot Ten’s heavy “Rail Breaker” bass-drop, accompanied by flames and lasers, sent the crowd for an aggressive rage on Friday, while Kaskade’s soothing trance throwback to “I Remember” on Sunday night showered the audience in confetti as fans swayed back and forth together in awe. Oceania Stage created the perfect energy for every headliner it welcomed. Some other favorite moments here included an avalanche of balloons during Zeds Dead’s set, fireworks for Galantis, the distorted on-screen visuals for The Glitch Mob’s melodic electronica set, and acrobats on insanely tall stilts dancing to 12th Planet on stage. It also goes without saying that the energy at Bassnectar’s set was absolutely spine-chilling.
The Disco Inferno stage, set up at the entrance, intrigued me instantly with impressive futuristic structures and a constant fire show. A massive, dissected, rotating disco ball blowing flames over the stage was a sight like no other (clearly, it’s hard to even put into words!) I made it here from Galantis just in time to see Boogie T and Squnto throw down with back to back sets of some heavy bass. The second night, after funky, transnational dubs from Liquid Stranger, I sent it over to Disco Inferno to catch a techno break at Green Velvet’s set. Here, I found a relatively older crowd of tech-house lovers grooving out to the classic “Flash” track, which could not have been more fitting at any other stage. With a row of propane cannons set up along the stage, the pyrotechnic effects here heat up the dance floor at night with mesmerizing displays. Dancers in aquatic themed outfits on both sides of the DJ also definitely did their part in hyping up this party.
The jungle themed Amazonia stage was another great spot in the racetrack that thrived on the second day. Zen Selekta kicked the day off on Saturday afternoon with otherworldly downtempo bass tunes, followed by the talented Levitation Jones, who hyped up the crowd with his unique dark sound and then dropped into the worm mid-set. This is where I ended my second night with the highly anticipated ZHU performance, which thrilled the audience with deep house hits like “Faded” and “In The Morning”.
Two smaller stages, Six Feathers and Aeria, also featured low key artists throughout the weekend. These were much more casual shows, and were fun to pass through to check out new music. On the last day, I paid a visit to the Six Feathers stage to catch a glimpse of ATHRS, who played a bass-infused, punk rock heavy set. Once the venue closed every night, festival night owls migrated over to the Silent Disco, located among the campsites. Here, music continued into the mornings until 5 AM, with surprise “secret sets” from Yheti, Toadface, and 12th Planet.
As the weekend came to an end, I knew that I’ll have to return in the years to come. It’s hard to find a festival that leaves you this gratified at the end of a three day journey. People who come from all walks of life spreading nothing but love, accommodating staff and volunteers, a captivating collection of vendors, and an amazing camping experience — what more could you want? Imagine kept me so busy that by the time I had to leave on Monday morning, I felt like I had never been so exhausted, but I was walking away with some of the best memories of this year. Thank you, IMF!
Photography by Vanessa Herwig