BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Elton John has played every size venue in Atlanta, from the Civic Center to The Roxy to the Georgia Dome.
But his headlining gig during this fall’s Music Midtown marks the first time the occasional Atlanta resident will perform a full concert in Piedmont Park.
“There’s a lot of panache there,” said Peter Conlon, president of Live Nation Atlanta, in his Buckhead office last week.
John, who most recently played Atlanta in November 2013, will zip through the city on his way from London to Brazil, where he’s slated to play the Rock in Rio festival.
John is among a diverse quartet of headliners for the fifth year of Music Midtown, which takes place Sept. 18-19 in Piedmont Park, its home since returning in 2011.
Smoothie Canadian rapper Drake – who made a surprise appearance at last weekend’s Hot 107.9 birthday concert at Philips Arena – will also command a headlining slot, as will veteran rockers Van Halen and British crooner Sam Smith.
The rest of the lineup is a robust parade of mainstream heritage acts, well-regarded current hitmakers and a smattering of upstarts: Lenny Kravitz, Hozier, Billy Idol, Alice in Chains, Panic! At the Disco, Run the Jewels, Jenny Lewis, Tove Lo, August Alsina, Icona Pop, The Airborne Toxic Event, Kodaline, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, Elle King, New Politics, X-Ambassadors, Jamie N Commons, Colony House, Rozzi Crane, Alessia Cara and Elliot Moss.
A handful of additional acts will be announced closer to the event.
“That’s the purpose of a festival – we draw you in,” Conlon said. “Whatever demographic you are, there might be two or three people you think are worth the value, but then you’re excited about being exposed to these other acts. Someone could be a huge Elton fan, but has always wanted to see Hozier or is curious about Sam Smith.”
Like last year, only two-day admission tickets will be sold for Music Midtown.
Early bird general admission tickets are $136. The price then increases to $156. VIP tickets are $600 and Super VIP costs $1,200.
“Based on the level of talent for two days, I think it’s the most affordable festival in the country,” Conlon said.
The major upgrade this year is the addition of a fourth stage, which Conlon said will be located at the Active Oval, almost lateral to the stage at Oak Hill.
About 75,000 people attended last year’s Music Midtown each day, which featured headliners John Mayer, Jack White, Zac Brown Band and Eminem and often resulted in a congested walkway between the largest stage in the Meadow and Oak Hill.
“We got high marks on the surveys we did after the fact (last year) on the experience, but people said they would like it to flow better, so we’re trying to spread things out,” Conlon said.
The three stages that have been part of Music Midtown since 2013 will remain in the same spots, but the Oak Hill stage will accommodate smaller acts while the new stage at the Active Oval, as well as in the Meadow, will host headliners.
Conlon said since the extra stage equates to more performers, his talent budget increased from $6 million last year to $8 million this year.
The investment seems to have a far-reaching economic effect on the city.
According to a study commissioned by Live Nation from The Research Center in Nashville, the total impact on the Atlanta-area economy from the 2014 installment of Music Midtown was more than $49 million.
The study noted that Music Midtown donated $100,000 to the Piedmont Park Conservancy to go toward the maintenance of the park and also provided a $400,000 rental donation to the City of Atlanta, which has historically funded The Centers of Hope.
The overwhelming majority of tickets – 63.25 percent – were sold in Georgia, with 2.87 percent coming from the Northeast, 2.80 percent from the Midwest, 1.73 percent from the West and 29.25 percent from the rest of the South.
“It’s growing nationally,” Conlon said of the event. “We’re an urban festival and there aren’t that many of them. I like having music in an urban environment and the artists love being on stage and seeing the skyline.”
Sept. 18-19. $136 (early bird two-day general admission); $156 (regular two-day general admission); $600 (VIP); $1,200 (Super VIP). On sale 10 a.m. June 27 through all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com, www.livenation.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Piedmont Park, 1342 Worchester Drive N.E., Atlanta.