BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
Add The String Cheese Incident to the list of 43 acts playing SweetWater 420 Fest 2018.
The Colorado-based bluegrass-rock jam band veterans will play two sets at the 14th annual event, which will also feature, as previously announced, a double set from Umphrey’s McGee and an extended set from Tedeschi Trucks Band.
The full lineup for the April 20-22 festival was unveiled on Thursday. Along with the headliners, SweetWater 420 will spotlight artists including Sturgill Simpson, Vulfpeck, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (also playing two sets), Greensky Bluegrass, SOJA and Ghostland Observatory.
This year will also feature “artist at large,” Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, the 14-year-old who might be remembered by fans of Col. Bruce Hampton as the guitar prodigy who performed during Hampton’s fateful birthday concert last May.
Jennifer Bensch, president of Happy Ending Productions, which produces the festival, said she saw video of Niederauer online and the idea sparked. “I thought, I want him to come and sit in with all of these other people. I love encouraging someone of that age to fulfill their dream,” she said.
This is the fourth year SweetWater 420 Fest will be held at Centennial Olympic Park, and Bensch has no plans of changing that.
“We got too big for (original location at Candler Park) and everyone who came to the event realized that. We strived to have a positive impact on the community with the Earth Day focus,” she said. “We love being at Centennial Olympic Park. We hope it continues to be our long-term home.”
Last year’s festival attracted about 55,000 people during the three-day weekend.
Construction at the park still isn’t completely finished, so this year, SweetWater 420 will offer music on three stages instead of four.
One change in the interest of space economics is merging the 420 Disco and Lyrics and Laughter Tent. The DJs will have regular sets, and during set breaks, comedians will come on to entertain the crowd.
Another modification is the implementation of the clear bag policy already instilled at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and other venues and events around the country.
Security is top-of-mind, and Bensch said the clear bags, which must be smaller than 17x13x9, will streamline the entry process because security can quickly peruse its contents.
“It might be a little of a pain on the front side,” she said, “but I think it’s going to be the way things are going in the future.”
One thing that isn’t changing is the ticket price.
For the third consecutive year, prices will remain at $123 (advance three-day general admission pass) and $353 (advance three-day VIP pass).
“We try to do everything we can to make the experience good and affordable to everyone,” Bensch said. “Sometimes it’s challenging, so I can’t promise it’s always going to stay the same price.”
As always, attendees will have not only a smorgasbord of musical options, but an array of craft beers (it is believed that SweetWater is the only all-craft-beer music festival in the country). The SweetWater Experience tent will offer more than 20 different specialty beers that are unique to the festival. Last year, tickets to the Experience tent sold out, so procrastination isn’t advised.
SweetWater 420 Fest
April 20-22. $123 (general admission three-day pass) and $353 (VIP three-day pass). Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave. W NW, Atlanta. 1-877-987-6487, www.sweetwater420fest.com.