Guide to Atlanta’s music festivals for 2017

Legends of hip-hop, indie rock, electronic and pop are on the calendar for the 2017 music festival season in Atlanta. In the past two decades, we have been blessed with more festivals bringing big name headliners and sought-after artists to our city’s best venues. Prepare for loud music, lots of traffic and deadly heat as thousands of fans rally together each month for the love of music from this upcoming April through October.

When searching throughout the city in search of the best festivals being offered, we found seven festivals with everything we’d hoped for.

First up, SweetWater 420 Fest.

Laurie Mallis, Happy Ending Production spokesperson and Tucker Berta Sarkisian, SweetWater Brew spokesperson spoke with us through email to share what’s in store for 2017.

What’s new for Sweetwater 420 Festival 2017?

Mallis: “The 13th SweetWater 420 Fest will begin earlier on Fri., April 21, with gates opening at noon. We are going with two nights double sets with our headliner Widespread Panic, and double sets by Trey Anastasio Band. This is a first for us -multiple sets over multiple nights! We are excited about a new recycling program called Dumpster Diver with our partner 30A radio. Patrons fill a bag with recyclable trash in exchange for cool Dumpster Diver t-shirts [available] on-site during 420 Fest weekend. The 420 Fest app is really robust and will make our patron festival experience much smoother!”

How long does production take for each year?

Mallis: “Operating and planning 420 Fest is a year-round effort. Now in our 13th year, the planning for the next 420 Fest has already been underway. The festival promoter (Happy Ending Productions) and presenting sponsor (SweetWater Brew) are in constant communication to select ideal bands that will flow well for 420 Fest patrons and SweetWater fans. The companies also look at improving the patron experience year after year.”

What’s the best thing about SweetWater Brewing Company, and in what ways does SweetWater love Atlanta?

Sarkistan: “The best thing about SweetWater Brewing Co.? We’re good folks making tasty brews and having a great time doing it! SweetWater shows our love for Atlanta by giving back to organizations who make our city better –Chattahoochee Riverkeepers (through our Save Our Water campaign, which has donated over a million to clean water projects), The Giving Kitchen (through our Second Helping beneficial brew, which donates 100% of profits back to the organization) and countless community initiatives. And, by throwing kick ass parties like 420 Fest!”

A quick peak at Georgia’s music festivals

SweetWater 420 Fest

Downtown Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park is the forefront for a few festivals this year, but SweetWater 420 Fest has made its mark since moving from Candler Park in 2014. Although 420 Fest in the past years has fallen on days where monsoons are prevalent (even constant), people swarm for this hippie-dippie inspired weekend. SweetWater brews galore, food trucks aplenty, a festival legacy of fifteen years, and undoubtedly a funky lineup will keep the people going, rain or shine.

Pack panchos, mud boots and an umbrella in case of repeat weather this year, but bands like Widespread Panic, Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, MOE and more will try to keep the sun shining.

Attendees can purchase daily tickets, which include entry to the four stages with over 40 bands on the lineup, access to local vendors and artists market and the SweetWater experience. VIP upgrades include private amenities, complimentary drinks and lounge areas providing accommodations.

Tickets available

21 and up event. $66-170. Fri.-Sun., April 21-23. Centennial Olympic Park. 265 Park Avenue W. N.W.


Shaky Beats

Expect the weekend to be loud, exhausting and most likely the beginning of Atlanta’s infamous summer daze. True to its electronic nature, Griz, R.L. Grime, Flosstradamus, Zeds Dead, and Girl Talk are taking over as Atlanta keeps warming up (quite literally) for festival season. Stay hydrated and surely the nights will carry on.

All general admission tickets include a commemorative RFID-enabled wristband, 40 performances on three stages, bars and concessions throughout the park, water stations with free refills, and lockers on-site with charging capabilities. Get ready to rave… or is it rage?

Tickets available

18 and up event. $90-399. May 5-7. Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Avenue W. N.W.


Shaky Knees

Embarking on its fourth year, Shaky Knees, the predominantly alternative music festival, will meet another swell of passionate fans this year. What to expect: high-energy, a diverse age-range and three full days of soul-twinging tunes.

Big names include Cage the Elephant, The XX, The X Ambassadors, The Shins, and more. All general admission tickets include one commemorative RFID-enabled wristband, over 60 performances, food from regional and local restaurants including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, festival merch, art vendors and water stations with free refills. Children eight and under are allowed in free with a ticketed adult.

Tickets available

All ages. $99-185. Fri.-Sun., May 12-14. Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Avenue W. N.W.


Atlanta Jazz Festival

The best part about this festival is that you can basically have an all-day picnic while listening to soothing, jazzy tunes (for free).

As the the sun falls across Midtown’s skyline, the jams continue into the night making for an impressive first date or chill night out with friends. Guests are allowed to bring foldable lawn chairs, blankets, coolers and necessities into the park grounds for the festival as long as such follows park rules. Local musicians, orchestras and various symphonies will be performing including Band Room Nation, Chandra Currelley, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Joe Alterman, Mette Henriette and more.

No tickets needed

All ages. Free. Sat.-Sun., May 26-28. Piedmont Park 400 Park Drive N.E.


Music Midtown

Since 1994, Music Midtown’s productions have seen a lot of talented musicians and performances. Last year, the lineup boasted far and wide across the musical scale in genre and therefore mood.

What to expect in 2017: the usual rain or shine event, rushing of crowds between four to five stages every set, quick bar lines, expensive carnival food but fun rides and hopefully a lineup that can beat the 2016 performances by Twenty-one Pilots, Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, Big Boi and all the others.

Tickets not on sale

Lineup unannounced

All ages. Sat.-Sun., Sept. 16-17. Piedmont Park, 400 Park Drive N.E.


Imagine Music Festival

Ever since the rumors began of TomorrowWorld going extinct, Imagine stepped up to the plate to deliver a new experience in EDM and “glamping.” They are giving ravers a temporary space to sweat and dance like hell, and the organizers have teamed up with AQUA to create a three-dimensional underwater world to get lost in for 2017.

Expect carnival rides, acrobatic performers, oh and of course the DJs to blow your mind. A general admission three-day pass includes entry to the venue and its multiple stages, but no camping so you have to figure out how to get to and from wherever your homebase is. For general admission and camping, it’s a hefty $229. The perks: the latter, the silent disco afterparties in the campgrounds, yoga sessions, craft shops and last but not least, bathrooms with showers!

More upgrades include VIP areas with luxury viewing areas and accessories ensuring the optimal experience.

Tickets available

Lineup unannounced

18 and up event. $125-497. Fri.-Sun., Sept. 24-26. Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1500 Tara Place, Hampton, GA.


A3C Festival & Conference

Celebrating thirteen years, the greater hip-hop community welcomes many artists home and some back to Atlanta. A3C will host over 1000 artists and DJs. The lineup will consist of new and old age musicians infusing their passions, souls and messages together for a collaborative weekend.

General admission only includes access into the music festival, while the three-tier ticket upgrades provide special entry into fifty events in 10 venues of the complex, and include complimentary drinks, after-parties, meet and greets and more. These VIP tickets are recommended for industry entrepreneurs looking for insight and connections for their own businesses.

Tickets available

Lineup announced

All ages. $70-$485 Sat.-Sun., Oct. 7-8. Georgia Freight Depot, 65 M.L.K. Jr Dr S.W.


Needed Bring-Alongs

5 things under $20 that are okay to bring (and you probably should bring) to a festival:

  • $9-$15: An empty Camelbak/water bottle (must be empty before entering the gates).
  • $8-$20: A portable phone charger (if you haven’t been lost before, then you don’t even want to risk it).
  • Free: Your ID (to prove your age).
  • $1-$5: A poncho (can opt as a teeny blanket since they are usually not allowed).
  • Free-$20 A small backpack to keep everything together (your average Jansport is a good dimension example).