In its third year, Imagine Festival is by no means the new kid on the block.  Back in 2014, Imagine came into the collective hearts and minds of bassheads and trance-addicts across the southeast.  This year, the festival announced their departure from their home in Old Fourth Ward Park to just south of the city at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

A new venue can always bring new challenges, but my main reason for being excited about Imagine taking place at AMS was the addition of camping.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy air condition and real furniture as much as the next guy, but there’s just something about festival camping that really makes the experience for me.  Sleeping in a tent, loading up on sunscreen, grilling out and partying for 24-hours is my idea of a good time.

Not knowing how Imagine Festival would operate at a brand new spot this year, I loaded up my gear, met up with a big group of friends, and headed out to IMF2016.  Here are the best things that happened:

  1. Getting There

Even with the most veteran of music festivals, getting in and out can be a complete disaster.  It’s not always anyone’s fault, per se.  Getting 40k+ individuals in and out of anywhere just always has the potential for being a mess.

I’m not sure what sort of festival luck was in the air on Friday morning, but getting into Imagine Fest to set up camp was an absolute breeze!  From the main road to the security checkpoint to our campsite took 15 minutes, tops.  Can someone contact the World Record Book people for me?  Most impressive.

  1. The (Silent) Late Night Activities

I’ll admit to being very surprised when the daily line-ups were released leading up to the festival.  A 3 a.m. finish for mainstages might be the latest I’ve ever seen at a fest that isn’t open 24-hours.  Again, most impressive, Imagine!

Given how hot it was during the day, I think it’s safe to say that many Imagine campers didn’t fill up the main festival area until the late-afternoon/early evening hours.  That said, the decision to let the main stages go late definitely gets two kandi-coated thumbs up from this raver!

Not feeling going to bed at 3 a.m.?  Imagine had you covered there with a Silent Disco inside of the campgrounds.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s basically a gated off stage where attendees all wear wireless Bluetooth headphones.  The tunes the DJs spin from the stage gets played through said headset.  This is easily the best way to keep the party going while still letting folks who need to catch some z’sss in their tents.

  1. The DJs and the People Who Love Them

Well yes, I suppose saying that the line-up was one of the best things that happened at Imagine Fest goes without saying and I’m a journalistic hack, but stick with me here.  American dance festivals are categorized on a global level by our affinity for BASS.  Dance music in the south is generalized as being heavily trap influenced.  These two points are true and I’m not particularly mad at either of them, but Imagine really did bring in a great variety of electronic styles and—here’s the kicker—people seemed to really dig it.

Yes, there were big crowds for Borgore and Excision, but there was also a ton of support for Cosmic Gate, Disco Biscuits, Papadosio, SNBRN and other acts/DJs of the less-dubsteppy variety.  Standing in the crowd and seeing younger folks, likely experiencing their first festival, singing along to Benny Benassi tracks from when they were in elementary school (and no, not just the Skrillex remix!) gave me hope for the future.

  1. The Stage & Sound Design

If I were forced to have a complaint about Imagine, it would probably be the amount of dead space at the fest.  The walk from the campground to the track and then from the track to the actual stages weren’t heavily decorated.  I get it, it’s a really big space that would be tough to cover from wall to wall.

That said, once you stepped out of the tunnel to the actual festival area, it was obvious where all the attention to detail went:  The stages.

First of all, the visuals were on point.  LED walls, pyrotechnics and lasers covered the majority of the large stages.  The smaller stages still had a ton of character—one of which being a giant open metallic dome with the roof perpetually on fire.

Across the board, the sound was perfect on all five stages.  Yes, the music was loud, but it also had a clarity that is sometimes lost during the more bass-heavy sets.

  1. The Vibe

Look, I know the good folks who produced Imagine Festival went out of their way to spend the whole year booking acts, working on site maps, securing sponsors and making sure there were vendors, but at the end of the day, the people make the festival.

It was a hot weekend.  There’s no way around that fact.  The combination of scorching heat, long days, late nights and bathroom/water lines can often lead to crabby festival goers.  I’ve really got to hand it to Imaingers, though.  I saw nothing but the best, respectful behavior from the festival grounds to the campsites.

Cheers to a great festival, Imagine!  I’ll see you in 2017!

More info about Imagine Festival here.

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