Aug 1, 2022 - News

Music Midtown canceled

A photograph of a large diverse crowd of mostly young people dancing, smiling and throwing their hands in the air during an outdoor concert
In 2021, Music Midtown organizers estimated that roughly 50,000 people would attend the festival. Photo: Scott Legato/WireImage

The organizer of Music Midtown says the September festival in Piedmont Park has been canceled for "circumstances beyond our control."

  • Rolling Stone, Billboard and other outlets, citing industry and festival sources, say Music Midtown backed out because the festival can't ban firearms and weapons in a public park, according to a judge's interpretation of Georgia's so-called "guns everywhere" law. Axios has not independently confirmed that the event's cancellation is connected to the law.
  • The festival includes weapons on its list of prohibited items.

Why it matters: Owned by Live Nation, the outdoor concert series is one of metro Atlanta's largest cultural events and attracts local and regional crowds.

What's happening: This morning, festival organizers said they were "looking forward to reuniting in September and hope we can all get back to enjoying the festival together again soon."

What they're saying: "Public policy has real impacts and in this case- economic and social implications on a great tradition," Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman tweeted.

Catch up quick: In May, guns-rights activist Phillip Evans argued that short-term operators of public venues — in this case, Music Midtown, which rents the park from the city — could not restrict guns at their events, Saporta Report reported at the time.

  • Evans, who lives in Monroe County, based his argument on an appeals court ruling in his recent (unsuccessful) challenge to a no-guns policy at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
  • The activist has pondered filing a legal challenge making the same argument about Cadence Bank Amphitheater at Chastain Park, the website reports. He recently convinced officials to drop the weapons and firearms ban at The Home Depot Backyard at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

On Friday, local journalist George Chidi said he'd received word that the festival would be canceled.

  • Later that day, Live Nation's Peter Conlon told John Ruch of the Saporta Report that the company would release more information soon.

Of note: Refunds will be processed within the next 24 hours to the original method of payment, the organizer said in a statement, and could take seven to 10 business days to process.

The latest: Stacey Abrams, Democratic nominee for Governor blamed the news on incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who relaxed gun permit regulations this year.

  • "In dire economic times for so many Georgians, this cancellation will cost Georgia's economy a proven $50 million," she said. "This means that small businesses and workers who rely on events like Music Midtown and their tremendous economic impact have now lost incomes that help put food on the table and a roof over their heads."

Yes but: The law reportedly at issue, regarding where guns can be carried in Georgia, passed in 2014, before Kemp took office.

What we're wondering: We're with Chidi on this one. Why did it take three years after a judge's ruling for festival organizers to address the issue?

What we're watching: Whether organizers of festivals like the upcoming ONE Music Fest and Shaky Knees — both of which are held in Central Park, also a public greenspace — will change plans or relocate to private venues not covered by the law.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a response from democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams.

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