Don’t take your guns to town, son. Leave your guns at home.
— Johnny Cash
I could fill a whole week’s worth of newspapers writing about my adventures over the years at Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival, and I still wouldn’t have enough room to tell half the story.
If you’re one of those odd (to me, at least) people who don’t really care about music, then Music Midtown is just another gathering of a bunch of crazy people willing to stand out in the hot sun all day to listen to loud, out-of-tune bands do damage to their ears. And if you happen to be among those who think that way, you have my sympathy, as you seek entertainment on fun places like social media.
But Music Midtown for music fans has always been like Nirvana (the higher plain, not the band), a place where you could find pretty much all the musicians you love — and, over the coarse of its existence, the festival has featured just about all of them — in one place over a three-day period. And the setting, in the midst of all those high-rises in midtown Atlanta, gave the annual festival a kind of surreal, wilderness-in-a-concrete-jungle feel.
As I said, I could write for days about my Music Midtown adventures: Going to the festival a month after major cancer surgery so that I could see the White Stripes before I died; sleeping in semi-flophouses (but expensive flophouses) just to have a place close to the festival grounds; running from one stage to the next to catch parts of sets by Bob Dylan and the Black-Eyed Peas, who happened to be playing at the same time; “discovering” musicians I might only have heard of — or never heard of — before, like Ben Harper, Kid Rock, B.O.B., Beth Hart; discovering that guys with tons of influence in the music industry, guys like Peter Conlon and Alex Cooley, are actually just music lovers themselves who decided to take a chance and bring the music they love to the masses.
Sadly, for younger and veteran music lovers planning to get their yearly taste of musical heaven in midtown Atlanta this year, it’s not gonna happen. The city of Atlanta and state officials have declared that, since Georgia’s GOP-led legislature, in an obvious attempt to appeal to the extreme element of their base voters in an election year, has basically opened the door for anyone to carry a gun at any time anywhere in the state, Conlon and the organizers of Music Midtown, when told that they could not stop people from bringing guns to the festival, decided the risk wasn’t worth it.
I know, I know ... there’s nothing more powerful that a “good guy with a gun.” And, of course, anyone who is not a “bad guy” qualifies for this distinction. So all those good guys would be a line of defense at Music Midtown, never mind that a whole lot of those good guys with guns like to drink a lot at the outdoor festival and are emboldened by their inebriation to settle any disputes with the extreme prejudice that their weapon of choice affords them.
And, sure, it’s against Georgia law to wand concertgoers so that dangerous weapons cannot be brought onto the premises, because it’s much more important that the gun lobbyists’ money keeps pouring in, who cares if a few gang members or extremist groups have the capacity and the availability to create mayhem and kill or maim a few thousand folks? We are, after all, Georgia, and we must protect God-fearin’ folks’ — good guys all — rights to arm themselves to the teeth.
For me, it’s ironic that Jack White (of the White Stripes) was scheduled to be one of the headliners at this year’s Music Midtown. It was my desire to see him and his partner, Meg White, perform that led me to risk my health after major surgery to attend the downtown festival. There’s no way, however, I would risk my life by attending such a gathering with the gun nuts — good and bad guys, all — given the freedom to run loose.