(For everything you need to know about attending this year’s Music Midtown, check out our navigation guide!)
The past five years have seen Imagine Dragons vault from friendly radio presence to inescapable hitmakers, the type of band whose music is so ubiquitous, you don’t even realize how much you’re hearing it.
To wit: last month, the quartet of singer Dan Reynolds, bassist Ben McKee, guitarist Wayne Sermon and Atlanta native drummer Daniel Platzman became the first act to command the top four spots on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart (“Thunder,” “Whatever it Takes,” “Believer” and the new stomper “Natural”).
Their “Evolve” world tour, named for their current third album, has been spinning across the globe since last fall. Imagine Dragons played Atlanta in November – a sold-out show at Philips Arena – but on Sunday, will return for a headlining slot at Music Midtown.
It’s more than just another festival gig for drummer Platzman, who currently lives near Summerlin in the band’s base of Las Vegas, but has deep roots in Atlanta. He grew up here, his family still resides here, but, most importantly for this weekend, he has vivid and special memories of attending Music Midtown.
During a call last month from a tour stop in New Orleans, the gregarious Platzman reflected on his past experiences with Music Midtown and expressed his gratitude and awe at the band’s status as headliners.
Q: You once told me about your history about going to see Music Midtown way back when and that the experience influenced you musically, right?
A: I have a full spectrum of emotions and memories. I certainly attended as a freshman in high school with my high school band to see Hoobastank and Incubus and dreaming one day it could be me up there, never thinking that could actually happen. And then fast forward just a few Music Midtowns to us playing there. It’s hard to put into words how crazy that is being a musician who grew up in Atlanta, hustling in the music scene as much as I could, playing gigs at barbecue restaurants where every 10 minutes the waiter or waitress comes over and asks you to play quieter. To go from that culture to playing a giant Music Midtown show is pretty crazy.
Q: What barbecue restaurants did you play?
A: All sorts of them; anywhere between Emory University and Sandy Springs.
Q: That’s a great memory, the interruption of, “Hey, we have to bring out the pork.”
A: There were priorities. Music was not the priority (laughs).
Q: You guys played Music Midtown five years ago, right before your first major arena tour, and I remember you mentioned that was really exciting. This year you’re headlining, which is even cooler.
A: The Music Midtown story continues. Now we get to headline Music Midtown in my hometown. I don’t know if I’ve wrapped my head around that yet. Being a hardworking young musician and trying to get any opportunity possible to play drums or music of any kind and going from that to headlining Music Midtown is going to be a really crazy emotion. I only wish my drum teacher Billy Degnats were still with us to come out and see it.
Q: Does the rest of the band know of your affection for this festival?
A: Oh, yeah. I freaked out when we played it back in the day. It’s a really fun festival. I’ve invited my childhood friend, Dustin Chambers, who’s a fantastic photographer, to come out. Even (last time we played Music Midtown), he took some of my favorite photos of the band that’s ever been taken. It’s just such a big crowd and the park is so pretty. Maybe I’m biased because I love Atlanta, but those shots just look amazing and when I see those photos, I’m just filled with emotion.
Q: I heard a story that your uncle brought you to Music Midtown many, many years ago and that’s what influenced you to become a musician? Is that correct?
A: I definitely went unsupervised with my high school band when I went to Music Midtown and it was a very big coming of age moment for me. I was a freshman in high school, I was 15 and with my band. We all went and were just feeling so enthused. It was a lot of firsts for me. It was the first time I saw someone in a band get recognized in the public area and have to run and throw guitar picks – it was the guitar player for Hoobastank – and he had to get out of there because got made really fast and he wasn’t expecting to. I didn’t know that was culturally a thing, that people in the bands would be out in the public area with you - and how magical is that? I remember we left Music Midtown that night and were discussing how we wanted take the band to the next level. It was very inspiring.
Q: Now this year you’re going to have to go wander around the crowd and see if you get recognized.
A: I’ll definitely be wandering around the crowd! It’s an awesome festival. I love how diverse it is. I love how just taking a loop around you’re going to hear all sorts of different things. That’s one of my favorite things at festivals, just walking and letting the music guide you. You hear something, you don’t know what it is, but you just follow it.
Q: Have you talked to the band about doing anything special for this show?
A: I’ll probably bring that up closer to that time. I think we have a couple of things in our sights between now and then (laughs) which is probably good. If I was just sitting here focusing on the fact that we’re going to headline Music Midtown, I’d probably start to get nervous or something.
Q: But you’ve headlined so many festivals and played to so many thousands of people.
A: There’s no show like a hometown show. This is the moment I was dreaming of in high school when I was telling people I wanted to be a musician. I didn’t say it, but you can’t help but dream maybe one day I can headline a festival and get all my friends in. How crazy is that that I’m now in a position to do that?
Q: The band will be in Atlanta right after the European tour – will you get any time with your family?
A: That time frame is a lie (laughs). We’re basically touring for the rest of the year. We told ourselves we’ll take some time next year and just reflect. That probably means we’re writing new music.
Q: (In early August) you guys had the top four slots on the rock charts. What was the band’s reaction to that news?
A: I feel like it was our-minds-our-blown territory. I don’t even know if I’ve registered it. If I actually started to think about those words, it would terrify me. It is insane to have four songs at the same time doing that. We are thrilled at the response we’ve gotten with “Evolve,” and all this music that we’re releasing. To get this reaction…we were in no way expecting it, but we’re so grateful.
Q: When I first heard “Natural,” I thought wow, this is perfect for football season and also…there seems to be a lot more electronic drums on there. How do you feel about the band’s evolution of sound?
A: There’s definitely a different aesthetic tonally. We’ve been using electronic drums for a long time, but I agree, it’s a much cleaner sounding drum. “Smoke and Mirrors” was this grand sound. We learned that sometimes more isn’t more and I’m really into this new aesthetic we’ve found. The thing I’m looking forward to is when we finally do take time to reflect, I’m sure we’ll learn new things to make it even better. I think we really started to feel comfortable in our own skin the last album. We’re not searching for who Imagine Dragons is anymore.
Q: Tell me about everything you guys are doing for the LGBTQ community, with the LoveLoud fest (in Salt Lake City) and the band’s other charitable endeavors.
A: To be able to take something as selfish as performing our own music, to take that platform and do something to really benefit people’s lives really means something to us. The Tyler Robinson Foundation Gala (which benefits families dealing with pediatric cancer) is two days before Music Midtown (in Las Vegas) and it’s going to be huge. It can be a break from the selfishness and it really humbles us. Dan organized LoveLoud and decided he wanted to make a direct impact in his hometown (Reynolds spent many years in Utah). Supporting those rights is something all of the band is all for and a cause we’re all lined up with to empower our LGBTQ youth. I’m very happy we have a chance to go and do that.
Noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday. Saturday lineup includes Post Malone, Fall Out Boy, Kacey Musgraves, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Portugal. The Man and AWOLNATION; Sunday lineup includes Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monae, Butch Walker, Gucci Mane and Khalid. $155 (two-day general admission), $600 (two-day VIP) and $1,250 (two-day Super VIP). A $100-per-day upgrade is available for GA+. Piedmont Park, 400 Park Drive NE, Atlanta. 1-888-512-7469, musicmidtown.com.