ONE Musicfest 2023 (ONE) closed out festival season the right way. This year, the annual event relocated to Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Georgia, a considerable change in location compared to 2022’s showcase at Central Park. Fans filled the fields for two days of live music and warm weather in October, an unprecedented combination – much like Janet Jackson‘s surprise performance on night 1 of the festival when J. Cole popped out during her set.
But there’s more to unpack here.
The first day of ONE (Saturday, Oct 28) played out like your favorite film: just when you thought you knew what was going to happen next, it didn’t. For starters, there was a delay with opening the gates for general admission. Patrons braved an hour-long wait in line while some of the security personnel tried to make light of a situation that flustered many.
In all fairness, they were probably just as clueless, but they did a great job at keeping the positive vibes alive with jokes. Once the floodgates were finally opened, nothing else mattered but getting as close to your designated stage as possible. With 100,000 people in attendance, doubling last year‘s headcount, fans had to choose between three stages: the Sprite Hip-Hop 50 Stage, the P&G Stage, and the OMF Stage.
Festival-goers broke out their blankets and canvased the space for a shade spot, and nine times out of ten, they didn’t move from that location until the show was over for that day. Jozzy was first up and performed for a light crowd. (No shade, just facts – it was like two in the afternoon.) Next up was Tink, whose backup dancers added another dynamic to her performance. Coco Jones followed with a mesmerizing live rendition of “ICU” as the crowd crooned along word-for-word.
From there, newcomers like Mariah The Scientist showed us which direction R&B is heading sonically, and Bryson Tiller‘s set reminded folks that he’s a genre disruptor in his own right. Tiller’s “Exchange” record is just as relevant today as it was in 2015. The rappers ruled the rest of day one with standout performances from Florida’s own Kodak Black and T-Pain, legends Lil Kim and KRS-1, and the belle of the ball, Megan Thee Stallion.
Day 2 (Sunday, Oct 29) was no different except we (Black people) were on time, haha. The Men of R&B (Durand Bernarr, El Debarge, The Dream and Brent Faiyaz) proved that the genre is alive and well. For me, one of the many wonders of ONE Musicfest is its ability to showcase both legacy acts and the next wave of superstar artists. Everyone was treated with the same respect, and none of the performers rushed through their sets.
Candidly, I was scratching my head at Kendrick Lamar‘s headlining run. I couldn’t figure out what the hell his backup performers were doing on stage, but in the grand scheme of things I knew they were integral to the art.
The downside of the fest would have to be Chief Keef not showing up for his performance. The message was short and succinct, with a disclaimer appearing on the big screen a few seconds into his set time. After receiving the news, I was tempted to make a dash towards the HH50 Stage, but I couldn’t fathom the idea of saying “excuse me” hundreds of times to move through a crowd of thousands.
All in all, it would’ve been cool to see some of the hip-hop veterans take the main stage (OMF). However, I will say that ONE did a phenomenal job with uplifting DJs during hip-hop’s 50th birthday. The stacked bill included sets from DJ Quik, Ed Lover, DJ Toomp, DJ Jelly, DJ Drama, Greg Street and more. The aforementioned acts did their big one on the HH50 Stage, which was on an island compared to the other two stages that were separated by a VIP section and several drink sponsors.
ONE Musicfest 2023 was the perfect bookend to this year’s busy slate of music festivals. The festival made history, contributed thousands in donations given to Morris Brown & FAMU, and solidified its position as one of the premiere destinations for music lovers from all around the world.
See you next year!