Music Midtown to announce its ‘position’ amid rumors of gun law issue
By John Ruch
The Music Midtown concert festival will soon issue a statement on its “position” amid rumors that Georgia law preventing it from banning firearms might force a cancellation or move.
The popular annual festival in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park is scheduled for Sept. 17 and 18. Earlier this year, its weapons ban was informally challenged by an activist named Phillip Evans, who recently lost a legal battle for the right to carry guns at the neighboring Atlanta Botanical Garden. Evans and his attorney have said that under state law and recent Supreme Court of Georgia precedent, a short-term tenant of a public park — such as a concert festival — can’t ban firearms or other weapons.
And in fact, the Home Depot Backyard, a publicly owned green space outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, lifted its firearms and weapons ban in recent months after Evans complained about it.
Peter Conlon of the promotion company Live Nation, who arranges Music Midtown, said in a phone interview that a statement is coming soon, but he would not specify what it is about.
Asked if the festival is having trouble with the gun issue, Conlon said, “We’re going to be issuing a statement shortly — a statement of what our position is.”
Asked if that meant a position on the gun issue or on the festival being canceled or changed, he said, “A statement about the festival. That’s as far as I can go.”
One rumor in circulation, as recently publicized by independent journalist George Chidi, is that some artists are pulling out of the festival due to contractual agreements that guns will not be at the venue. “That’s not true,” said Conlon. “There are some rumors going on, but it’s not artist-related.”
He directed further questions to Live Nation’s Los Angeles-based public relations team rather than the local one, saying, “There’s a number of people involved in this right now.” An L.A. spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions.
The City of Atlanta, which is responsible for issuing permits to the festival, did not provide immediate comment. Mark Banta, president and CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that helps to fund and manage the park in collaboration with the City, said he had heard nothing about any issues with Music Midtown or the gun law. The Conservancy does not have a direct role in operating that festival.
On July 7, Evans issued another written complaint about the gun ban to the festival’s security company and Conlon. Evans said in a phone interview that he also heard the cancellation rumor, but that he has not received any information or response directly from the City or the promoter.
One Atlanta entertainment attorney who has represented other music festivals, and who asked not to be identified in this story, said he had not heard of Music Midtown issues or the gun issue being a problem. The attorney said that few artists have the leverage to include something like a gun ban in concert contracts, but that informal negotiations between musicians and promoters can be more wide-ranging. “No music venue wants to be seen as not artist-friendly,” the attorney said.
Update: This story has been updated with comment from Phillips Evans.