Looking Back at SweetWater 420 Fest 2019

The weather is warming up and festival season is in full swing. As we begin to gear up for Candler Park Fest, Imagine, and Music Midtown, let us take a moment to look back at Georgia’s festival season kick off, SweetWater 420 Fest.

SweetWater 420 fest appeals prominently to jam music lovers by showcasing big-name groups such as Widespread Panic who closed out the festival both Saturday and Sunday night. With that said, it’s not only jam music lovers who enjoy this festival, several singer-songwriters were showcased as well, with both Jason Isabell and the 400 Unit and The Avett Brothers drawing in the masses.

It's not just music that brings a dense crowd each year, one of the fest’s claims to fame is its showcase of unique beer brewed by Atlanta’s top brewers from SweetWater Brewery who share tips and brewing secrets throughout the weekend at the SweetWater Experience tent. The tent contains 25 SweetWater beers adding to the “Experience”

This unique SweetWater event takes place at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta GA on the closest weekend to April 20th (4/20 get it?) but that’s not all, this weekend is also the closest to Earth Day. SweetWater Fest is dedicated to the environment and puts a large emphasis on environmental conservation as is evident by the amount of trash patrol and recycling bins throughout the grounds.

SweetWater Fest is overflowing with experience, from music and beer to art and hands-on workshops, not to mention the plethora of ethnic food options. With so much to do and only three days to soak it all in, it's wise to get to the fest early to enjoy the art, vendors, and workshops while bouncing between your personally designed fest schedule. The layout of stages made viewing multiple bands back to back as seamless as possible as the grounds were small enough to provide only a small walk between stages.

To detail 2019’s 420 Fest, it was absolutely one for the books. During the first two days, festival goers experienced temperatures in the low to mid-fifties with a wind chill that dropped into the forties, not to mention the constant drizzle. Ponchos and rainboots adorned most as die-hard fans huddled towards each other for warmth but came out with new friends.

Artists and performers were troopers and slightly more impressive than the heavy turnout of fans in the undesirable weather. As each act warmed up musicians clutched cups of coffee or jammed their hands into their pockets pulling them out only to blow in them as they hopped around to get their blood flowing. To the crowd’s pleasure, every musician had a fantastic set despite the cold. Stand out guitarists such as Cory Wong from Vulfpect played his instrument like butter despite his frozen fingers.

If you were dedicated enough to brave the weather and the coffee line on Friday and Saturday, by the time Sunday rolled around, ponchos came off, the coffee line shortened, and the beer line grew. Smiles were more abundant and blankets covered the ground as fest-goers soaked in the sun.

This year’s performers varied in style and sound. Friday showcased singer-songwriters such as Emma Hern and JJ Grey & Mofro. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead prefaced Fridays closing act The Avett Brothers who, despite the cold had an abundance of energy as they played quite a few bangers right from the beginning.

As the festival continued throughout the weekend, the pace picked up and so did the music. Saturday held acts such as Iration. Sunsquabi. Daily Bread, and Magic City Hippies for a more upbeat dance vibe and was closed out by Widespread Panic’s first night of dual sets following a playful onesie meetup at the SweetWater Experience tent.

Sunday got funky as the sun came out and Jason Isabell warmed up the mid-day crowd for acts such as Turkuaz and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, followed again by dual sets from Georgia’s own Widespread Panic.

The turnout despite the weather is proof that Sweetwater has something amazing going for them. From 2005-2019 the festival has grown in popularity and the headliners never disappoint as the brewery brings together music, beer, and the environment.

Photos by Sarah Htun for Bullet Music

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