Five can't-miss acts at Imagine Music Festival 2018

GriZ, Liquid Stranger, Zhu and more.

click to enlarge Five can't-miss acts at Imagine Music Festival 2018
via Liquid Stranger


Imagine Music Festival is marking its fifth anniversary by bringing fans its biggest lineup to date.

Barring a schedule conflict here or there, festivalgoers are set to see dozens of the best acts electronic music has to offer throughout three days of raving inside Atlanta Motor Speedway. This year’s lineup touts big names like Bassnectar, Zeds Dead, Kaskade and dozens of other household names in addition to some of the hottest upcoming stars in EDM.

With a lineup this deep, it can be hard deciding on who to see night-to-night.

To help you put together your festival schedule, we’ve picked out a few acts from this year's lineup that you will not want to miss. Check out our top five can’t-miss acts below, and for a complete festival schedule click here.

Liquid Stranger

Meet 38-year-old Martin Stääf, a Swedish-born DJ and producer who would like to teach you a thing or two about space.

Representing the weird and wonderful at Imagine this year is Liquid Stranger, the psychedelia-based dub project Stääf launched in 2003. He began this run by incorporating a variety of genres from around the world, evolving project to project before eventually narrowing to the more prevalent dubstep and drum and bass sound you hear in his music today. As head of the Wakaan label, Liquid Stranger has helped launch a unique brand of indie electronic music, promoting acts like Space Jesus and PEEKABOO. While he maintains a quirky and inviting presence on stage, his music in a live setting is far more imposing.

Walking up to a Liquid Stranger set you’d think you come upon a UFO crash site, as Stääf uses otherworldly production to execute one of the most terrifically captivating electronic sets on the festival circuit today. If you care to join him on this interstellar journey, catch him at the Oceania stage at 7:50 p.m. Saturday.

click to enlarge GRiZ playing Okeechobee Music Festival in 2017. - via LJ Hilberath
via LJ Hilberath
GRiZ playing Okeechobee Music Festival in 2017.

GRiZ

GRiZ has had perhaps the most interesting year of any of the artists on our list due to the fact he’s been mostly M.I.A. In February, the artist took down all of his photos on Instagram before going dark on social media altogether, leaving many fans wondering if the artist had given up on music. Seven months later, the 28-year-old is beginning to pop up on festival lineups throughout the country.

With rumors floating around that there’s an album in the works, the “post-EDM” champion’s return is one of the more intriguing aspects of this year’s festival. While performing GRiZ touts a saxophone in addition to manning the boards, and has earned the reputation as a fan favorite by bringing his contagious energy to the stage every night. Check him out at the Amazonia Stage at 10 p.m. on Sunday.


Shpongle

We can definitively say there is no other act like Shpongle on the 2018 Imagine Music Festival. For those who haven’t fully immersed themselves into the psychedelic electronic project of Simon Posford and Raja Ram, the music uses layers of varying sounds and textures to take you on a borderline psychedelic trip. Often grouped in with freeform artists like Tipper, Shpongle’s music varies from ambient psytrance to heavier psydub. This rare festival performance is a special Simford Posford DJ set, which is considered a near-mythical experience amongst those in the festival community. While you may be hung up on catching this or the concurrently running Zeds Dead set (the band plays over at the Oceania Stage at at 8:15 p.m. while Shpongle plays at 8:45 p.m.), it’s well worth trying to catch both. 

Zhu

In electronic music nowadays you see a lot of acts using the cloak-and-dagger approach of employing a masked or disguised persona, but perhaps none do it better than the mysterious producer Zhu. Whereas some acts wear large marshmallow helmets to manifest a radio-friendly character for mass appeal, Kevin Zhu has withheld much of his own identity in order to shift the focus on what’s important, his music.

Usually draped in a kimono and donning rounded shades to accent his fedora, Zhu utilizes this enigmatic approach to create a surreal atmosphere to his music that doesn’t appear to be bound to any genre. At its base his music carouses in deep house, but as he’s progressed he’s showed a prevalent use of guitar, synths and even R&B.

“Faded,” from 2014, is considered a modern classic in the house genre, and in 2018 Zhu continues to impress with tracks like “My Life” — which features Tame Impala. Earlier this month, Zhu dropped his second full-length album Ringos Desert, which gives Zhu a ton of new material to mix in at this Imagine stop. He goes on after ‘Nectar, at 1 a.m. at the Amazonia Stage.

RL Grime

When RL Grime released NOVA in July, 27-year-old Henry Steinway found himself at a career crossroads. While his rise fed off of hard-hitting trap tunes like “Core” and “Scylla,” RL circa 2018 had evolved into a far more tasteful producer with an ear for radio appeal. His most recent hit “I Wanna Know,” an electronic pop ballad featuring Daya, charted at No.13 on the Billboard electronic charts and marked Steinway’s highest charting position to date.

On this sophomore project he mixes it up between these more pop-friendly tunes and masterfully crafted trap anthems, representing his most well-rounded work to date. NOVA still features its share of harder tracks (“Reims,” “Pressure,” “Era"), but the album’s marketed singles — “Light Me Up” and “Undo” featuring Miguel and Torey Lanez, respectively — followed suit with this new mainstream soundscape. When performing live, he’s typically known for sticking with the latter, but you can find out for yourself Sunday night when he plays the Oceania at 7:05 p.m.



About The Author

LJ Hilberath

Franz “LJ” Hilberath is a Clearwater-native who contributes to Creative Loafing's Music section. He previously served as an intern and is now a freelance contributor for all things music.LJ can be found in the field reviewing concerts and music festivals around the country, and also works interviews for both local...
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