Imagine Music Festival: What’s in Store for 2017
August 7, 2017
Article by: One EDM
by Melissa May
July 31, 2017
Glenn and Madeleine (Maddy) Goodhand are Mr. and Mrs. Superman. Their achievements for the development of EDM culture throughout the Southeast of the United States are widely recognized. They’re the face and founders of the four years running, Imagine Music Festival. The event distinguishes itself from other EDM festivals through its aquatic themed esthetic and decorum. The event features circus acts, massive art installations and spaces, a splash pool, and even an ocean view VIP deck built to look exactly as it sounds. This year, Imagine is supplying tons more cold and fast flowing water stations. They’ve improved their signage so we can wander around freely without a map and never fear getting lost. They’re offering healthier food options, games, and activities in campgrounds, and teams dedicated to minister overall experience, making sure we’re all safe and our peak moments magical. As far as the music, we should all be excited this year’s wave of stars includes Deadmau5, and Pretty Lights.
While EDM long existed in this portion of the country prior to Imagine, the scene was fragmented and underrepresented to the mainstream. Miami has been an EDM stronghold for decades, hosting both Ultra and the Winter Music Conference. And for quite some time, that was about it for tier one EDM festivals in the South East. The Goodhands sought to change that. Now we can celebrate the triumph of their mission once a year at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Imagine is a perfect representation of the growth and success of dance music all across America.
In 2016, Imagine moved into its new home at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Just like any other young festival, it was a learning experience that they intend to improve on each year. Last year it was held in August in the sweltering heat of Hotlanta’s summer, which came with lots of challenges; however, they put out a survey and have heard their audience. This year they took over the TomorrowWorld weekend slot and Imagine Music Festival will be held Sept 22-24, so the cooler temperatures will be more inviting for earlier attendance and longer enjoyment of the experience. This power couple is family and customer focused bringing their love for music and entertainment to the masses for everyone to enjoy.
In this exclusive interview, Glenn and Maddy share their story of establishing Iris Presents and delivering EDM culture to Atlanta and the Southeast via Imagine. They are also announcing a special customer appreciation day for their loyal fan base. The event is to be held on-site at Imagine on Thursday, September 21st. Read onward for the details.
“Nothing is off the table.”
Glenn and Maddy Exclusive Interview
OneEDM: Maddy, you’re from Finland. Were you born and raised there?
MADDY: Yes I was, I was born in Finland. Spent 8-10 years there and on and off my family would move to different areas. At the time, my dad was vice president of Nokia and so we traveled to Beijing and lived there for 2 years and then from Beijing, we moved to Hong Kong and lived there for another 2 years. so 4 years in Asia and then we also lived in Switzerland for another 2 years, and we would always go back to Finland as their home base. I spent all of my summers there. Grew up around the world and when I was 12 we ended up moving here to the states and I’ve been here ever since. That was back in 99′.
OneEDM: Then you went to Florida State?
MADDY: I’m a Seminole.
OneEDM: With Finland, I’ve been to Scandinavia, I know it’s very mythical. Is Finland pretty much the same?
MADDY: Mythical, you mean in Greenery?
OneEDM: Yes – The mythology, waterfalls, fairies, trolls are very much into the culture, is that the same in Finland?
MADDY: They are into their fairy tales. When I grew up there was this toy, you would probably have in the states. It was a troll; it had the jewel on the belly button that was representing for good luck. We used to have those there. I guess you could say there is some mysticism, not so much. More like fairy tales, stories, celebrations of the longest day of the summer, kind of goes back to paganism.
OneEDM: Now does that come to play with your aqua mermaid theme for Imagine?
MADDY: To be honest, No. The aqua mermaid theme just comes from the love of mermaids and you know, water. Something that we haven’t seen at other festivals. And it has a lot of potentials to do a lot with. There are really endless ideas you can come up with, with the aquatic theme and that’s why we have kept it every year and made it the focus of our event. We are really excited as we grow to implement that theme further and grow our vision.
OneEDM: EDM really seems to be getting embraced in Atlanta. You guys have played a really vital role in that obviously. What do you see that you do different then other clubs?
MADDY: One of the kicks-starts was really our weekly event. Seeing how other people were treated and so when we came up with our concept, it was really like you said about the LOVE. About treating people with kindness and respect, and the way we would want to be treated when we went out. We kept that current throughout all of our events. Weeklys built-up to the festival. Really focus 100% on the customer experience and treat them like family and that’s what is important to us. We know how hard some people work. They may only have $20 in their pocket and they save that money up all week to spend it at our events. We want to make sure when they do come to the event that they have a high quality experience for that dollar and also are treated with kindness and respect. You don’t have to be the VIP, the baller, to get good service. Really anyone who comes into our doors gets great service, and love really, from all of us.
GLENN: I would also like to think that we give them a little of the old school flavor. As Madeline said, one of the reasons we came back was that we just felt that people weren’t getting the true experience of the old school rave, or whatever you really want to call it. We used to call it “parties” back in the day but mainstream sort of branded it “Rave”. When we were even thinking about doing it, we were just going out because we love the music and started thinking, “Man we just need to bring this back and so we provided a quality event really focused on the customer and customer experience. Trying to provide the ultimate experience and a small price, give them a little touch of the old school raver because everyone usually talks about the good old days and how when everyone used to dance and the vibe was incredible and everyone was really really sweet to each other like a family atmosphere. We like those elements of the past and try to bring those elements and integrity in while staying current and relevant with all of the latest and greatest technology and production.
OneEDM: Your original vision was to have your own club and you took over Rush Lounge. It’s been your home and you rebranded it “The Iris”, which has worked out really well. Do you see yourselves having your own space at one point?
GLENN: Without saying too much, I would say, “Nothing is off the table.” It’s certainly something we have always dreamed of. We are, as good as Rush has been to us, it has been great, we’ve done a lot there and really it’s the people who make that event. We have been looking for a very long time but we are somewhat perfectionists. So whatever place we do open, if we do find a place that matches everything, and everything is perfect, then we may move forward with it. But we aren’t in any rush at all. We are happy where we are, we have a good relationship with the club for the most part. The only thing that inhibits us there, is that it’s not entirely our staff. It’s not entirely our building. We can’t express ourselves 100%. That’s another reason for the festival was either opening a club or a festival. So that we have a blank canvas, a Club that we were looking at kind of fell through and then that’s when we started Imagine. Do we have aspirations to open up our own place? Sure, we would love to have our own place but we aren’t in any rush. If it happens, it happens. We sort of like to let things grow organically and feel like it keeps quality control where it needs to be and keeps the integrity of the festival or the club events. We had opportunities to jump, we did jump pretty big but we had opportunities with corporations/investors and all that types of stuff to really go huge really quickly. We really decided to draw it back, and stay independent at least for a little while and really again focus on the customer and being able to control what we thought we needed to in order to create the best experience for the customer. Really put them first.
OneEDM: Now let’s talk about the festival. I know it’s aqua, mermaid theme and you’re bringing back your four themed stages: Oceania, Amazonia, Disco Inferno, and Aeria Stage. Are there any new stages you guys are bringing in 2017?
GLENN: So this year we decided to. Our first year, was at the 4th old ward Masquerade Music Park, we experienced some growing pains. It was our first year. We made some mistakes. The second year, when we were able to stay at the same venue, we learned from those mistakes and acclimated to the site. Everything ran much smoother, and when we moved our third year, we outgrew that space and decided to have our new home, the Speedway. We made some mistakes. We are the first ones to recognize it. We also take pride in realizing that and listening to our customers. We did a survey and found out exactly what they thought we did wrong and we have addressed all of those issues. We are looking forward to wowing the crowd when they come back this year and see all the improvements we made. So what we really wanted to focus on was, not necessarily going a lot bigger as far as more stages, more and more and more…although we do have more stuff and activities, our main focus was trying to address some of the growing pains from the first year at the speedway, and over-delivering. So underpromising and over-delivering on those particular issues. We have a lot more activities happening. A field day surprise. We just announced internally that we are opening up on Thursday, early admission for our select customers, and select groups of people that are customer appreciation ticket buyers. We do have an increased amount of sound. We feel that our lineup is even better this year. Overall we worked on the experience itself. Again, trying to fine tune and get it the point that we are 100% satisfied before we make another giant leap. You know more stages, more stuff because we feel that there were improvements that needed to be made. Again, it falls back on growing organically…really trying to make sure that we perfect what we are doing before we get too big too fast.
MADDY: Focus on the customer experience and the little things that really do matter. Point A to Point B, make sure they are all comfortable. Their drinks are flowing, plenty of shade, water.
GLENN: Plenty of cold free water. Lots of water this year.
OneEDM: Speaking of water stations, I know that you guys are upgrading with high-pressured cooled water. Will there be more signage and lighting?
GLENN: Yes. We have been fortunate enough to hire some really great teams this year. We are working with the biggest and best festivals in the world that we personally admire and look up to. So we have teams from Electric Forest, Insomniac Group at EDC Vegas, and a lot of the other big festivals whom we think, or we can tell that they care about their customers. We brought them in to build a dream-team we think that’s going to create an environment for everyone. One that will knock their socks off. It’s going to be magical this year.
OneEDM: Speaking of the lineup, you mentioned the better line-up this year. Glenn, I know you’re a Pretty Lights fan, Maddy you’re a Deadmau5 and Tiesto fan, I also noticed that you’re really opening up to a lot of other genres. It’s been like that every year but this year it seems even more so. What are you most excited about the line-up this year?
Maddy: I keep on thinking Deadmau5. He’s one of my favorites. We always try to carry an intelligent lineup that does represent all of the genres and also attract all different EDM groups and all different age groups. When we do our bookings, we aren’t always really looking at what or who the hottest ticket seller is. Glenn and I personally like their sound. We make sure the music is really good. A personal goal of ours is to put the “D” back in EDM, which is “Dance.” We want people dancing again like they used to. When putting together the line-up, especially for the main stage, we really wanted to emphasize that. All the music Deadmau5 puts out, makes people dance. I’ll be dancing to Deadmau5.
OneEDM: What’s your approach in getting the “D” back in there?
Maddy: Emphasis on the performers, and bringing in all different types of performers. Especially, some of the best dancers, B- boys, and really getting all different crews to come and perform at our event. I think that makes our event stand out from other festivals. There is a lot of emphasis and importance placed on our performers.
OneEDM: What brought you guys to Atlanta? What made you pick Atlanta as your home for both Iris and Festival and in general? Why did you come to Atlanta and why EDM?
Maddy: For me, my family moved here to Florida. First, I went to Florida State for college. For me being from Europe originally. There’s always been an electronic music influence on my music taste and when I moved, I actually couldn’t find it in the states. When I went to Florida State, that’s when the music started becoming more mainstream. And so, especially being so close to Miami, I would drive to Miami a lot and that’s where I really started falling in love with electronic music. Originally I planned to go out to LA and be in the entertainment business, I wasn’t really sure what path I wanted to take but I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry. Originally, I wanted to be an agent, so at the time that I graduated college I actually had an internship planned out in LA, then it was the writer’s strike at the time, so my internship fell through I ended up back home to Atlanta. That’s when I actually met Glenn. At the time, 2008, electronic music was still a little underground, it was starting to come out of underground but most people still hadn’t heard of it. Especially people here in Atlanta have never heard what electronic music was before. One of the first questions I asked Glenn on our first date, was what kind of music he liked. When he said he liked electronic music, it was like fireworks. I was surprised. At that time, I really hadn’t met anybody in Atlanta that had the same interest in music and also enjoyed the club scene down in Miami, so that would be one thing that brought Glenn and One of the first questions I asked Glenn on our first date, was what kind of music he liked. When he said he liked electronic music, it was like fireworks. I was surprised. At that time, I really hadn’t met anybody in Atlanta that had the same interest in music and also enjoyed the club scene down in Miami, so that would be one thing that brought Glenn and me together. Glenn told me a story that he was actually supposed to be out in LA and was trying to be an agent as well, and ended up….I’ll let him tell you his story…he ended up coming back to Atlanta and I really think the stars were aligned for us, that we were meant to meet in Atlanta and really bring EDM to this city, and the southeast for that matter.
GLENN: I grew up in NY, and going to the clubs there, and I guess around the summer of 88, a place called Emerald City, The Tunnel, those were my favorites and those closed eventually, and Limelight, and the Sound Factory, all of the clubs in NYC, I lived about 30 miles north of the city, so we would drive in, go to the clubs, try to at least. Back then, there were ropes around the sides, all of that kind of stuff. Part of the fun was whether or not you were going to get in. But back then we were the cool kids, B- Boys. We pride ourselves in dance and dancing, so we pretty much got in when we wanted to for sure. It was a good time. What they did with the clubs back then was Puragation. In particular, Inspiration had a lot of different rooms, atmospheres, different kinds of people coming together to really have a great time. I always loved music, always loved entertaining people, and I used to throw high school parties when my buddies parents went out of town. I always enjoyed it. It was fun bringing people together. It continued on with that world. I went to undergrad at Penn State and then went down to Atlanta. I tried to do the whole corporate world for a little bit, wasn’t that into it. A friend of mine down here said “Hey! You’re a great dancer! You seem to know a lot of people, why don’t you help me maybe throw some parties that I’m doing here. I said Yeah that sounds good, let’s just do it, so we started. Some big shows back then, Some big shows back then, a festival called Future Fest, back in the
A friend of mine down here said “Hey! You’re a great dancer! You seem to know a lot of people, why don’t you help me maybe throw some parties that I’m doing here. I said Yeah that sounds good, let’s just do it, so we started. Some big shows back then, Some big shows back then, a festival called Future Fest, back in the mid 90s, and then I kind of broke off and developed my own promotional company and then that was when Iris was born. Iris was doing more after-parties initially because I had too. When I took it on, I had to start off small, I had no budget. So we did after parties and brought some of the NY flavors, you know what I thought was cool down here. Big sound, big lights, but not necessarily the fanciest locations. So we were doing it at a place called the Pyramid in the West End warehouse and eventually, we ended up at a place called Celebration Hall, which we effectively rebranded and renamed The Church. The Church, back in the 90s/early 2000s eventually became sort of a staple/legendary in the Southeast, one of the most successful weekly events that ever came through the SE and really one of the most successful weekly events in the US at the time. So that helped curate Atlanta, put me on the map in Atlanta, and that was real with the start of the weekly ESP101: Learn to Believe, and that ran through the late 90s and at that point, we lost our venue.The Church got bought out and had a new owner, so we had to move and at the same time 9/11 happened and all of these other things, we were trying to figure out the next wave.
“What’s this going towards?” At that time, I thought I’ll do law school, sort of like Madeline’s path. Maybe I will be an agent, that seemed that a lot of strong talent in Atlanta and try to figure out a way to help them and see what the next step for me was in music and so I went to law school and tried to do both but it just didn’t work. I stopped doing parties for a few years and then that was when I met Madeline and we started doing the weekly, which is still now going on. We are in our 6th year, the weekly itself is actually almost 20 years old but we stopped for five or six years during the lull in the market here in the United States. Everything has been going on well from there.
The whole reason why I came to Atlanta was that I had a job doing commercial real-estate for an uncle and I just ended up liking it here. The weather was nice, I just enjoyed the music, and then started promoting. I just enjoyed it and then I met Madeline, started a family and we started with the open canvas of Imagine. Things are going well. We are actually growing and we are super thankful for all of the incredible press we have been getting, it’s a motivation keeping us going. After our first year, we lost a bunch of money at Imagine and we didn’t know what we were going to do. We really felt the support we were getting, not just from the press, but from the people. People would come up to us say, “We completely understand what you were trying to do. We had the best time of entire life and some people were literally crying because the event meant so much to them that they had such a great experience. “ Those types of stories and compliments are life-changing and very spiritual.
MADDY: It really validates what we are trying to do. It really gives us the motivation to keep going.
ONEEDM: Is there anything else you would like to convey to your audience, to new and old festival-goers?
GLENN: We love everybody. We are so thankful for everyone who spends their time with us, it means the word to us. That’s why we do it. We aren’t going anywhere. All of the hard work is for them, and we mean it. We have a little mantra that we love…it shows.