CounterPoint Music Festival 2012 Review
Date: Oct 16, 2012 (Tuesday)Article and Photos By: Alex Silva
Travel down South Fulton Parkway (SR-14/SR-279) until you’ve reached Rivertown Road and make a right turn. Proceed approximately five miles and make another right turn onto Cedar Grove Road. Follow the signs and you’ll find yourself at Bouckaert Park, a scenic escape just about 30 minutes southwest of Atlanta, Georgia, filled with rolling hills draped in lush, green grass. Around the corner is an open field lined with cars waiting to enter the gates of the inaugural CounterPoint Music Festival. Blue skies and a warm, late-September sun welcomed music fans from all over the country as they prepared themselves for the next three days to come. License plates read Florida, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, Tennessee, and more. The distances traveled suddenly become irrelevant and forgotten, overrun by the red solo cups, premature Halloween decorations, and sounds of modern-day electronic dance music blasting from all directions. From Tommy Trash to The Glitch Mob and Ratatat, almost every style was spoken for. Reaching the front of the line was rewarded with one of the most anticipated moments of the weekend: getting banded.
As festival volunteers direct you to your designated camping spot, you have a few tasks at hand to complete before venturing off to the music. Pitch your tent, briefly meet your neighbors, and put some food in your stomach. The gates to the main venue opened around roughly 3 o’clock on Thursday September 27th, giving attendees two hours to explore the venue and get themselves situated. One of the first artists to perform was Nobody Beats The Drum, a trio from Holland comprised of Sjam Sjamsoedin, Jori Collignon, and Rogier van der Zwaag on visuals. Known for their extremely high-energy live performances, the group attracted a sizable crowd almost immediately and soon enough was dosing them with a heavy concentration of driving basslines and aggressive dance beats. NBTD played many of their original tracks like “Grindin’,” “Girls Suck,” and “Blood On My Hands.” They even dropped some trap music, as did almost every other electronic act at CounterPoint. Alas, they weren’t accompanied by their usual 333” TeleNoven Automaton, a 9-screen visual counterpart to their music. Their set, however, was well defined by an eclectic song selection that distinguished their performance from many others on the lineup and got the festival off to a great start.
As the sun began to set on the first day, acts like Adventure Club, Run DMT and Beats Antique kept the crowds alive in the two operating dance tents on Thursday night. Accompanied by a cool breeze, Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken of Big Gigantic closed the first night in the Beat Tent with their jazz-infused dubstep leaving the crowd screaming for more as they stepped off stage just before midnight. For those who wished to end their night on a much softer jam-based note, Up Until Now was also closing the festival in the Backbeat Tent with special guest David Murphy of STS9. Granted the first day saw many talented artists take the stage, it was only the beginning of what CounterPoint had in store for its guests.
The hot sun woke everyone up early enough on Friday with enough time to grab a quick breakfast, hit up the bathrooms, and still catch the first opening performances. Rhythm Monks were up first, a trio from Berlin who specialize in producing trance-style, tribal electronica. Dressed in all-black hooded jumpsuits and sporting white masks, which light up for night shows, they call themselves modern “mystic shamans.” One of the select electronic live percussion artists on the lineup, they captivated the likes of many with their signature sound and original tracks like “Candomblé.” Rhythm Monks were followed by a wide array of musical styles across all four stages of the park, including the galactic indie-rock sounds of Gardens & Villa. Hailing from Santa Barbara, California, the five-piece band graced the crowd with their progressive and relaxing sonic grooves that kept listeners heedless of the looming thunderstorms approaching from the west.
Needless to say, the rain was unavoidable. At roughly 3:30 P.M. The National Weather Service issued an advisory for the Fairburn area due to an approaching storm with excessive lighting. Loudspeakers from the stages ushered festivalgoers to the exit as they were evacuated from the venue and advised to take shelter in their vehicles. What started as a light drizzle quickly became a torrential downpour with gusty winds that persisted for about an hour. As the skies began to clear up, cheers could be heard from throughout the West Camping as fireworks went off in the near distance. The storm was over and spirits were even higher than before as everyone made their way back into the venue as gates reopened at around 4:30 P.M. Unfortunately, Theophilus London, Lance Herbstrong, and Street Lurkin were cancelled during all the action.
Some of the first few artists to bring the music back on were MiM0SA, Atmosphere and Jennifer Lee, better known by her stage name TOKiMONSTA. Signed to Flying Lotus’ label BRAINFEEDER, she is one of L.A.’s most aspiring female electronic music artists who focuses her work on psychedelic post-hip hop and producing those instrumental “vintage sounds” that outline her unique style. As day two of CounterPoint continued to unroll itself, more and more cars began to fill the empty lots reserved for single-day ticket holders. Crystal Castles followed with one of the strongest performances of the day thus far, joining other ongoing acts such as Super Mash Bros, Archnemesis, and Feed Me in the dance tents as the sun’s rays began to disappear behind the surrounding landscape. M83 was originally scheduled to perform at the Point Stage at 7:30 P.M. but the rain caused their equipment to malfunction, so Theophilus London filled their time slot instead. Backed by DJ Brendan Fallis, the new wave soul-pop singer from Brooklyn danced his way across the stage and rocked the crowd in his black leather jacket, dark spectacles, and spiffy baseball cap. By the time his set was over, night had blanketed the sky and the evening fog had begun to creep over the horizon.
Friday night was about to turn things up a notch. Headlining the two main stages for the next three hours was Swedish powerhouse DJ and producer Tim Berg, also known as Avicii, followed by the bass king himself, Lorin Ashton, better known to many as Bassnectar. Lorin drew in a massive audience to the Point Stage, some of which had stayed from Avicii’s previously packed-house performance, others from Excision’s recently ended set, all coming together to form one giant Bassnectar family. Lorin’s opening track “Here We Go” inspired the crowd’s instant roar. As he dropped his “Hot Right Now” acapella over it, the monstrous crowd that stretched all the way past the pond and up the hill to the CounterPoint sign suddenly became a sea of humanity, all moving together as one with the music. He also thrilled his bassheads with many original tracks and remixes such as “Freestyle,” “Timestretch,” and his popular remix of Gogol Bordello’s “Immigraniada.”
Somewhere around three-quarters of festival attendees filled the main stages for Avicii and Bassnectar’s sets on Friday night. The lesser quarter chose to adventure off into the dance tents to check out some of the underground performers hosting them. In the Beat Tent, Savoy threw down one of the most surprising sets of the night. With the recent release of Savoy’s newest EP, SUPERTRAIL, the electro house trio from Boulder, Colorado, had plenty of new bangers to unleash on its fans at CounterPoint. All the while, the Fool’s Gold Clubhouse was gearing up for the Backbeat Tents biggest act of the night, A-Trak, by warming up audiences with accompanied label artists such as Nick Catchdubs, Oliver and Treasure Fingers. It was a great pleasure for many to be granted the opportunity to experience a collective lineup such as that of the Fool’s Gold Clubhouse on Friday night and that of Pretty Lights Music on Saturday night.
Attendees had to choose between two closing sets on Friday night, that of Swedish progressive happy-house producer Alesso and that of Brooklyn turntablist A-Trak. A-Trak’s performance was dance-heavy with his distinctive blend of hip-hop and electronic dance music. Winner of the DMC by age 15, A-Trak has earned his title as one of the leading pioneer turntablists of the late 90s and even today. Mind boggling stage lighting projected lasers and dancing spotlights inside the overflowing tent. Even Mr. Goldbar, the Fool’s Gold Records’ mascot, decided to jump on stage to hype up the crowd and give out free label attire. A-Trak’s set was abundant with his innovative remixes, such as his remix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Heads Will Roll,” his collaborated remix with Clockwork for Zedd’s “Spectrum,” and of course his remix of Martin Solveig’s “Night Out” which drove the crowd absolutely wild. Other popular EDM tracks like Mord Fustang’s “We Are Connected,” Afrojack’s “Pacha on Acid,” and Dada Life’s remix of “Big Bad Wolf” were played. By 2 A.M. the music had subsided and the fog had settled.
The Silent Disco provided by Music Unlimited allowed campers who wanted to keep partying throughout the night to do so without disturbing those campers who wanted to catch some snooze. Going until 4 A.M. on Thursday night, and 5 A.M. on Friday and Saturday night, the Silent Disco hosted a medley of performers from Atlanta natives DJ Airwolf and Ployd to Skrause, and even an Up Until Now DJ set. Definitely a great way to accommodate the needs of everyone at the festival, as well as the park neighbors and local law enforcement.
Saturday’s midday started off with festival favorites Zoogma and heRobust, as well giving attendees a bit a fresh air with a solid supply of indie bands that ruled the main stages for around three hours. At 2:15 P.M. American indie rock band Reptar, native to nearby Athens, Georgia, beguiled the early crowd with their backbeat synth pop approach to rock ‘n’ roll. Watching them perform is an extremely amusing experience decked with sing-alongs and crowd suffering. Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Poliça took to the stage next. The bands vocalist, Channy Leaneagh, dances ever so gracefully as she pacifies listeners with her dark and emotionally appealing lyrics. Noted by some as the “Queen of Autotune,” her soothing voice accompanies the ghostly synths of Chris Bierden’s bass guitar and the percussive drumlines of the rest of the band. With two drummers, Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, the band forms a balance between Drum ‘n’ Bass and tribal drums.
More and more acts continued to entertain crowds across the park, exposing music lovers to new kinds of music and providing them with an understanding of how all the styles of music presented at CounterPoint influenced each other in some way. Toro y Moi, Big Boi, Archnemesis, 12th Planet, Emancipator, Conspirator and many more performed throughout the rest of the afternoon. Zeds Dead pulled in the craziest crowd of the weekend, opening with a exclusive new track that they had just finished that day and never before played for a live audience. The two biggest headliners of Saturday night were up next on the main stages, Skrillex and Pretty Lights. Both played phenomenal performances for their die-hard fans that filled the fields of the main stages just as they had done for Bassnectar and Avicii the night before.
In the dance tents, Pretty Lights Music was dominating the Backbeat Tent with its accomplished crew of artists. Paul Basic, SuperVision, Michal Menert, and Gramatik all performed their sets back to back for three whole hours. The Pretty Lights Music family holds a strong bond between its artists and its fans, giving away free digital copies of all their music online. Meanwhile, one of the few jambands of the festival, Lotus jumped on stage in the Beat Tent after Zeds Dead to give audiences a taste of their heavy dance beats, edgy lyrics, and post-rock electronic madness. Catering to a crowd of both devoted fans and new fans together, the five-piece band played new tracks like “Massif” and “Golden Ghost,” as well as some classics like “Spiritualize,” “Age of Experience,” and “Bellwether.” Marked by melodic guitar riffs, spiraling synths, and complimentary live instrumentation from horns to drums, it was one set that clearly set itself apart from the rest in terms of unrivaled innovation and overall stage performance.
Ghostland Observatory was by far one of the most phenomenal performances of the weekend. A combination of Thomas Turner on drums and synths, and Aaron Behrens on guitar and vocals, the duo from Austin, Texas set the bar high for Saturday night’s performances. Beginning with several tracks off their most recent album, Codename Rondo, the tent was instantly filled with fans chanting along to Behrens voice. “Miracles,” “Glitter,” “Freeze,” they played it all. Older tracks like “Silver City” and “Heavy Heart” were also played, alongside a jaw-dropping live electronic remix of their track “Dancing On My Grave.” Behrens’ tremendous stage presence backed by Turner’s flawless live production, all amidst a jungle of multicolored lasers, kept the crowd jumping and dancing all the way through the end.
Other big-time electronic artists like Porter Robinson, Alvin Risk, Zedd, and Laidback Luke helped close one of the craziest nights Fairburn, Georgia, has ever witnessed. A myriad of some 20,000 people made their way from across the continent to Bouckaert Park that weekend and will continue to for the next ten years, hopefully, for the organizers of CounterPoint have signed a 10-year lease with the property owners. As an inaugural festival of such magnitude and success, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that CounterPoint Music Festival is here to stay.