When we think of the typical festival, we imagine sprawling fields tucked away somewhere in middle-America where music lovers campout in the impossible heats of the middle of summer. Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, Camp Bisco - they all follow the same logistical style. So how would a brand new festival, in late September, tucked away in the southeast, fare against our learned expectations? We found out last weekend as we trekked to Bouckaert Park outside of Atlanta for Counterpoint Music Festival, realizing that some molds are meant to be broken.
Counterpoint began on Thursday, Sept. 27 and welcomed thousands of attendees to the 350 acre venue for three days of performances, carnival rides and local cuisine. With an impressive lineup of electro-acts including Avicii, Steve Angello and Bassnectar, the newcomer to the festival roster promised nonstop entertainment for all sects of electronic dance music fans.
Nestled between grassy knolls and the towering trees that line the Chattahoochee River, the massive grounds served as a perfect backdrop for the festival. Two separate camping grounds surrounded the main concert area, making for a decently centralized set up. With the cooler temperatures of September on our side, we spent our days exploring the festival’s four stages, various vendors, art instillations and even a silent disco tent. We loved having the option of either watching our favorite DJs perform up close, or heading up the hill to take a more relaxed seat for a birds-eye view.
Thursday started off slow as we set up our campsites, chatted with our neighbors and mapped out game plans for who we wanted to see. With the two main stages closed for the first night, we ventured to the Beat and Backbeat tents to satisfy our musical cravings.
Big Gigantic stormed the Beat stage to an antsy crowd of fans cheering the tomahawk chant in excitement. It’s no surprise Big Gigantic was chosen to close out the first night - the electro-funk duo’s unique sound of blending live saxophone with dubby beats appeals to all ends of the fanbase spectrum. Dropping bangers like “Let’s Go” and “It’s Going Down,” Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken set the tone for an insane weekend to come.
Friday was plagued by an hour-long downpour that caused M83’s equipment to malfunction and the band to cancel. Management temporarily evacuated the stage areas as we sought shelter under caving tents and prayed for the rain to stop. When the sun finally shone through the clouds, we returned to the main stage to watch rapper Theophilus London fill M83’s empty time slot. He put on a goofy performance, sampling “Pinky and the Brain” and covering Missy Elliot, but his efforts left the crowd seeming distracted and uninterested.
We shifted our attention over to right as Avicii walked onto the Counterpoint stage. Backed by lasers that splattered the sky and multiple video boards streaming mind-boggling clips, the dutch producer wowed us with an unexpected offering of tracks ranging from Florence and the Machine’s “Say My Name” to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
As Avicii’s set ended, Bassnectar sprang onto the Point stage to drop bass all over our faces. Whipping his long locks of hair around, Lorin Ashton spun a heavy set with dark undertones that only amplified our anticipations of a crazy night. The bass-maestro had us raving up a storm when he played bangers like “Ping Pong” and “Ugly.”
Alesso closed out the night on the Beat stage with a light-show that highlighted the dubstep tent’s tall, triangularly structured ceilings. Lasers beamed furiously over the crowd, dancing across the white ceiling in complicated sequences that left us all in awe. Paired with the visual explosions was a setlist comprised almost entirely of every major song to top charts in the last few years. But instead of boring us with the set’s mainstream feel, Alesso thrilled us with impeccable transitions and novel bootlegs. Swedish House Mafia’s “Miami to Ibiza” swam effortlessly into Florence and the Machine’s “You’ve Got The Love,” emphasizing the producer’s talents as a live performer.
Saturday featured a standard line up of rising stars including Zoogma and Paper Diamond who both dropped their dubby funk to audiences of eager fans. By this time we had raged through three days of exhaustion and dirt, yet we were ready as ever for a full day of music. That’s one of the things we loved about Counterpoint - even when our energy levels were low, we were always excited to squeeze through crowds of sweaty strangers in order to see our favorite DJs. The festival’s positive vibes resonated deep within our souls as we ran from stage to stage cheering on our musical heroes.
Steve Angello descended upon the Point stage just as the sun was setting. Best known as one third of the former supergroup Swedish House Mafia, who announced they would be focusing on their solo carreers in June, Angello understood the importance of proving his talents as a solo artist and brought his A-game to the stage. Perched atop his glowing LED static-shaped stage-front, the Swedish producer dropping bangers like Knife Party’s “Internet Friends” and Justice’s “We Are Your Friends” left and right.
Later on the Backbeat stage we watched Zedd close out the festival with a surprisingly mainstream set. Knowing how much the 23-year-old values innovative music, we expected more from him than to play the usual suspects like Daft Punk’s “Stronger” or the mashup of One Republic’s “Apologize” with Otto Knows’ “Million Voices.” But Zedd redeemed himself toward the end of his set when he dropped a brand new track that had the crowd screaming for more.
Counterpoint gets an A for effort on it’s first year as a new music festival. The staging could have been a bit more compact, the sound more fine-tuned, the crowd doubled in size. But when it comes down to the foundation, Counterpoint was a huge success and we hope to be invited back for another year of sitting on lush hills and peering down at the glorious music below.