As we approached Bouckaert Park, the road went from paved to dirt. In between the thick mass of trees, you could catch glimpses of the Chattahoochee River sparkling in the sunlight. The small town of Fairburn, with a population of about 13,000, had no idea what was about to hit them.
In a world where first-year music festivals don’t survive or meet expectations, CounterPoint Music Festival emerged this Sept. 27-29. Besides a freak rain storm and some minor technical glitches, the event was well organized and planned, allowing festival goers to enjoy what many have coined as the best weekend of their lives.
The organizers of the event, MCP Presents and C3 Presents, booked top-of-the-line artists that drew around 20,000 electronic music lovers to the scenic venue. Bigger names like Skrillex, Steve Angello, Bassnectar and Avicii graced the main stage, while prominent names, including new up-and-comers, filled out the rest of the festival. Regardless of what performances you saw, each artist seemed to bring their all to CounterPoint.
It is almost impossible to talk about all of the artists and musicians that I saw, heard and loved last weekend. This would turn into an essay rather than a blog post. In no particular order, I’ve given you what I think was the best of festival, plus some honorable mentions. Even though some sets aren’t referenced, every musician I saw amazed me.
- Most Surprising Set – Treasure Fingers
CounterPoint was all about the new music. Trap and dubstep filled the air in the Beat and Backbeat tents for the most part. After a while, hearing the same style of music got bothersome. However, when Treasure Fingers came on, I heard the best trap anyone has played thus far. This was an improvement from the last time I saw him and didn’t like his track choice or style. The lesson I learned here is to never judge a book by its cover, or in a literal case, never judge an artist by just one set.
- Most Underrated Set – Nick Catchdubs
As we walked into the Backbeat tent, we were extremely surprised that it was scattered with about five people. I walked in and screamed, “Nick Catchdubs!,” and suddenly the lights turned on to illuminate a single guy standing behind a computer completely covered in Fool’s Gold stickers. The main reason why no one was at this set is because Avicii and Excision were playing at the same time as well. In my opinion, this was probably better than both of those sets. Nick Catchdubs played some of the only Boys Noize I heard all weekend and his electro-funk sounds drew more people inside of the tent. It was refreshing to hear that electro sound among a festival that was predominantly dub and trap based. The music was danceable, diverse and down right fun.
- Best Indie Set – Reptar
From neighboring city, Athens, Ga., Reptar provided a great day set. The band’s energy corresponded with the audiences, making it one of the best positive-vibe crowds of the festival. The lead singer, Graham Ulicny, made the set very audience-driven, to the point of crowd surfing. Ulicny’s voice is extremely unique and fits the genre so well. The instrumentals were flawless. When I think of indie bands, this one comes straight to my mind. Reptar will be performing in Gainesville on Oct. 17 at High Dive.
- Best Voice – Poliça
Known as the “Queen of Auto-Tune,” Channy Leaneagh is the vocalist for the indie and alternative band Poliça. The smooth and haunting sound of her voice captivates you and takes you to a different world. While the group is known for breaking the traditional band format by orchestrating two drummers, Leanaegh’s voice captures the essence of the band and reinforces their sound. As I watched her gracefully and modestly sway in the corner of the stage, I wondered how such a powerful voice came from such a petite woman. This is the one set that I wished I stayed longer at.
After the torrential downpour subsided, TOKiMONSTA started the music again in the Backbeat tent. Signed to BRAINFEEDER, her lustrous sounds seemed to be the perfect post-rain music. Jennifer Lee is a pioneer for females in the electronic music industry. She picks the perfect delicate lyrics to go over the most rhythmic and attention-grabbing beats. Dubbed the “female Flying Lotus,” Lee’s music is perfect for almost any situation, but best for chilling, unwinding and relaxing, in my opinion.
Gardens & Villa is a new discovery for me. When I heard their music, I was so excited to sit down and do an interview with them (Keep an eye out for the interview and more information about this band coming soon!). Performing early in the afternoon, I made sure to get up and catch their set. Being one of the few live bands at CounterPoint, I was highly impressed with the cohesiveness throughout the members of the band. Gardens & Villa is the type of indie, ambient, experimental music I’ve been looking for. Oh, and they perform with a live flute. One word: Badass. Currently, the group is on tour with Poliça.
- Best Electro Set – Nobody Beats The Drum
Europeans make such good music, and this doesn’t exclude the trio from Holland that has been blasting the scene with visuals and electro beats galore. Nobody Beats The Drum was one of the first performances of the festival and they definitely started things on the right foot. From the beginning, the group dropped very heavy electro. It reminded me of some old school Benny Benassi with a modern twist at first, but they soon came to develop and convey their own sound. The transitioning was so well done that sometimes I found myself wondering how the group had changed the song without me even noticing. All three of the group were doing something at all times, bobbing their heads as they continuously adjusted knobs and increased the energy. They showcased how much energy and hard work goes into the coordination of three people, all doing something different.
- Best Closing Set – A-Trak
What really makes a festival for me is the closing acts. I want to be able to end the night on a good note and walk away amazed with what I just saw. A-Trak did a phenomenal job of doing this. Not only was his performance diverse in genre, but in style as well. Every time I’ve seen this mastermind, I can never get enough of his amazing scratching skills or song selection. A-Trak left me wanting the night to never end.
- Most Anticipated Set – Gramatik
I had been waiting quite some time to see Gramatik. I was so excited, I left Lotus early in order to make sure I didn’t miss a minute of what was supposed to be an amazing display of talent and virtuosity. Gramatik breaks from the traditonal electro style and instead, floods your eardrums with heavy sampling. Jazz, hip-hop, funk, soul. You name and he plays it, all while maintaining an overall theme and unity. Coming from people that have seen multiple Gramatik sets, this one was more jive-based and he played a lot of his older stuff, catering to a crowd that was deeply engaged with the music. As we headed our way out of the tent a little early, to make sure we caught the beginning of Porter Robinson, “Illusion of Choice” came on, prompting us to stay just a little longer and listen to how talented Gramatik and his live guitarist really are.
- Craziest crowd – Zeds Dead
Performing on the third day of CounterPoint, I knew that the crowd for Zeds Dead would be extreme. Knowing that there were so many dubstep artists playing dubstep — and artists not known for playing the genre were experimenting with it too — I knew that the dub-head crowd would be out and ready to rage for this one. At this point, my friends and I decided to relax and take a view of the festival from the top of the ferris wheel. It was interesting to see how the crowd was splitting itself up. About two-thirds of festival-goers were at Zeds Dead, while only one-third of them were at Steve Angello. The Beat tent, where Zeds Dead was performing, was overflowing with what only can be described as madness. From the front of the stage all the way to the back of the tiny hill with the CounterPoint logo, people consumed what seemed like every inch of space. The sides of the tent were spilling with late-comers, standing on their tippy-toes, trying to get just a peek of what was going on.
- Best Overall Set – Ghostland Observatory
Without a doubt, the best set of the festival was Ghostland Observatory. On some level, I don’t even know where to begin. My favorite aspect of this set was the way that Thomas Turner and Aaron Behrens made the show variate between live performing and live remixing of their songs, and even improvising at some points. Behrens, the vocalist and guitarist of the duo, can be described as a modern-day Jim Morrison with his suggestive and sporadic dance moves that would make an elderly woman blush. His stage presence and voice is reminiscent to that of Morrison’s as well, minus the downfalls of 1960s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll. Between Behrens moonwalking and Turner’s earthquaking synthesized sounds, Ghostland had abundantly more lasers than other acts of the festival, creating a visual escape of dancing light. If Ghostland Observatory is coming a city near you, it is highly suggested to check these guys out.
CounterPoint was, undoubtedly, an exciting and fun music festival. The deep South needed a new and innovative electronic festival and I believe that this event succeeded in doing so. Word around the water cooler is that the organizers signed a contract to use Bouckaert Park for the next 10 years. CounterPoint has nested itself a home in the heart of the dirty South and damn does it feels good!
via Bionic Beatlab