Counterpoint 2014: Bass, Rain & Betty White

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Huge: Big Gigantic’s dropped a jazzy fusion of dubstep and saxophone.

Rome, Ga. —In the fall of 2012, Counterpoint Music Festival made its debut a few minutes outside of Atlanta on the wide fields of Fairburn, Ga. Aiming to fill a Georgia festival void left in the wake of 2007’s Echo Project and the then-defunct Music Midtown, the event offered a surprisingly robust lineup of EDM superstars, including Skrillex, Avicii, Steve Angello and Bassnectar.

A few months later, news that ID&T was bringing the inaugural edition of TomorrowWorld to the same site called Counterpoint’s fate into question. After skipping 2013 entirely, organizers announced Counterpoint would be moving north to the site of the annual Atlanta Steeplechase horse derby in Kingston Downs. The 2014 event was retooled slightly from its DJ-centric beginnings, offering a more diverse lineup that included rap, rock and R&B.

DJ Times camped out at the festival this past weekend, and this is what we saw:

Friday Highlights: After heading out in the early afternoon, what’s usually an hour-long drive turned into a four-hour odyssey (which included two hours of on-site traffic caused by an over-allocation of car camping spots) that got us to the main stage just in time for most of Big Gigantic’s set. The Denver duo threw down heavy bass accompanied by jazzy saxophone riffs, and the heady crowd ate up their remixes of Adventure Club’s “Do I See Color” and Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us Down.”

The evening truly shined, though, with a frenetic set from Mat Zo on the festival’s dance-focused Steeple Stage, which kicked off the after-dark activities that kept the action high as the temperature dropped low. Zo kept the electro-house loud and pumping throughout, with pitch-bending and time-warping drops that kept the ravers on their toes. Jonas Rathsman wrapped up our night over at the Underground Stage with a heaping dose of booty-bouncing tech-house, the likes of which were nowhere else to be found the rest of the weekend.

Flying High: Flappy Bird & Rick Ross were just two of the fest’s best totems.
It’s worth mentioning just how creative the campers got with their totems this year. The main stage crowd provided an endless stream of feet-high sticks that included the likenesses of Bob Saget, Rick Ross, Flappy Bird, Bill Cosby and a real-life Doge meme emblazoned with the phrase “Much Big. Very Gigantic.” The best one? A full-length Betty White cardboard cutout.

Saturday Highlights: The afternoon’s blistering sun and dripping humidity made frequent trips back to the campgrounds necessary to keep from overheating, but there was more than enough time still to catch the day’s most interesting acts. Buzzing synth-pop band St. Lucia serenaded from the main stage, while fellow Brooklynites Rubblebucket channeled the dance-psychadelica of their hilariously catchy “Came Out of A Lady,” as well as previewing songs from their upcoming record.

The 1-2 punch of GRiZ and Wolfgang Gartner brought out a staggering crowd craving free-flowing bass. GRiZ played a mix of hip hop-inspired electro-soul during his set, with his live saxophone improvisations amidst well-known bass tracks tearing up the crowd. Gartner’s high-energy electro set fully turned the crowd out, with his pair of high-profile collaborations—“Devil’s Den” with Skrillex and “We Own The Night” with Tiësto—sealing the deal with the hyped crowd.

It’s hard to deny that the evening belonged to Above & Beyond, who closed out Saturday with a late-night performance on that same stage. With a set consisting of high-octane trance and melodic electro, the group had the crowd in the palm of its hand from the get-go. The pulsing Myon & Shane 54 remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Young & Beautiful” laid out a powerful penultimate moment, while a rave-ready retooling of “Losing My Religion” by Georgia’s R.E.M. was an unforgettable and impressive nod to the crowd that had the campgrounds buzzing well into the morning hours.

Beyond: Above & Beyond slay the late-night rave crowd.
Sunday Highlights: It was obvious from the shuffling attendees that morning that most people were exhausted from two full days of partying, and many were laid out in the venue’s grass for most of the afternoon as a result. Laidback alt-pop from Real Magic at the Underground Stage was a much-needed respite to chill out and appreciate the breeze, but an explosive combination of trap, dubstep and hard dance from Ployd breathed energy back into the area.

Ominous clouds and muted rumblings around camp suggested storms would be hitting that day, and weather-suspension announcements blared over the main stage speakers as Run The Jewels delivered cuts from their critically acclaimed eponymous album. Memories of the 2012 fest’s destructive rainstorm–colloquially dubbed ‘Hurricane Counterpoint’ by most—flooded into past attendees’ minds as the rain did the same to the campgrounds.

Our ill-made weather preparations had us scrambling to our car to pack up and head out, which subsequently had us miss out on the homecoming of Atlanta’s Outkast later that night. It’s hard to complain, though, with the sheer quality of talent seen throughout the rest of the weekend and the intangible electricity among the mostly local crowd. We’ll be sure to bring a poncho next time.

Until next time, Counterpoint!