In 2012, Georgia welcomed a southern edition of the DJ-electronic festivals that dominate Europe and have moved into America – CounterPoint. The festival took off the following year, but came back in force in ’14, with three days that stretch from electronica to rock to hip-hop to DJs to world to much more, Friday-Sunday, April 25th to 27th, to Kingston Downs, just outside of Atlanta.
FRIDAY, APRIL 25th
Nice & mellow, simple and smooth, the DJ duo of Poolside was a perfect start to the weekend. Their functional funky grooves wafted through the loose crowd that was bobbing and swaying along. They had a free spirited flow to their set filled with bedroom jazz and deep rhythms. Joy spread around, setting an excellent tone for the rest of the day.
This six-piece band with a unique style to match their unique look put on a very tight performance. The two singers had major crowd interaction, getting mostly everyone howling and singing to the jams. They strutted the stage hyping everyone up while the bassist thumped and stroked his Gretch. I would describe it as super soulful but edgy dance pop. They even did an amazing cover of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. One thing that stuck out was the large amount of people in the crowd wearing ‘Deep Cotton’ band shirts, proving they have a large and loyal fan base already. I could definitely see them sharing the stage with Detroit Mutant Radio.
The experimental progressive disco rock produced by these gents was impressive to witness live. Moon Taxi seemed to be off in their own world, all just jamming together, which caused them to go a little nuts. We all ate it up and by the fifth song, I was spent from rocking out. Just as I had a minute to rest the crowd went ballistic as the band did a rousing cover of “Bullet In the Bead” by Rage Against the Machine. Recommended if you like Portugal. The Man or Under the Influence of Giants.
Delivering masterfully mixed trance-ish psy-dubstep with a little drum & bass, these guys knew what the masses wanted. Playing lots of song featuring female vocals, the love spread as everyone sang along. Next came progressive hard club bangers that had the entire crowd jumping up and down for a solid 30 minutes. All the while, none of it was your typical sounding set. Like a musical science experiment, you never knew what track was going to hit the decks next from Pegboard Nerds.
As Eminem’s former tour DJ, and a producer of many killer mixtapes, I was not surprised that this performance was one for the books. Green Lantern absolutely slayed the set with his mix of banging hip-hop infused with dubstep and drum & bass. Playing powerful remixes of many tracks, including Snoop, DMX, and Kanye West. The music elevated the crowd with hard-hitting rhythms and major bass as the sun set. Let the night begin.
Matt & Kim
These two are hard to pin down musically, but if I had to, I guess I’d have to say, ‘high-energy electro-pop.’ Before Matt & Kim had even finished the first song, the group of a dozen people grew into a huge mass of sweaty partiers. Many sing-a-longs occurred as they continued to play. Armed with a three piece drum kit, a tambourine, and one cymbal, Kim Schifino (QRO interview) was going ballistic, while the spastic energy emitting from Matt Johnson (QRO interview) fed the crowd into a wild fevered dance explosion. And it got really wild when the two of them unleashed about a hundred beach balls off the stage. I was very impressed.
Long before their set time a significant group of people had gathered for Pretty Lights. A huge amount of electronics adorned the stage, all of it used to make magic happen. When the music started the crowd grew and grew, all dancing like mad. With an added horn section the talented musicians smashed their set all the way through. While they were super heavy on the light show (duh), it wasn’t overboard. So we all danced off into the night as they lit us up with lasers.
SATURDAY, APRIL 26th
It was early in the day but the crowd quickly got pumped as Shreddie Mercury delivered heady banger after banger of crushing bass tracks. I started the second day right, dancing of the ache from the night before. Even though the group of us onlookers was small and it was really hot outside, the dancing didn’t stop and we went wild for each massive drop. This guy really knows how to get your feet moving.
An old favorite of mine, this dynamic DJ with a powerful guest MC couldn’t be any better. If there had been a roof, it could have caught fire and we would have just kept going. Hands were in the air for the whole show as he blasted us with beats – and t-shirts. I loved every minute of this raucous set from Mayhem.
Even though Rubblebucket is from New York, most of the crowd was from Georgia during the first few songs. But it soon burst into a menagerie of different people from all over the U.S. The swinging and quirky stylings of this wild band caught us in its net and hauled us aboard their party ship. Having seen them before I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. They dominated the stage as incense floated through the air. While they played new songs from their upcoming album, the singer’s honey-like voice wafted around beautifully, and mellowed us out.
This little lady came out on the stage in a straight jacket being wheeled in on a dolly. Janelle Monae had a big band with a big sound, composed of most of the members of Deep Cotton (see above), two backup singers, and some extra percussion. At 6pm she had the largest crowd of the day so far, and she took full advantage of that. Jumping and running and belting out vocals, she not only got the crowd dancing, but the whole band was seriously getting down. The combo of their jazzy blues-rock, her powerful voice and moves like Janet Jackson sent the lot of us into jangled fits of movement and mayhem.
Twenty minutes before the first song there was already a massive audience patiently waiting to go totally berserk. At the start of the set there was a rush of people towards the stage. But on the second song everyone had found a safe place and the party began. I would describe the show by STS9 as bewildering and massive. The sound slammed into us, sending ripples through the sea of people. The bass drops were perfection and it was an absolutely amazing and beautiful performance. Total synchronicity at it’s best. The female bassist ripped it up while the drummers wailed on their kits. I loved it so much.
Foster the People
Huge glowing crystals adorned the stage as this progressive indie electro band performed. Foster the People are serious musicians, each member playing multiple instruments. Continuing to wow the audience with an unbeatable rhythm section, and bittersweet lyrics delivered with a melodic wail by the singer. I was thoroughly impressed by their whole set, each song intriguing and poignant in its own way.
SUNDAY, APRIL 27th
The ‘trap jesus’ delivered again, with the help of MCs Eddie Gold and Cali the Kidd, taking over the stage with killer dubs. After seeing Ployd in such small venues as El Bar, it was incredible to witness such a huge crowd going nuts for him. He has come very far in the past few years, and he still never fails to get your gears grinding, fist pumping, and heart pounding. The Freakstep Records flags were flying and smoke was in the air as he banged the decks like a cheap hooker. Long live this hometown hero.
There was not a huge crowd for this seven-piece jazzy pop rock group, but everyone was hyped up nonetheless. The singer was very engaging, jumping into the crowd and getting people singing with him. Everyone popped a beer and raised a toast to the dancy tunes, while wailing vocals echoed far and wide. The Revivalists would fit in nicely in New Orleans at Voodoo Experience. They even pulled off a spectacular cover of ‘Bulls On Parade’ by Rage Against the Machine.
Run the Jewels
The extremely diverse crowd went wild as a sample of “We Are the Champions” by Queen played as the intro for the mc tag team of Killer Mike and El-P, a.k.a. Run the Jewels. Both of them legends on their own, this new project of theirs has garnered a lot of attention this year. They came out on stage wearing all black, even in the heat. They laid down a non-stop flow of slicing lyrics over tight knit beats, turning the lot of us into a frothing sweaty mass.
I have loved Thievery Corporation for a long time, but I had yet to see them live, let alone with a full band. They had an extreme percussion section, guitar, bass, keys, sitar, and multiple singers through the set. And after the rain had passed, and the festival opened back up, we were all overjoyed to see them. The crowd was poised and ready for some action. And under the moonlight they played tantric melodies to the extreme for the soaking wet masses. Catering to the delayed crowd with relaxing twisted vibes to get us back in sway with the glory of this festival.
The entire festival waited with baited breath for this gem of the whole year that was about to happen. Everyone had been waiting on this day for ten years, or more: the reunion of Atlanta’s own OutKast. Hearts stopped as the wild mix of sounds and samples that created a strange but awesome intro. Lights flashed and camera phones were prominent as the first song “Bombs Over Baghdad” sent the ocean of people into a frenzy that didn’t stop. Among the songs they treated us to were “She Lives In My Lap”, “Ms. Jackson”, “Ghetto Music” and “Hey Ya”, featuring guest vocals by Janelle Monae (see above). That’s when the whole place erupted into insanity. There were multiple costume changes, including a sort of space age military outfit, three-piece suits, and lots of feathers. Everyone knew every word to every song, and we all flowed along with them. Bursts of exuberance spread like wild fire through us all. Andre3000 and Big Boi seemed so brotherly during the whole thing. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
-words: Tim Stanback
-photos: Gail Fountain