CounterPoint | 04.25-27.14

counterpoint2014This year’s version of CounterPoint took place in the Kingston Downs area of Rome, GA, on the grounds where the Atlanta Steeplechase has been held for the past 20 years.

 

 

We had a blast covering the first CounterPoint in 2012, so we were surprised when organizers announced that they were taking 2013 off and looking for a new location. When they finally announced that they were back, they came back in a big way, announcing Outkast’s first Georgia show (close enough to Atlanta to feel like a homecoming) and a beautiful new location.

This year’s version of CounterPoint took place in the Kingston Downs area of Rome, GA, on the grounds where the Atlanta Steeplechase has been held for the past 20 years. The new location, a 5,000-acre area full of luscious green fields and rolling hills, is surrounded on three sides by the Etowah River. Situated on the outskirts of Rome meant that we were close enough to run in to town to eat or get supplies, but far enough away to avoid any traffic problems (except for those caused by the weather and Sunday’s crowd for Outkast).

Friday, April 25

Rolling in to the festival on Friday afternoon was a breeze. It was obvious that the new location caused some problems and confusion for the staff, but it’s hard to complain about only being delayed about 10 minutes. Once we were parked in day parking, it was an easy four-minute walk to the festival’s entrance. Everything was spaced out enough that you never felt crowded and you could always find a secluded area to relax. There were four stages within the festival grounds: Two would have acts playing, and then would go silent while the other two stages buzzed with music. It was easy to alternate between stages, with next to no down time between bands. Unlike the 2012 festival, none of the stages were side by side; unfortunately, that was one of the best features of the previous CounterPoint, and it was something unique that I’ve never seen anywhere else. It allowed you to get a great spot for one band, and then see the show on the next stage without ever having to move or lose your spot. This year’s arrangement led to us missing some of the bands’ sets.

Poolside sounded great, kicking off the festival and pouring their songs that sounded like summer over a crowd that was ready for the season to begin. Unfortunately, their set was kind of boring and it looked like they felt out of place in a live setting. Even though they didn’t jump start the party, their songs were relaxing and calming; this had the effect of helping erase concertgoers’ anxiety that came from commuting and getting inside the festival, while leaving a lot of energy for high-intensity sets from Moon Taxi, Schoolboy Q, and Big Gigantic. Moon Taxi was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. They even covered Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up,” maybe as a tuneup for their upcoming set at the Hangout Music Festival, where they will perform an entire set of Rage Against the Machine covers as “People of the Sun.” (On a side note, they really missed out on not calling their cover band “All the Rage.”)

Even though the CounterPoint lineup was pretty diverse, it obviously leaned toward the electronic. Big Gigantic was the first main-stage band that really felt like the rest of the lineup, and they did not disappoint. They lived up to their name as their sound, their stage setup, and their entire set were big and gigantic. It finally started to look like the electronic party that CounterPoint had planned, as bodies and festival poles started shaking throughout the entire crowd. Matt & Kim’s first festival appearance of the year was another Friday highlight. Their laughter, banter, and smiles made them seem like the happiest touring band in the world, and their energy easily spread to the crowd.

In another case of living up to their name, Pretty Lights closed out the music on the main stage. For his CounterPoint set, Pretty Lights’ Derek Vincent Smith brought a full band—including saxophone, trumpet, keys, and drums, ensuring that it would be a set that was full of far more than a little button pushing and knob turning. The show was a full-on visual assault, combining one of the best light shows in the business with the full sound that a live band brings. Fireworks filled the sky behind the stage as the set ended. But the party kept going with music on the side stages lasting until after 2 a.m. (and music in the silent disco going on even longer), featuring packed sets from Atlanta’s Rich Homie Quan and mainstream EDM acts Krewella and Boys Noize.

Saturday, April 26

Saturday’s early sets on the main stage veered toward the diverse, with sets from indie rockers Wild Cub (who have been opening for Vampire Weekend), British singer-songwriter Dan Croll, and indie electronic artist St. Lucia, who is currently on tour opening for Foster the People. The main stage really took off when Janelle Monae hit the stage with her 12-piece band. She strutted around every inch of the stage like a female James Brown, and when it was no longer big enough to hold her, she dove into the crowd. Monae hula hooped, started a pillow fight with her band that quickly spread into the crowd, and even managed to find some time to sing. Much like Matt & Kim the day before, the crowd soaked up Monae’s energy and joy, and gave it back in kind. Her show was joyful and fun, and it was a party. Monae seemed to enjoy the crowd as much as the crowd enjoyed her, later Tweeting, “#coachella festival goers can stand 2 learn a thing or 2 from Georgia’s #counterpoint. such an amazing audience!”

The rest of the night alternated between electronic DJs (former Kanye West collaborator A-Trak and chill producer Nosaj Thing), hip-hop (J. Cole, whose set was great, except for spending over 15 minutes introducing his band), and electronic jam (STS9, whose new bassist was featured early and often, and who put to rest any worries about how the band would sound with a new member). The night’s final main stage performance came from Foster the People. FTP’s founder and leader Mark Foster has used the experience he gained writing commercial jingles to craft calculated, mainstream pop. The result is music that is fun and catchy, but also comes off feeling more made than born. In a similar way their live show is entertaining, but feels rehearsed. One thing you can’t help but be impressed by is the versatility of the band members. Each one seemed to be a multi-instrumentalist, sharing duties on guitar, keys, and electronic instruments. Their set blended the biggest hits from 2011’s Torches and new songs from this year’s Supermodel. They had the stage presence and enough hits to headline the event.

Sunday, April 27

Sunday was the main event: You could feel it in the air. Everywhere you went, the word “Outkast” was on everyone’s lips. People wanted to know if we would get a show like their first set at Coachella, or if they had worked out the bugs and we would see the classic ‘Kast everybody loved. It felt like a moment that would be bigger than the rest of the festival combined. Sunday started out great, with energetic sets from Basic Vacation, Yacht, and The Revivalists. Hip-hop super duo Run the Jewels (made up of El-P and Killer Mike) was kicking off a great set until the storm clouds rolled in and their show was cut short. Just like the first CounterPoint in 2012, the festival grounds were evacuated and people were sent to their homes, tents, or cars until the storms passed. CounterPoint did a good job of quickly evacuating the grounds and keeping everyone safe. It was a shame to miss a couple of the sets in the middle of the day, but when they reopened with an updated and extended schedule, it meant that we would only miss a couple of acts.

As soon as the gates were reopened, the massive crowd, many of who were only there for Outkast, filled the festival grounds and made their way straight to the main stage. More than three hours to wait before the headliner took the stage meant that the crowd would be exposed to some diverse music before seeing the group that they were there to see. The first show to start once the rain stopped was electronic/world duo Thievery Corporation. Even though the group is a duo their live performance sees their numbers swell as they rotate their collective of live musicians, each song getting a new singer. I really wanted to see sets by Phantogram and Sleigh Bells, but it would have meant giving up my great spot for Outkast, a group on my bucket list, so I decided to skip their sets. Major Lazer was the last group to take the main stage before Outkast, and they made it a party from start to finish. They shot confetti, orange whistles, and their own currency into the crowd as Diplo himself rolled over the hands of the crowd in a giant inflatable—all while they blasted their combination of electronic, dub step, reggae, and hip-hop. As their set started to wind down, the tension began to fill the air. We were only a few minutes away from seeing Outkast’s homecoming.

After the long weekend, after the storm delays, after technical difficulties from putting together parts of their stage, and after a decade away, Outkast was finally playing a show in Georgia. The lights went down, we got chills, and the crowd roared. All the frustrations from the bad weather and the delays disappeared as Andre 3000 and Big Boi walked out and took their places on stage as the beat for “B.O.B” filled the air. Once the music started and Outkast slipped into their grove, it felt like they had been gone for 10 minutes instead of 10 years. All of the jitters and missteps from their first show at Coachella were gone. Outkast spent two hours running through the same 24 songs from their two previous shows, but they did so flawlessly. Their set (listed below) ran the gamut of their impressive careers and included all of their hit singles, the best of their deeper cuts, and some of their solo material. Their reunion is a must-see show.

Even above the flawless delivery of their music the night felt special. Big Boi looked into the crowd and saw Janelle Monae, Trinidad James, Killer Mike, Organized Noize, Goodie Mob, and the rest of the Dungeon Family, and remarked, “It’s like a family reunion.” And that’s how it felt in the crowd, too. We all felt as if a missing part of our family, a group we had grown up with, was home, if only for a while. We could all agree when Big Boi looked over the crowd and said, “It feels good to be back in the dirty dirty.” Outkast was back, and we were lucky enough to be a part of their homecoming. | Matt Wallin

Outkast
B.O.B.
Gasoline Dreams
ATLiens
Skew It on the Bar-B
Rosa Parks
Da Art of Storytellin’, Part 1
Aquemini
SpottieOttieDopaliscious
Ms. Jackson

Big Boi
Kryptonite (I’m On It)
GhettoMusick
The Way You Move (with Sleepy Brown)

André 3000
She Lives in My Lap (Vibrate intro)
Prototype
Hey Ya! (with Janelle Monae dancing on stage)

Ol’ School
Hootie Hoo
Crumblin’ Erb
Player’s Ball
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Elevators (Me & You)

Ending

Roses
So Fresh, So Clean
Int’l Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)
The Whole World (with Killer Mike)

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