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“You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”
Thousands of EDM and hip-hop fans made their way to the Atlanta suburbs of Kingston Downs this past weekend to celebrate the return of Counterpoint Music Festival. After taking a year off in 2013, Counterpoint came back stronger than before with a new venue and stacked lineup featuring artists like Pretty Lights, Major Lazer, Foster The People, and the triumphant hometown return of OutKast.
With Counterpoint coming back for another round, the Atlanta area is now home to two of the biggest electronic festivals in the country. This past year, the city held the wildly successful inaugural TomorrowWorld festival, which will be returning in 2014 (see the initial lineup here). Although Counterpoint is a smaller festival (production-wise) compared to the likes of TomorrowWorld or Ultra, the festival offers a unique atmosphere entirely its own with a broad mix of electronic, hip-hop, and indie acts. What the festival lacks in stage production, it makes up for with its intimate, but electrifying shows.
Counterpoint kicked things off late Friday afternoon with a performance from California duo Poolside on the main stage. Poolside gave a delightful set of feel-good, west coast EDM that got every festival-goer in the dancing mood and ready for the weekend ahead. The rest of the night was packed with back to back sets from 2013 breakout artist Schoolboy Q (one of my favorites of the weekend), indie heartthrobs Matt & Kim, livetronica titans Big Gigantic, and a brilliant headlining set from Pretty Lights. While Pretty Lights has been known to perform both with and without a backing band, Derek Smith brought the entire live setup with him for Counterpoint. The set featured two hours of non-stop electronic goodness that spanned the length of his entire discography, including last year’s A Color Map Of The Sun. After the fireworks (that’s how every Counterpoint headlining set ends), attendees had their choice of opposing sets from Chicago trio Krewella or German producer/DJ Boys Noize. The party never stops at Counterpoint. For all the night owls attending the festival, there’s a silent disco every night until 5 a.m. As much fun as that sounded, I opted for sleep.
The good thing about Counterpoint is that it’s easy to get from one side of the festival to the other. If you’re like me, then you want to try and see as many acts as possible to optimize your festival experience. With Counterpoint, the close proximity of the stages makes it possible to see just about every act on the bill. I started off Saturday with a series of chill, indie-pop/rock sets at the main stage from Nashville band Wild Cub, and later, Brooklyn-based St. Lucia (currently on tour with Saturday night’s headliners Foster The People). The variety of genres at the festival was extensively showcased on Saturday as the day went on. My ears were treated to a seven-hour marathon of music from Atlanta’s own “Electric Lady” Janelle Monae, Canadian producer A-Trak, hip-hop icon J. Cole, instrumental fiends STS9, and 2011 breakout act Foster The People. Hot off the release of their sophomore album Supermodel, Foster The People played a one-and-a-half hour set that highlighted all the best tracks from the band’s two albums. I wondered how a band with such a small repertoire would fare in a headlining slot. Foster The People didn’t disappoint. The band played an energetic, powerful set featuring popular power ballads Coming Of Age, Houdini, and fan favorite Pumped Up Kicks.
No doubt the most eventful day was Sunday. Killer humidity, raging thunderstorms, and the return of OutKast all made for a memorable finish to this year’s Counterpoint. Kicking off the day was up-and-coming electronic act Chrome Sparks. Although the crowd was small, Chrome Sparks gave an inspired performance of music, including tracks from their new EP Goddess (released two days after the band’s Counterpoint performance). Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) shut down the festival (literally) with their performance Sunday afternoon. The hip-hop duo made it about midway through their set before being shut down by festival organizers due to approaching inclement weather.
After sitting in my car in a thunderstorm for a good two hours, wondering if the festival would ever resume, we were finally let back in and given a revised schedule of acts. While most of the artists’ shows were pushed back an hour, some were forced to cancel all-together, including rising New York hip-hop collective RATKING. I found solace in RATKING’s cancellation with a mind-blowing performance from indie-electro duo Phantogram, an absurdly insane performance from Major Lazer, and of course, the main event OutKast. Forced to go on about an hour-and-a-half after their initially scheduled performance, Big Boi and André 3000 finally took the stage around 11:30 p.m. and it was well worth the wait. “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather,” André 3000 cheekily quoted from OutKast’s hit song Ms. Jackson, commenting on the weather delay. Opening with B.O.B. and ending with The Whole World, OutKast played the same exact setlist as Coachella. However, for anyone who saw the duo’s Coachella set, that was nothing compared to OutKast playing to a hometown crowd. Every person around me danced and sang along to every word of OutKast’s set that featured fan favorites like Gasoline Dreams, ATLiens, Rosa Parks, Aquemini, Prototype, So Fresh, So Clean, Roses, and arguably their biggest mainstream hit, Hey Ya (which featured Janelle Monae jumping up onstage to dance with André 3000). It truly was the perfect way to cap off a near perfect Counterpoint weekend in Georgia.