Photos + Recap: Counterpoint Festival 2014

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Photos + Recap: Counterpoint Festival 2014

I went to Counterpoint to see Outkast. That’s not to say there weren’t other great bands on the bill— from Wild Cub to Janelle Monae to festival-favorites Sleigh Bells, there was plenty to hear—but it should be stated that Outkast is the primary reason I showed up, which put me in the overwhelming majority on Sunday evening in Rome, Georgia. With festival lineups growing more and more the same, the only reason to catch Outkast here versus elsewhere would be convenience or a respect for their Georgia roots, so attendees were reverent, and I imagine that’s largely the reason that I came away with a more positive impression than my Coachella-going cohorts. The guys kicked things off with “B.O.B.,” and the fast-paced rhymes with inimitable dance moves were a swift reminder of the music we were raised on. They moved right into “Gasoline Dreams” and then really catered to their audience with (What else?) “ATLiens.” By that point, they really had momentum, moving straight into classics like “Rosa Parks” and “Da Art of Storytellin’” without pause. “SpottieOttieDopealicious” was a nostalgia jam for me and likely countless other Atlanta natives whose high school bands adopted the marching band-friendly melody, and fans responded accordingly. Sing-along friendly tracks like “Miss Jackson” (“How many baby mamas we got out here?”) and Big Boi’s solo hit “Kryptonite” had everybody moving, building up further with the radio hit “I Love the Way You Move.” Andre’s turn in the spotlight was a bit of a downer—most of the rave-kid contingent began to leave, presumably for the buzzy Flux Pavilion a few stages away—but after a few low-key songs, the duo brought out fellow-Atlantan Janelle Monae for crowd-pleaser “Hey Ya.”

The best part, particularly considering the fact that this show was a homecoming of sorts for the duo, was the older stuff: “Hootie-Hoo,” “Clumblin’ Erb” and “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik” were highlights, magnified by the audience’s obvious familiarity with the tracks. Wrapping things up was “Roses” (“We got any Carolines out there?”), “So Fresh and So Clean,” “Int’l Players Anthem” and finally “The Whole World,”
which featured Killer Mike out on stage, too. All told, Atlanta was ready to welcome Outkast back to the stage, so anything else—security snafus, poorly-marked viewing areas, a late start-time—was going to be little more than a footnote.

Unfortunately for Counterpoint, though, the festival was lacking on anything to distinguish it as more than a platform for Outkast’s return to Georgia: without a big-name, long-awaited artist bringing a distinctly local draw, the festival experience would have been distinctly mediocre. While 2012’s Counterpoint incorporated local Atlanta vendors, there wasn’t much beyond generic food stands and #branded experiences. I heard one guy joke that he was seeking out “the music dealers at a drug festival,” and in truth it really seemed as though organizers planned for attendees to be a little out of it.

Friday highlights included Big Gigantic, who have continously refused to be boxed in by genre and roped in audience members of every variety thanks to the innovative blend of Dominic Lalli’s cool saxophone against the pulsing, elecronic background. Matt and Kim showed up, charming the crowd with talk about losing their festival virginity (for the year, at least) at Counterpoint and bringing to the stage the incorrigible energy for which they have become known. Closing out the night was Pretty Lights, a big name in EDM who managed to impress (and surprise, in the case of this EDM newbie) with some live instrumentation.

Saturday’s lineup was easily the most stacked for anyone outside the electronic scene: Rubblebucket’s charmingly weird tunes were a perfect fit for the, uh, charmingly weird fest-goers, and St. Lucia’s electric energy gave them an edge on your typical indie-pop band. i’m looking forward to seeing these guys again this summer on the festival circuit: they managed to really own the space they were given on the larger stage.

Janelle Monae brought her trademark theatrics to the stage for her set on Saturday, and although her performance was stellar (as usual), the stark white outfits and extensive production felt out of place on the festival stage. Still, she was hypnotizing, and probably my favorite song of the performance came relatively early with “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love:” that she did, and anyone who hadn’t already been entranced with Monae in the past had great primer, even if energy in the crowd didn’t quite match what you’d expect for a performer of her caliber.

J. Cole’s Saturday performance was the first of the weekend where most of the crown felt, well, present. For once, people were entranced by the music (imagine that!), and for good reason: Cole’s playful energy on-stage was kind of irresistible, and he connected with the crowd by joking over homemade signs, declaring his devotion to Atlanta and shouting about his love for the Carolinas. As he led into “Blow Up,” he called the audience to action, getting middle fingers in the air for a song he would dedicate to Clippers owner Donald Sterling, a fitting flurry of fuck-yous in the wake of his recent controversy. The crowd was happy to oblige, and Cole’s set stood out as an indisputable highlight of the weekend.

Check out photographer Emma Weldon’s images from Counterpoint Festival in the gallery above.