Photos by Sarah Cochran
On September 27th, some of the most massive names in electronic music converged on the beautiful 8000 acre Bouckaert Farm in Fairburn,Georgia to perform for an insatiable crowd of ragers and ravers for three days. Headliners such as Skrillex, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Beats Antique and Big Boi blew the festival goers away with incredibly intense performances that combined pounding speakers with visually overwhelming graphic and light displays.
Waiting to enter the campgrounds alongside cars filled with people dressed in tie dye, kandi bracelets and neon bandannas, the anticipation was already building. All manner of electronic music blasted from their cars and impromptu games of frisbee and hacky sack were played as we passed through the entry checkpoint. Our vehicle was checked by a few very friendly festival staff members and we proceeded to enter and set up camp. The campgrounds were already filled with beautiful people hanging psychedelics tapestries from canopy tents and working as fast as they could to create their homes for the weekend.
Entering the venue, we were greeted with lovely smells wafting from food vendors like Tijuana Joe’s and the mobile Marley. As we continued, we walked through the beat and backbeat tents where technicians were doing sound checks and arrived at a series of canvases. Artists brought together by Greg Mike of the ABV gallery in Atlanta had begun painting on the canvases. We were told that they would continue painting these works for the duration of the weekend.
The shows started at 5:00 and the opening acts included Abakus, Stokeswood, Nobody Beats the Drum and Trench. During these first acts large groups of people began arriving from the campgrounds excited and eager for the headliners to begin. Adventure Club went on at 7:30 in the beat tent and the place was packed. Hundreds of people being hit by wave after wave of bass were dancing and thrusting their decorated “rage sticks” to the sky as the synths’ crecendoed and the bass dropped.
Meanwhile at the Backbeat tent, ABDECAF took the stage playing a much lighter and melodic style of electronic music. The ability to walk between two stages and transition between heavy dubstep and light trancy electro was very refreshing and helped keep the crowd rotating between the artists.
Later in the night, Beats Antique took over the Beat stage. Zoe was beautifully costumed and the rest of the band took the crowd on an epic tour of the best of their older songs and many of the songs from their new album “Contraption Vol 2”.
Simultaneously, Run DMT was performing on the Backbeat stage with extremely heavy bass lines and crunchy synths mixed with hip hop vocals and sirens causing the crowd to dance with seizure like movements.
The final act of the night on the beat stage was Big Gigantic. It was right before they took the stage that the Atlanta crowd made their presence known with a chant of the Atlanta Braves anthem. Big Gigantic performed with multiple instruments not typical for this sort of event including saxophones, trumpets and trombones. They combined a big band sound with the heavy bass of dubstep and the tension/release, buildup/drop sounds of a jam band.
At midnight, the performances at the main stages ended but the silent disco kept those suffering from insomnia entertained until the wee hours of the morning.
Friday was met with a beautiful morning and an eagerness to experience everything that the day had in store. The artists began at 12:15 with the Rythm Monks at the Beat tent but the first artist of the day that I was excited about was Heros x Villains. The Atlanta native took the stage to the cheers of the crowd already gathered. His trap remixes reverberated through the crowd turning the tent into a nightclub in the middle of the afternoon. After his awesome performance, I returned to the media tent to rest for a moment when dark clouds started to gather over our heads. Soon thereafter, an announcement was made that there was really bad weather on its way and that we were being evacuated back to the campgrounds. We had not gotten our equipment packed yet when rain started to pour from the sky. Halfway back to the campground the storm had become intense enough to start lifting canopy tents from the ground and flipping them over. My trudging picked up pace as I became fearful that the shifting winds and pouring rain might give way to something much worse. I arrived at my tent to find it collapsed and took shelter in my truck. The storm was over as rapidly as it began to cheers, fireworks and confetti poppers from the campers. We were allowed back into the venue and the party picked up right where it left off.
The main part of the crowd stayed around the Beat and Backbeat tent to hear Feed Me and Excision, then started heading towards the main stages in anticipation of Bassnectar. AVICII played a very straightforward and almost too perfect set leading up to his most popular song “levels”.
When Bassnectar took the stage, the crowd was electrified. It seemed like every person had something on them that was glowing, flashing or was being slung around to the beat of the music. Bassnectar continued through a set that can only be described as epic. He played all of his most popular songs and many obscure ones that even I had not heard. The party continued until 2AM finishing off with an energetic set from A-trak in the Backbeat tent.
Saturday, I awoke sore from all of the walking I had been doing for the past two days and from having to resort to sleeping in my truck after the rain destroyed my tent but after a couple of energy drinks and a lot of stretching, I was ready to take on the day. There was no time to bellyache as the biggest acts of the weekend were coming up.
I started the day watching Zoogma perform. The last time I had seen them was at Amberland, and it seemed to me that they brought so much more to the table this time. They managed to fit right in with the electronic acts that surrounded them while drawing quite a large crowd. I had to leave before they finished their set to go and see HeRobust and Mantis at the Beat and Backbeat tents.
HeRobust started the trap remixes for the day while Mantis played their unique blends of insanely heavy bass and trippy synths. Mantis was so incredibly loud that it was impossible to stand within 50 feet of the stage without earplugs but the chest shaking bass made it worth it.
Emancipator and Conspirator continued the day’s heavy dubstep themes at the Beat and Backbeat tents making it easy to lose myself in the music blending in with the writhing crowds of fans.
At the main stages, Wale and Big Boi performed rap, trap and hip hop which drew a surprising number of the festival goers.
Zed’s Dead was the last of the major heavy dubstep shows at the Beat and Backbeat tents, then it seemed like everyone headed to the main stages for the main events of the weekend. Steve Angello set the tone for the rest of the evening with a passionate and energetic set, then Skrillex took the stage. It rapidly became clear that the sound and light engineers had been holding back on the maximum volume level and the best of the light show. Lasers cut through the artificial fog as they created a glowing strobing ceiling of light above us. The ground literally shook from the bass emitted from the sound system. It was completely overwhelming. Skrillex played though the songs that brought him his stardom and even played some new remixes. He truly lived up to the hype.
Pretty Lights went on stage afterwards and helped everyone calm down with much more trancey mixes but the night was long from over. Ghostland Observatory and Laidback Luke kept the crowd jumping until after 2AM and by that time I was ready to collapse from pure exhaustion.
Counterpoint was an amazing experience. From the moment we arrived on Thursday until we left on Sunday, we were enveloped completely in another world. It was an incredible showing of force for a sector of the music industry that is just beginning to impact the mainstream.
I believe that it will return even bigger and better next year and I will be there, in the front row, my eyes full of lasers and my ears full of bass with a huge grin on my face.