Show Reviews (Mostly)
by JJ Posway
The Great Storm
Can you remember innocence? Can you recall a joyous time, before 3:36 PM, September 28th 2012? I can’t. That afternoon, The Great Storm forced us to evacuate the Counterpoint festival grounds. Greg and I sat in my Explorer, horrified by the torrential downpour some malevolent God had wrought. Sam and Eli weren’t back, perhaps lost forever. Tents buckled and fell (after midnight, it is said their cries can still be heard in the forest surrounding the grounds). Our once triumphant banner descended to earth, sullied on ground softened by Satan’s own vengeful saliva. Somewhere off in the distance, I could feel a girl’s cute-ish shoes being ruined. Everything changed. A man could not walk to the water refill station without muddying his tender feet. A man could not wear white slacks. A man could never be joyous again. And I missed most of Washed Out.
The rain caused no delay, so when Sam, Eli, Greg and I considered it subsided enough, Washed Out had already finished most of his set. We caught closing Within and Without highlights “Amor Fati” and “Eyes Be Closed” though, and like his chillwave peers Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi, Washed Out translated surprisingly well to a live setting. Wide open space and gigantic speakers didn’t dilute his super-saturated sound. Unfortunately few festival goers got to experience Ernest Greene’s live outfit. Most were back at their tents licking their wounds after The Great Storm (shudders). Perhaps they were right to miss Atmosphere.
Atmosphere’s set can be summed up in a quote from frontman Slug himself.
“This is the song that got your mom pregnant in the back of a mini-van!” That’s exactly how Atmosphere’s set sounded.
Was I too hard on Atmosphere? Maybe I missed their subtle virtues. After all, I was on the other side of the small section dividing the Point and Counterpoint stages. Artists on these main stages alternated set times. Good for fans of back to back artists. Probably infuriating for roadies. Often they would soundcheck one band while another was finishing up 10 feet away.
Crystal Castles didn’t soundcheck during Atmosphere though because Crystal Castles showed up late. However, they did open with “Baptism,” a personal favorite, so I can’t complain. Upon its opening strains, Glass walked from backstage almost straight into the audience, where she spent most of the set, tumbling and singing. Musical backbone Ethan Kath stayed behind with the live drummer to beefen up his beats and occasionally Glass would join the two, bopping giddily about. They delivered key trakcs like “Alice Practice,” “Black Panther” (during which Glass lit a joint mid-crowd-surf), “Celestica” and set closing Platinum Blonde cover, “Not In Love” energetically in roughly 35 minutes. Unfortunately, the energy made an already short 35 minutes seem shorter, not to mention Alice’s vocals were buried in the mix. While not the ideal Crystal Castles set, it was a Crystal Castles set nonetheless.
Sadly, M83, set to play after Crystal Castles, cancelled due to a rumored equipment malfunction. The Great Storm claims another one. Theophilus London took the 7:30 slot instead, and Avicii followed.
Tim Bergling DJed one of Counterpoint’s best sets, due in small part to opening with Tujamo & Plastik Funk’s killer “Who.” Lights flared. Bodies flailed. A cheesy visualization of his moniker catching fire was displayed. The sugary house wizard claimed the night with originals like “Superlove,” “Seeking Bromance,” and of course “Levels.” Bergling peaked though with a mashup of his own “Fade Into Darkness” and a blissful take on The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” eventually dropping into “Alcoholic.” The hook was a bit overwrought for this reviewer (“I’m a fucking alcoholic”), but I eventually lost myself enough to dance until I got tired and missed Bassnectar.
People of Counterpoint Part I
Arriving back at camp my favorite neighbors, the Jeep dwellers, greeted me. Some came to Counterpoint for the music. Others came to party on a Jeep. They rarely touched ground and rarely touched sleep. Consistently friendly. Consistently intoxicated. Endearing as all get out.They earned themselves some free WUOG shirts with their signature cry of “Wu OG!!!” most commonly heard past 5 AM. Perhaps that battle cry is what kept me up at 6 AM that morning. Groggy, I decided to take a walk and compiled the following list.
Who Is Up At 6 AM?
- Jeep Dwellers
- Security guards trying to yank a golf cart out of the mud (their fault as evidenced by the giggling)
- Nitrous heads
On Saturday morning I treated myself to a luxurious cup of Rev coffee. You may recognize Rev Coffee as the shop at which I once performed a roaring cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country.” Sadly, the star-struck (incredibly nice) employee did not bring this up, and instead wanted to talk Athens, wondering how David Barbe was doing and praising The District Attorneys. The dude didn’t even give me a free coffee.
I wandered, feelings hurt, over to WUOG favorite Com Truise whose live set highlighted his hip-hop backbone, rather than the mellow synth beds his records emphasize. Performing against visualizations of sprawling cityscapes and hyperkinetic, intersecting lines, he still eased the crowd into the new day. “What will happen today? Who will we be? Will love find you today?” the music asked.
JJ Test Drives iOS6
During Com Truise I took some panoramic shots. They turned out horribly.
Judging set quality by number of mid-day burnouts carried to the Health Tent for banging their head into the stage barrier, Reptar wins with a solid, resounding 1.
Their set had all the makings of a good Reptar show. Even at 2:15, they incited a dance party. William wore some crazy robe thing to play keyboard and teach Zumba, and Jace was wired as ever (though no blood was shed, forcing this reviewer to give the show a mere 3.0). Show opener “Blastoff!” and “Rainbounce” both sported snazzy, revamped bridges. “Rainbounce’s” was especially intense and a show highlight. Performing a couple new songs, as well as favorites like “Isoprene Bath” and “New House” they closed inevitably, and delightfully with “Houseboat Babies.” During Reptar, Meredith LeVan also offered up this musing, which I promised to quote.
“Water is from rivers.” – Meredith LeVan
Toro Y Moi
As Polica worked the Point stage I sat patiently under the Counterpoint stage while the roadies played the official Counterpoint 2012 Set-Up Music, Beach House’s Bloom. I literally can’t think of an instance where they set up without it.
Chaz Bundick and co. soundchecked, looking generally annoyed that they were soundchecking over another painfully bassy performance and Bloom’s lovely swells. Thankfully Bundick turned affable, especially during show opener, the brilliant new “Rose Quartz.” Normally I wouldn’t be thrilled about an unreleased song opening the show, but “Rose Quartz,” and the four other new songs played previewed Bundick’s exciting new, sexed-up vision for Toro Y Moi. His releases have leaned increasingly backwards towards the 80’ with time, but it seems he’s dropped the nostalgia, outfitting his new tracks with an infectious R&B slant.
The new tunes didn’t carry the set though, as Toro Y Moi always puts on a killer show, especially for a band many consider confined to a studio, and my third time seeing them lived up to expectations set by the previous two. Causers of This stunner “Talamak” and the anthemic “How I Know” were early highlights. Closing the show with “Low Shoulder” and a smile, Bundick receded into backstage darkness, not to be interviewed. I just want to talk to you bro. I’m a fan.
One half of the mighty Outkast took to the Point stage directly following Toro Y Moi, and his DJ hyped him properly. The crowd was going nuts by the time Antwan Patton emerged carrying an opening medley of “ATLiens,” “Skew it on the Bar-B,” “Rosa Parks” and “So Fresh, So Clean.” Medleys are how Big Boi operates live, extracting the hooks and usually a verse from fan favorites and mashing them together. Backed by each song’s respective music video, nostalgia was key to his set.
The nostalgia factor didn’t detract from Big Boi’s glory though, and it certainly wasn’t the only thing going for him. Backed by a young, energetic hype man he performed then unreleased single “Mama Told Me” and a medley of his self-proclaimed “new shit” featuring the triumphant “General Patton,” “Follow Us,” “Daddy Fat Sax,” and, just for good measure, old favorites “Ghettomusick” and “B.O.B.” Still there’s no bigger tease than an incomplete “B.O.B” (or an incomplete “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in Greg’s opinion).
Big Boi’s set had one major flaw though – a concert foul that shalt never be committed. He interpolated “We Will Rock You” between “Elevators (Me and You)” and “Shine Blockas.” “We Will Rock You.” I can’t believe I’m writing this. It was awful guys.
Thankfully, Patton redeemed himself, following “Shine Blockas” with particularly inspired renditions of “Fo Yo Sorrows” and “Shutterbug.” He acknowledged his family (including his mother) in the crowd and closed his set with Purple Ribbon All-Star’s excellent 2004 single, “Kryptonite (I’m On It).” His family and friends took the stage with him, dancing and supporting the hook.
Skrillex is a controversial figure. Skrillex discussion mirrors political or religious discussion amongst opinionated music lovers. That being said, my former, staunchly anti-Skrillex self was interested in seeing what a live setting did for his unapologetically maximalist approach to dubstep.
As Steve Angello finished his headlining set (featuring Swedish House mafia favorite “Save the World”), a low rumble alerted the crowd to an inconspicuous countdown behind the Counterpoint stage. The countdown led to Bangarang opener “Right In,” it’s initial synth bursts accompanied by synchronized light bursts as the title flashed upon the screen. Skrillex knows how to open a show, and this setting emphasized his unique virtues. I felt moved to dance rather than run, and even the drops became less predictable and groan-worthy. I was way less cynical surrounded by fans enjoying their hero’s music.
Skrillex also knows how to visually cater (pander?) to those fans. Many visualizations were culled straight from video games, with Call of Duty videos winning the prize for most pandering. Does anyone imagine Skrillex super-fans not playing X-Box live? While we’re ranking visuals, compared to every other Counterpoint artist, Skrillex’s came dead last. Robots. Always robots. All the time. Not to mention the XBox 1 graphics – at best. By far the easiest visual to hate was a clip of Santa Claus exploding followed by the word “SWAG” displayed brightly on screen. Pandering I tell you. (Side Note: Moore and Angello also love pre-recorded video of themselves being super nice people offstage.)
Visuals are a petty gripe though, as Skrillex delivered perhaps the weekend’s greatest set. During “My Name Is Skrillex” I could feel the pride well up in his fans whom he intermittently encouraged, interjecting his own shrill yells of “Come on!” and “Counterpoint!” throughout his set. His rather long performance included “Right On Time” a Bangarang highlight he laid the “Fresh Prince” theme over, as well as the rest of Bangarang, his “Levels” remix, “First of the Year (Equinox)” and his recent Damian Marley collab “Make It Bun Dem.” By the time he closed with a captivating “Cinema” and a firework-fueled “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” I doubt I was the only non-believer converted. I was originally going to end this piece praising his live show yet still disparaging his studio work, however I’m listening to Bangarang as I write and thoroughly enjoying it. Take from that what you will.
People of Counterpoint Pt. II: 5 Words to Describe Counterpoint/Afterword
Following Pretty Lights’ set and Laidback Luke’s late nighter I moseyed on back to camp, and came across a group of 4 highly intoxicated individuals. Perfect people to “describe Counterpoint in 5 words.” Here were their responses.
“I woke out of a coma.”
No one managed a strictly 5-word answer, but one dude came out of a coma, so I’m still impressed. Counterpoint was indeed raw, dope, legit, fresh, phenomenal, I died and I woke out of a coma. Swag.