Photo from Counterpoint website Music

Counterpoint Festival: Outkast Returns Home to ATL after Rocky Start at Coachella

This weekend (April 25-27, 2014) marks the second occurrence of the Counterpoint Music & Arts Festival held just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and this year the festival boasts something extra-special: the homecoming of Atlanta’s beloved superstar hip hop duo, Outkast.

If you have been paying any attention at all to news of either the Outkast reunion tour or the Coachella Music Festival held in Indio, California just two weeks ago, you may have heard of the shockingly epic fail of Outkast’s first concert since 2002. Apparently, the group’s second performance at Coachella was deemed much better by the powers that be, but there is still the mystery of how a set as anticipated as that one could possibly end in anticlimax. Some speculate (and I would venture to concur) that the show flopped not because of any fault on the part of the performers, but because of a sea change in the music industry, and specifically a tidal shift in the music festival business.

Since Outkast’s André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton parted ways to pursue their own interests over a decade ago, a lot has changed: Music festivals are no longer small-ish weekend gatherings dominated by jambands and big names of classic rock. In the past few years, the term “music festival” has become synonymous with mainstream rock, pop, and indie bands, as well as a plethora of electronic dance music (EDM) outfits. The average festival goer didn’t grow up listening to the rock-and-roll of the ’60s and ’70s, or the lyrical hip hop of the ’90s. The fields are not populated by music “fans”–which, just as a reminder, is short for “fanatic.”

Rather, festival attendees of today are more likely to be “fanatically” concerned with the party atmosphere that the festival provides. The glow sticks, the untz-untz beats, the rave-y free-for-all that descends over the festival grounds when the sun sets. And before the lights go out? Festival goers may attend during the day just for the day drinking, maybe to see a few bands, and definitely to see and be seen. That’s right, if you haven’t been in a shopping mall lately you may not know, but the phrase “festival chic” is literally emblazoned on shop windows of major brands and department stores everywhere. Music festivals are now trendy, perhaps not just a fad, but certainly de rigeur for the modern teen and twenty-something.

Yes, it is a whole new festival world out there, and unfortunately sometimes the most incredible acts, like Outkast, can’t help but fall flat in comparison to the excitement of the festival beast as a whole. Did some people leave Outkast’s set disappointed, only to head for the Silent Disco? Most likely. Does this fact still blow my mind, even after the explanation above? Most definitely.

When I went to my first Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2003 after my freshman year of college, I had to quit my job scooping ice cream and beg my mother for a little cash, pleading, “But Mom, I’m going to see the Allman Brothers and Alison Krauss! Who knows if I will ever get that opportunity again?!” She eventually conceded, and off I went to Bonnaroo, totally unprepared for the experience I would have there (Why are all those people calling my name?!), with just $25 in my pocket and a car full of CDs (yep, CDs–this was back when Bonnaroo still made a mix CD each year). I saw lots of amazing bands that weekend, including some unforgettable experiences with former festival staples like Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Moe., and The Dead with Joan Osborne. I danced–fanatically–in the mud, wore the same outfit all weekend, couldn’t afford beer, and couldn’t have been happier. And the late night raves at those Bonnaroos long ago were hosted by the likes of international legends DJ Sasha and John Digweed, truly epic dance parties that lasted far past dawn—so you see EDM was on the radar even back then, it just wasn’t the main event.

The last Bonnaroo I attended was in 2010, solely because Jay-Z was headlining (and because I had a sweet gig parking cars), and it was so worth it. But since then, I haven’t really hankered for the festival scene–and it’s not just about “growing up.” I still see live music often, but if you’ve been going to music festivals for a decade you have felt the change, even if you couldn’t put your finger on exactly what it was.

Still, I will be going to Counterpoint Festival this weekend to volunteer and pass out earplugs with We’re hEAR for You (WHFY), a non-profit that works to provide free earplugs and information on hearing loss prevention in the music scene. I’m pumped about Outkast, no matter what happened at Coachella, and I like to think that the festivalgoers from Atlanta and around the Southeastern U.S. will give them a better reception than the one they received in Indio.

Other acts I can’t wait to see include Nashville, Tennessee’s Moon Taxi, Atlanta’s own Janelle Monae (a prodigy discovered by Big Boi, incidentally), Sleigh Bells out of Brooklyn, and Foster the People from Los Angeles, California. Come by the WHFY tent for some earplugs and a hello if you’re in attendance! We can always compare outfits.

More to come next week on how things panned out at Counterpoint.

Professional photos courtesy of Counterpoint Music Festival Official Website and Outkast Official Website.

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