Five years ago, Jonathan Fordin and Brett Keber had a vision – to bring a high-level music festival to 350 acres of sprawling property about 20 minutes south of downtown Atlanta with the Chattahoochee River as the backdrop.
The lineup for what was dubbed the Echo Project was stellar. The Killers, The Roots, Flaming Lips, The Avett Brothers, Common, Phil Lesh.
The turnout was not.
This weekend, Fordin and Keber, both Atlantans, are back on the land for the three-day CounterPoint Festival, a massive collection of more than 75 of some of the top names (Skrillex, Pretty Lights) and fledgling stars in the electronic dance genre, with a little hip-hop (Big Boi, Wale) thrown in.
“In 2006, no one saw the economy crashing, so when it was time to put the puzzle [of Echo Project] on the table, we took a big financial hit,” Fordin said. “In 2010 we decided it was time to start working on it again, and with the booming electronic scene with festivals like the Electric Daisy Carnival [in Las Vegas], it seemed like the right move to bring to Atlanta. We said, ‘It’s a unique market,’ and we knew this scene was exploding right now.”
Fordin and Keber are the founders of MCP Presents, a production, promotion and management company that specializes in large scale music festivals and events. They’ve partnered with C3 Presents, the team responsible for staging Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Music Festival, to bring CounterPoint to the city.
“Not any other event in America is doing this, having the city vibe but being on remote property,” Fordin said.
Along with hours and hours of music, CounterPoint is also positioning itself as a traditional outdoor festival with art displays, a Ferris wheel, rock climbing walls and slew of local breweries and restaurants on site.
But it’s really the music, aimed at an 18-30 demo, which will set the tone for what Fordin and Keber plan to make an annual event, even though they might tweak the musical direction.
“The show is supposed to go with the times,” Fordin said. “If mainstream music is all banjos 10 years from now, then we’ll have what is mainstream.”
Ten.Sense (born Jake Deimler), an Atlanta producer/DJ with a residency at Buckhead’s Havana Club, is one of 24 DJs performing in the Silent Disco, an area where the crowd is given headphones and can choose to listen to one of two DJs on stage. Ten.Sense will share the stage with fellow Atlantan Ira G.
Ten.Sense is humbled by his inclusion at the festival, joking that, “it’s all a little surreal.”
But he’s also thrilled to have a 90-minute set on Friday, where he will live mix a mashup that takes several days to prepare.
“I really worry about the sounds and the tone and the overall story. For me it has to flow,” he said. “There has to be a beginning, middle and end. I focus on the sounds and the words and the samples.”
Ten.Sense also said that he thinks the timing is right for CounterPoint to be in Atlanta.
“Electronic music is in the middle of changing. There are a few genres like ‘moombahton,’ a fusion of funk, jazz, glitch-hop, hip-hop and techno and ‘trap music,’ which is associated with Atlanta, is coming back,” he said. “All of these things are coming from this region.”
Fordin and Keber have a 10-year permit to use the property and intend to stage CounterPoint on the site every fall.
“We don’t expect it to go anywhere for a long time,” Keber said. “This will be its home and launching point and allow us to develop the integrity of the brand.”
Added Fordin, “We’re here to stay.”
Artists include: Trench, Adventure Club, Beats Antique, Run DMT (Thursday); Atmosphere, Crystal Castles, M83, AVICII, Bassnectar, Alesso (Friday); Big Boi, Wale, Pretty Lights, Skrillex, Porter Robinson (Saturday).
Opens: 2 p.m. Thursday with final show 12:50 a.m. Sunday. Camping opens 10 a.m. Thursday and closes noon Sunday. This is an 18 and older event.
Tickets (no ticket fees): Single day GA $59 (Thursday), $89 (Friday) and $89 (Saturday). Single day VIP $169 per day Friday and Saturday. Three-day GA $185.
Location: Along the Chattahoochee River, about 15 miles west of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport near Campbellton. For driving directions, visit www.counterpointfestival.com.
Parking: Free on site. Camping fee is $15.
Shuttles: Depart from Sheraton Atlanta Hotel (165 Courtland St., N.E.) at 4 and 6:40 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Return from festival at 12:15 a.m. Friday and 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Info: 1-888-512-7469, www.counterpointfestival.com.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene