Groove Fest '05
Groove Fest Coverage | Interview with Blank & Jones | Interview with Jes
by Parker Stephens
additional photos by Giana
Groovefest '05, hmm... better to start with the empirical. I arrived about 3:30 p.m. to free parking and a glaring Georgia sun. Walking to the entrance I quickly realized the black shirt, jeans, and boots were a bad choice. My first impression after entering was space, a whole lot of it. The Groove Fest 'arena' had been organized to allow the flow of large crowds to easily pass from stage to stage to club. However, at this time of day all that empty space helped to create a very tumbleweed-esque EDM ghost town. But it was still early, the people would come... wouldn't they? The first stage I passed, the outermost stage from Compound, sported Mike B. I apologize to the reader, I didn't spend enough time there to absorb much of his performance. The three other people around the stage seemed to be enjoying themselves though. And in case you were wondering, his shirt was on. After buying my first cold beer of the dog day afternoon I moved further in to catch the last half of Andain. What was advertised as Andain was actually just their vocalist, Mavie Marcos, who sang under the sun to a scantly but loyal crowd until the grand finale of "Beautiful Things." Compound's terrace area provided ample shade for me and most of the other attendees who lounged and nursed their drinks.
Habersham and DJ Numinous took the decks soon after Andain and provided some nice tracks to chill and wander to. "Windowlicker" always gets my blood flowing. As I mozied around I noticed EDM Digital had a booth set up with the lovely Darbi manning the lookout and next door was a Vidal Sasoon tent offering hair styling for both hired dancers and regular patrons throughout the day. They weren't doing perms so I had to pass. After Habersham and DJ Numinous' set we headed to Ride for a bittersweet combo of great music, air-conditioning, and an empty house. Jonathan Allyn was playing some great music and Ride's sound system was on key, I wish more people could have heard it. After about 30 minutes curiosity brought me back outside from my natural dark and loud habitat. What made me curious was to find out if Darude was really the punch line that Sandstorm has made him amongst the electronic community. Honestly, I expected his set to be cheese covered in syrup; Sweet Dreams into Sandstorm into Sandstorm remix. But it wasn't. The music was, and you can quote me on this, surprisingly good. Maybe it's because my expectations were so low or the beer and sun lowered my standards a bit, but I really enjoyed his set. It represented to me what I thought a good mainstream event would sound like. He played a good mix of trance and progressive house that never went too over the top, but still carried the sound that can appeal to a wide variety of people. I didn't hear Sandstorm, but I imagine he was (perhaps contractually) waiting to drop it later in the day. Darude did play Steve Lawler's 'Out at Night', a personal favorite of mine, and you can't deny the irony as the sun glared down on us all.
Ok, here's where the real juggling begins. Habersham and Numinous have begun playing in Ride, Darude is spinning and about to give the stage to Nadia, and Blank and Jones have started on the outer stage. I swung by Blank and Jones first, I was happy to see the attendance had increased and they weren't playing to an empty lot. The trancey tunes felt good in the daytime, the music started off floaty and quickly gained momentum. People were now officially dancing. A quick strut across the lot brought me back to the inner stage to catch Nadia perform. Despite some sound problems with her mic, Nadia's voice sounded great. For a petite woman she has some powerful vocals. Although she had a 'band' on stage with her, the show would have been just fine without them. One guy strummed an acoustic guitar while the other tapped notes in a keyboard with his index finger to the pre-recorded tracks that blared in the background. She finished with a satisfying performance of Rapture. Ok, back to Blank and Jones, the music was now louder and banging harder, the outdoor area was still roomy, but the festival vibe was creepin' in. The crowd, not surprisingly, was at its most hyped when they played 'Adagio for Strings'. Blank and Jones put on a strong performance, especially coming straight from Avalon the night before and on no sleep, Atlanta thanks you. When they finished up most of the crowd transferred back to the inner stage to watch Jes, who undoubtedly attracted the biggest outdoor crowd of the day. Dusk had begun to set in and with the heat diminishing people started gaining their second winds. Jes was full of energy and the crowd was eating it up, responding her songsespecially her final performance of 'As the Rush Comes'. It was refreshing to finally feel a group vibe forming. Luckily, Charles Feelgood didn't waste much time starting up after Jes to keep that vibe going. Feelgood's set was a perfect tounge-in-cheek answer to the long hot day that had turned into night. The music was housey, happy, and straight outta the 80's. I'm pretty sure I heard remixes of "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night," "Physical," "Take On Me," and "Maniac." There was a giant sigh of relief that night had come and that relief was definitely reflected in Feelgood's set. Groovefest was beginning to wrap up, about 9:30 p.m. we stopped by Skribble's stage that was more sparse than I expected. Feelgood seemed to have won the battle over that timeslot. Having spent what felt like a lot longer than 6 hours at the festival I decided I would leave for a change of scenery. The outdoor activities were ending and everyone under 21 was being herded out. I felt like I had the Groovefest experience.
I suppose this is the part where I declare Groovefest a success or failure. It's not that easy this time around. The biggest smudge on the day's activities was the lack of attendance. There were people there, but there should have been a lot more. It seems to me that people have forgotten how fun it can be just to go out; to just go get drunk in the sun without having to be BFF with the person who is playing. People need to rediscover the appeal of just going to a party and focus less on their overly sub classified niches. I bet that most of those who sat at home because the event was too 'pop' would have had a great time. The promoters did a great job making this place a playground for our small community and if 500 more people would have come out it would have made a good party great. However, I am not at all discounting the importance of music in these types of events. I understand this was a gamble and a safe bet is the best bet, but I think the promoters were working a bit too much in the theoretical here. Many of the artists performing at Groovefest are popular and have popular singles, but when it comes to electronic music that doesn't necessarily translate into a following. I think hundreds of Q100 listeners know what "Sandstorm" is and like the song a lot, but that doesn't mean any of those people actually want to see the guy who wrote it perform a DJ set. The target audience seemed to have been listeners of electronic music who aren't fans of electronic music. By trying to go too mainstream the promoters found themselves attracting the apathetic and alienating the real electronic community. There has to be some middle ground and I'm confident that these promoters can use this event to help find it. I commend everyone who helped put Groove Fest together, it was a great event and it's exactly the kind of defibrilation Atlanta needs to gets its heart beating again.
Andain - Beautiful Things
|home | features | events | reviews | dj charts | forum | my lunar | links | about us | contact|