Imagine Music Festival 2016: Bigger, Better, and Uncut [review]
To imagine ultimately means to envision – to develop a visage, one induced by inspirations, to the extent of our mind’s pleasing. Take this concept and add music, art, and numerous other forms of creative expression to the mix, and you’ve just briefly recapped the happenings at the third annual iteration of this past weekend Imagine Music Festival its new location, the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Locust Grove, GA. Iris Presents has executed another remarkable gathering, showcasing the masses within subgenres of EDM from local sources and beyond, solidifying their dedication to the Georgia electronic music scene.
Despite having undergone a significant amount of changes this year, Imagine continues to maintain originality and hold true to their aquatic-fairytale theme, offering a broad array of sounds and sights that immerse all of it’s attendees in a totally transformational vibe, all made possible via Cirque USA performers, dancers laden in exotic costume, and bangin’ production including Funktion-Ones, audiotechnic sound systems, and of course, a surplus of bright lights and lasers, appropriate for any worthy rave.
As we stepped foot upon the vast lands of the speedway, I was taken aback by all of the beauty surrounding me. During the day, geodomes and art installations cascaded silhouettes against the sun’s blazing rays, creating shady areas for attendees to admire the festival while cooling off a bit (which was a definite necessity, especially for those hardcores that camped all weekend long, props).
Come night time, the entire speedway was illuminated in shades of blues and purple that spanned the entire circumference of the track, the AQUA water installations spewed at the sides of the stages, flowing with the beats of the music, vibrant lasers lit the night sky from one area to the next.
Champagne Drip introduced the weekend by laying down some of his distinct fluid, psychedelic beats, perfectly contrasting the madness that ensued right after when Liquid Stranger took the stage and brought extra amounts of weird with him. The Wakaan Label owner dropped heaters like “Don’t Stop” and “Bully” and had the crowd getting low to the flo with his grimy basslines and mind-bending celestial sounds.
Black Tiger Sex Machine rocked the crowd’s world while they stunted their signature BTSM helmets during their set, where they took their listeners on an electro-house adventure full of high-energy, thrashing basslines and gritty drops. The Montreal-born trio and Kannibalen label-heads didn’t disappoint, but then again, they never really do.
We were treated to even more electro-house goodness when Italian stallions The Bloody Beetroots graced us with their take on the subgenre during their DJ set, and after their performance we indulged in even more international tunes from world-renowned legends Caspa and Rusko. The UK labelmates have proven that they’ve kept the spirit of the oldschool bass music scene alive as the dynamic duo fluctuated between dubby breaks, blaring synths and ragga-inspired tones, playing tracks like Kid Sister’s “Pro Nails” (Rusko remix) and an edit of “Somebody To Love” by Rusko that shook things up with a serious jungle vibe.
Saturday was a scramble to catch all of the acts that coincided with one another, festy crews were running back and forth to each of the 5 stages. All day long, the Amazonia and Oceania stages were rattling the festival grounds as some of the heaviest names in the game melted faces in the Georgia heat. Another tremendous twosome went back to back for one hell of a dubstep throwdown as Funtcase and Cookie Monsta destroyed the main stage area. These Circus Records labelmates and badasses solidified their dedication to the dirtiest, loudest, most unforgivably aggressive dubstep in the scene – combining their ominous, sharp-edged styles for a sound that cuts like a knife.
The headbanging continued even after Funtcase and Cookie ended, largely in part due to another member of Circus Records who goes by the name of Doctor P. This set wasn’t your average visit to the doc’s office though, the UK native took us on a nostalgic journey through time and bass, playing some older tracks and remixes, then switching it up with some wonky selects, such as his newer track “Rekt Together”. Toronto-born San Fran-based ill.Gates joined forces with KJ Sawka for a lively glitchy set, and together the producer/instructor Gates vs the Destroid drummer made for a unique, electronic hip-hop experience.
In my opinion, one of the most stellar highlights of the weekend was that of Cali’s finest, Minnesota. Having worked with names like Bassnectar, G.Jones, ill.Gates, and Seven Lions, Minnesota has garnered a considerable amount of support as an artist who’s versatility enables him to adapt to various frequencies and tempos of dubstep and beyond. The Berkeley-born mash-termind serenaded the crowd at IMF by layering vocal clips from Biggie’s “Gimme The Loot” over his low frequency bass banger “Purple Daze” for an ultra-mesmerizing moment.
If you’ve ever seen the super psychedelic, freestyle electronic masterminds of Eoto, aka Jason Hann and Michael Travis of The String Cheese Incident, then you are fully aware of the whacky antics that ensue during their sets. Things were no different at Imagine, as the two space cadets pumped up the audience with a series of strange and awesome hip-hop, dubstep, and jamtronica pieces, all done live and direct on stage. When it comes to Eoto, the weirder it is, the better.
The Aeria stage at IMF was solely dedicated to varying forms of drum n’ bass, including some revolutionary DnB legends such as a DJ set from the British/Australian group Pendulum. Their track “The Island” sent a wave of nostalgia over the crowd as we danced relentlessly to the melodic, uptempo number. Delta Heavy also performed at the Aeria tent, inflicting a dance riot fueled by the darker, grungier style of drum n’ bass.
The guys of Lotus inspired the crowd through uplifting, beautiful songs from their most recent EP ‘Eat the Light’, setting the mood for jamtronica headlining act The Disco Biscuits to shred the stage. Despite the underwhelming turnout for the set, the Biscuits tore it up like they would for any of their major events, opening up with “Sweating Bullets” into “Rock Candy” and staying true to their improvisational, unexpected style.
DC and Hooks, better known by their stage name Zeds Dead, are two Canadian EDM producers that have been around the block far more than once. Their tendencies to weave seamlessly in and out of dubstep, future/deep house, jungle and more has landed them spots on mega labels such as Mad Decent and Dim Mak, and the boys brought the noise as they closed out Saturday evening. Hair was swinging for miles and pyrotechnics were in full force as the duo dropped their most recent collab with Diplo, “Blame” (ft. Elliphant).
Sunday funday turned into Sunday FUNKday thanks to sets from Opiuo, Ott. and the All-seeing I, Break Science and the one-and-only Gramatik. Aussie funk-master Opiuo chopped and served up some wiggly beats, keeping the audience in bounce mode right before Ott. and his live band took to the stage. The live additions to the Ott. experience showcased a glitchier side to the psychedelic sexiness of his sound. Speaking of glitchy, sexy tunes, Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee of Break Science attracted quite the crowd as they dropped hits like Manic Science’s “Funky Style” (ft. Lettuce) and a generous portion of live trap, hip-hop, glitch-hop, and all things of that nature.
The man in the yellow jumpsuit, otherwise known The Polish Ambassador, treated us to an out-of-this-world remix to “Take on Me” by Aha, drenching the crowd in retro, robot vibes all throughout his set.
Creator and founder of the Lowtemp Label Gramatik battled Excision for the closing headlining spot on Sunday evening, and, torn between two lovers, we had to scurry from the Amazonia to the Oceania stage back and forth throughout the last hour. Gramatik’s distinct, soulful tone put the crowd at ease, playing popular favorites such as “Digital Liberation is Mad Freedom” by GRiZmatik and “Corporate Demons” (ft. Luxas) off his latest EP ‘Epigram’.
Ending the festival on a super heavy note, Jeff Abel aka Excision catapulted the energy to new levels when he played one of his more grounded, low frequency bass tracks “Africa” ft. Dion Timmer, and the DnB heater “Put it Down”, a collab between Abel and Bassnectar. Ex’s vengeful, aggressive form of face-slapping dubstep had the crowd moshing and rail riding till the very last minute of his set, leaving us wanting more.
Imagine Music Festival constantly challenges us year after year to transform, evolve, enlighten, and enrich ourselves through music, art, and love. Exposing ourselves to the wonders of this outstanding gathering inspires us to take a little piece of the festival with us and keep it with us every day, spreading imagination to the people and places we come into contact with. Will you challenge yourself to something new at IMF in 2017?