ATLANTA – (Sept. 12, 2016)
From Steve Harvey’s Neighborhood Awards to film shoots, athletic tournaments and Walker Stalker Con to Donald Trump’s presidential rally, the Georgia World Congress Center’s Exhibition Hall A3 has hosted a wide variety of events in recent times – but on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 9-10) the 105,000-square foot space was transformed into a two-night sold-out rave featuring red-hot electronic dance music (EDM) artist Bassnectar, drawing a combined 20,000 devoted Bassheads.
Bassnectar, which is the stage name for American deejay/record producer Lorin Ashton, has scored three No. 1s on Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart, including his latest, “Unlimited.”
“Bassheads! Bassheads!” yelled a shirtless young man on Friday night, twirling his shirt in the air and whipping his fellow concert-goers into a frenzy as they descended the escalators from the street level of Building A to the basement exhibit hall.
The two-night stand was the first of its kind for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s downtown Atlanta campus, which also includes the Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park, and the under-construction Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and a prime example for showcasing the complex’s versatility.
Conventions, meetings, expos, sporting events, graduation ceremonies and trade shows are the norm for convention centers – EDM concerts are not. “It’s all about non-traditional events and revenue in traditional spaces – and doing different things that we haven’t done before. We want to show people what these spaces can do. It definitely leads to further opportunities for development,” said Julia Karrenbauer, Sr. Director of Business Development for the GWCCA.
“We are welcoming in a new audience – as the Authority has a reputation for the last 40 years of being a gathering spot for all kinds of culture and ideals for downtown Atlanta, this is a great way to open ourselves up and be that nexus for the next generation,” said Karrenbauer. “This all goes back to our mantle of being the No. 1 convention, sports and entertainment destination in the world – you can’t be that if you’re not doing all kinds of different things.”
And there was a bit of intrigue involved. Tickets for the concerts were only available online and quickly sold out, despite the fact that the venue was not revealed, only stated as “downtown Atlanta” and an address: 279 Andrew Young International Blvd., N.W.
Fans were told via bassnectar.net, “We are going back to our roots – the underground parties of the 1990s: one room, one floor, no seats, sweat dripping from the ceiling, secret location…There will be a map point & info to follow, but to be clear this is not a ‘show’ – it’s a gathering.”
A gathering it was, as the 10,000-strong, colorfully-clad crowd poured into the GWCC’s Building A each evening of Sept. 9-10 ready to party, dance, let loose and congregate. The exhibition hall was set up like a massive dance club, house lights dimmed and a purplish glow throughout, with a large performance stage piled with speakers, two VIP risers on either side of the floor, and a lighting rig suspended from the ceiling that projected mind-boggling images and lasers. The adjacent hall (A2) was also utilized as a spacious area devoted to merchandising, food and beverage stations and portable restrooms. Inside A2, there was and a smaller lounge-like area called The Haven, a place to chill out, catch your breath, listen to ambient music, chat, relax on inflatable pillows, and sip on fruit juice.
A young woman who identified herself as Master Cat from St. Petersburg, Fla. said she bought tickets immediately for the Bassnectar weekend, dubbed Basslanta, without knowing where it was happening but she found out it was taking place at the GWCC as the word spread through social media. The location didn’t matter to her, but she was pleasantly surprised by the GWCCA campus’ proximity to hotels, restaurants, nightlife and transportation.
Raevyn Lotus, of Asheville, N.C., said the level of security when entering the venue was much stricter than the usual EDM concerts and festivals she attends, but she understood because the GWCCA campus is experienced in handling large crowds. Ultimately, however, she was thankful for the level of detail. “I feel safe,” she said.
Lotus and her crew of a dozen friends – all of whom used to live in the Atlanta area but are now spread about, from Florida, to Ohio to North Carolina – used the concerts as a vehicle to reconnect with one another.
“It’s a family affair,” she said. “People asked me where I was going and I told them to church. This is my church.”
Alicia McNease / Sr. Communications Specialist
About the GWCCA:
Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) now includes Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the 3.9 million- square-foot convention center, the 71,250-seat Georgia Dome, and 21- acre Centennial Olympic Park. Additionally, GWCCA manages operations of the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. These public facilities represent the largest combined convention, sports, and entertainment destination in the world. This past year, the GWCCA hosted 555 events and welcomed more than 2.4 million visitors who generated $1.33 billion in economic impact to the State of Georgia.