Chicago’s First All-Dance Festival Spring Awakening Floods Soldier Field, Leaves Fans Wanting More
Hot on the heels of Las Vegas’ famed Electric Daisy Carnival, Spring Awakening Music Festival made history in Chicago last weekend – it was the city’s first all-dance music fest. Although EDM has made an impression upon several festivals in Chicago over the years on specific (and usually rather small) stages, Spring Awakening was the first in which the genre prevailed.
The festival, organized by promotion company React Presents, also made history by using the Soldier Field stadium itself in addition to setting up supplementary stages. React Presents, the company behind the event, was on the right track since festival closers Skrillex and Afrojack filled the stadium easily. Though fireworks and carnival rides were absent from Spring Awakening, production values were high. Stages featured the now-standard LED walls, with elaborate decorations hanging from tent ceilings and banners hanging from vendor tents. The atmosphere resembled more of a Chicago summer street fair than a typical music fest.
Although many attendees were probably still recovering from their EDC hangovers, the fans’ intense energy could be felt in an early set by rising local dubsteppers Krewella. Loud womping beats dominated the tent from the early hours of the day; Designer Drugs and French native Joachim Garraud, who played his keyboard live to the crowd, kept the party going. Later, Morgan Page’s hit-heavy set had fans in an uproar of excitement.
Gabriel & Dresden played an incredibly high energy set as a warm-up for the deep trance sounds of the Unicorn Slayer, Markus Schulz. It almost seems like Markus’ music can actually affect the weather on a regular basis, because the clouds started to form during his deep, smooth set; we were reminded of EDC’s wind-induced shut-down the weekend prior. Although the cloudy sunset did look beautiful over the Chicago skyline, fans started to worry if the rain would keep Skrillex from dropping the bass.
When the lights went down and the lasers up, and Skrillex on stage, fans were too enraptured to worry about the encroaching clouds. Skrillex himself, however, couldn’t help but notice the weather as a downpour began, asking fans to “pray for me that I don’t die in this rain, guys!” Ultimately, his unique dubstep performance went off without a hitch.
The second day of Spring Awakening saw fans, no doubt exhausted from the day before, arriving a bit sluggish. Yet Aussie twins Nervo captivated the late afternoon crowd with heartfelt tracks such as their own “You’re Gonna Love Again” and heavy hitters like Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano’s take on “Lethal Industry.” The main stage during these earlier hours hosted minimal and tribal legends Green Velvet, as well as Carl Cox. Starting off his set with Joe Brunning’s “Now Let Me See You Work,” he had the entire crowd grooving in typical Carl Cox fashion.
Carl Cox and trance/house favorite Arty had overlapping sets at Spring Awakening, so dance enthusiasts had to choose between two heroes of their respective genres. Elektro spoke to Arty after his set, and seemed to be just as pleased with his performance as his ardent fans were. “The energy that people brought to Spring Awakening was just totally crazy. Tonight’s festival was so dope,” he said. Arty rushed to complete production on a new track thirty minutes before he took to the stage and dropped it for the first time during his performance “It’s really cool that you have an opportunity to go to the venue, finish a track, put it in the USB and play for the people. How cool is that?” he mused. “It’s just so exciting when you finish a track and you can’t wait to see the reaction of the people. I mean, it was hands in the air, happy faces, and I was really glad.”
Hardwell’s set had a similar effect on Spring Awakening attendees, despite getting off to a late start due to travel issues. When Laidback Luke took to the stage, dressed in – what else? – a superhero costume, he crafted a fast-paced, inventive mix that was one of the weekend’s highlights. While Afrojack was on the main stage with his usual Dutch tunes, Luke brought the house ¬– or should we say tent – down.
With the enthusiastic support of not only dance music DJs but Chicago’s voracious house fans, the inaugural Spring Awakening Festival was a resounding success… literally. We can almost still feel the bass rattling in our ears.
Check out the video recap:
Photo Credit: Jennifer Catherine | jennifercatherinephotography.com