Bass, Beats and the Beach. Wavefront Music Festival Gives Chicago Summers a Whole New Meaning
After a long few weeks of the start of Chicago’s much anticipated summer full of street and music festivals, beach outings and long scorchers, Chicago dance music fans awaited their city’s first ever all dance music beach festival, Wavefront Music Festival on Montrose Beach.
The festival, created by the owners of Chicago’s successful SPYBAR together with 4 Headed Productions, was located on a beautiful beach spot reminiscent of a summer vacation. Other than the sheer fact that the location itself created an environment to produce an easy-going, happy crowd with positive vibes, the line-up escalated the environment to an even higher degree.
Heavy hitters like Erick Morillo, Boys Noize, MSTRKRFT and Duck Sauce took to the North and South stages on June 30th and July 1st, coupled with Chicago locals and highly revered artists in the house music world like Sasha, Bad Boy Bill and the long awaited Eric Prydz.
The first day hosted clear, crystal skies. Walking uphill and onto the beach from the entrance of the festival, one would think you had stepped on to another island like Ibiza or Mykonos, Greece. Sailboats scattered the water’s horizon, along with Chicago’s famous skyline. The North and South stages were placed on opposite sides of the festival, allotting for enough dance room. A large, picturesque Wavefront sand castle of the skyline glittered in the sunlight in the center. There was no doubt from these first sights that Wavefront Music Festival would be the talk of the festival season in Chicago this summer.
The festival kicked off with a bang when Sultan and Ned Shepard took to the stage. The South Stage, featuring larger artists on the bill, seemed to be the stage where energy was overflowing, especially when Chicago native and long term DJ Bad Boy Bill threw down a banging set to get everyone in the hot sun up and moving. MSTRKRFT then built up the energy even more with a high-energy electro set.
What I had failed to notice before attending the North Stage, however, was that the mellow, groovy beach side house tunes that awaited me were just as thrilling as the heavier sounds, if not even more so during a hot summer day. Among a high talent driven line-up such as Art Department and Visionquest, the smooth sounds of Nic Fanciulli stood out to me especially. As the sun began to set on the first day, Boys Noize took to the North Stage to close out up against Erick Morillo. But for Boys Noize, who was easily reading the crowd for their intense energy as the sun went down, was not such a daunting task. Coupled with lasers, elaborate LED walls with the Boys Noize skull in the center, was a fantastic surprise display of fireworks in the moonlight above the water of Lake Michigan. The night had ended, but the history of Wavefront as a music festival had just begun.
The second day witnessed some anxiety with the onslaught of an early afternoon thunderstorm. The festival reassured fans on Twitter that they would not be cancelling and only postponing; and with only missing 2 and a half hours of festival time, Wavefront’s gates re-opened.
At the North Stage, things were already heating up with funky beats from Lee Foss; but knowing Chris Lake’s arrival was beginning shortly, I rushed over to the South Stage to witness nothing less than what was expected of the Scottish producer. John Dahlback took to the decks immediately after Lake, wowing crowds with tracks such as his newest, “Embrace Me.” Since dance music vocalist Nadia Ali’s set was cut due to the inclement weather, Ali took to the stage for a short, yet powerful ensemble of vocal ballads prior to the moment that most fans had been awaiting for months (some even for many years). Although Eric Prydz’s set jam packed full of clean, smooth and feel good beats of all his own tracks and remixes wasn’t the headliner of the night, he might as well have been. The concentration and energy that the crowd held during Prydz’s set was like watching The Beatles all play together again.
Eric Prydz, the Swedish progressive house legend who has a mysteriousness to him similar to that of the duo Daft Punk by never touring in the United States, hadn’t stepped foot on U.S. soil in several years until he landed on a beach paradise right in the heart of the birth of house music on July 1st. Now, with the release of his 37 track compilation fans have been awaiting for years entitled Pryda, Prydz had even more of a reason to grace the States with his presence.
So what did the mastermind, who is responsible for the introduction of artists like Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello into the dance music world (in a sense creating Swedish House Mafia), have to say to Elektro about his first U.S. festival experience in the States? “You know I had a really great time. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, but it was really cool to play at the beach. I didn’t really know Chicago had areas like this. It’s really nice actually,” explained Prydz. “The atmosphere was great. I think everyone had a really great time, especially me. It’s really good to be back.”
On the South Stage, Duck Sauce ( comprised of A-Trak and Armand van Helden) continued Prydz’s energy with entirely different sounds, including stage props like a large inflatable duck and souvenir duckbills for the crowd. Meanwhile, on the North Stage, Sasha began his closing festival set. With the same high-end production value, energy and fireworks display from the night before, the only item that could make the end of Wavefront even greater of an experience would be the choice of artist. While many closed out the event with Duck Sauce, I decided to close with Sasha, who’s classic and melodic tunes have been cherished in the house music scene for many years. Since I had seen Sasha live before and heard his productions solo, along with the productions with John Digweed, I knew that I was in for a rare treat. Whether a Chicago house fan, Detroit techno fan, big room house fan, or just an all around dance music fan, Wavefront had a little something for everyone, creating a scene from a boat party right in your backyard. A few things are for sure: next year the sun will be still blazing, dance music beats will still be thumping, and Wavefront will continue to make just as big of a splash as it did in 2012.
Check out what some of the artists had to say when Elektro spoke with them at the festival:
Eric Prydz wasn’t the only artist who felt similarly about Chicago’s newest festival and about the Chicago dance music scene in general. When Elektro asked what artists thought about Wavefront, the consensus was about the same all around.
Bad Boy Bill:
“I think it’s amazing. It’s unbelievable that they were able to pull this off, because I think a lot of people talked about it for years and finally someone did it; and to do it at the level that these guys are doing it is awesome.”
“It’s very exciting. It’s our little baby called house music that started here in Chicago and has expanded the globe; and now it’s coming back home. I’m very happy to see house music taking off like it has.”
Sultan and Ned Shepard:
Ned: “It’s an amazing festival. I mean it feels like you’re in another country, somewhere crazy on the beach. There’s a lot of love from the people here so it felt really good to play here.”
Sultan: “We’ve been playing here many years, and it’s so nice to finally come to a festival where everybody we know who comes out in the dance scene in Chicago comes out to the festival. Everyone’s having an amazing time. The view from up in the booth is incredible. We get the people going crazy. We got the beach. I mean you can’t beat that. And it’s beautiful weather today!”
Ned: “It’s great. There’s a huge history of house music here. People really understand it, they’re super educated; but they’re also open to new stuff. It’s kind of the best of both worlds. You have old school people and new school people and everyone’s just down to party.”
Sultan: “We love our fans here, they’ve been very supportive over the years and it’s great to see them.”
“I loved it! I was very nervous when I heard it got shut down because of the weather, but it opened up and recovered well; and when I got there the vibe was amazing. The sun came out and everyone was really happy.”
“I’ve been going to Chicago a couple of times, and you guys have always had a great scene, so coming there to play is always really rewarding.”
Photo Credit: Jennifer Catherine | jennifercatherinephotography.com