This weekend EDM (electronic dance music) fans across the Midwest traveled to Chicago to see some of the biggest DJs in the industry. Taking place at the Bear's stadium Soldier Field, thousands of fans flashing with LEDs and dressed in neon took over the streets of downtown Chicago for one of the largest dance parties all summer.
With great success last year and an increase in the electronic scene, this year festival runner, React Presents, was able to extend the festival an extra day. Friday headlined one of the original DJs from the '90s, Moby, who popularized techno and break beat. Friday also saw names such as Nero, Pantyraid, R3hab, Dirty South and Zomboy.
Having just released a new album at the end of May, I was excited to see Pantyraid. I have seen this duo before and was let down to hear the same similar beats and not many of their hits that they are known for producing. Pantyraid is a collaboration of the DJ Marty Party and Ooh Ah from the Glitch Mob. Their latest music sounds seem to be largely influenced by Marty Party's repetitive beats.
At the festival, there was the main stage on the field and three stages outside around the grounds. The sound systems were not pushing enough watts for the size of the crowds and I assume this is because of the fear of overlapping sound from the nearby stages.
Saturday fans had to pick and choose which sets to see and miss because the schedule overlapped many of the top DJs such as Flosstradamus, Nervo and 12th Planet and then Zeds Dead, Paul Oakenfield and Wolfgang Gartner.
It would have been nice if festival runners tried to give one DJ of every subgenre at each set time instead of overlapping similar names such as Zedd and Nicky Romero forcing the electro-house fans to choose between the two.
For Zeds Dead, my favorite DJ duo, a friend and I were able to push our way to the front only to unfortunately be elbowed and beat up in all directions. Electronic music fans these days are becoming a hostile raging crowd filled with bro-trains with shirts off shoving short girls like myself out of the way to stand in the front and fist pump. What happened to the PLUR candy kids? (PLUR is a popular acronym in the EDM scene standing for peace, love, unity and respect. It is also a handshake method to exchange candy bead bracelets.) Having seen Zeds Dead before, I was impressed with their set and happy to hear a complete new playlist of beats from their other shows I have attended.
Clouds began to roll in as the sun went down just in time for Saturday's headliner, Bassnectar. Even people who don't listen to dubstep probably have heard of Bassnectar, making his set probably one of the most anticipated all weekend. Half way through his set, rain sprinkled down on Solider Field making the light show filled with lasers even better. Everyone disregarded the rain and continued to dance around to his dirty beats.
This was the first time I had ever seen Bassnectar and I was excited to hear him drop "Freestyle" of his latest EP. He spends a lot of time on the build-ups and then drops the bass heavy. Sound engineers should have turned up the watts because unless you were able to get a spot up close, the chatter of voices took over at times.
Bassnectar claims to produce hours of music for every single song he produces so he is able to live mix his shows different each time. In my opinion, this is something all DJs need to start doing so their sets don't sound the same.
Sunday seemed to be more crowded earlier in the day and people came ready to party. Chicago native group Krewella wins best crowd participation. This female dominated group even had the guys singing their lyrics and every single person's arms were in the air. Their set was hype although they mixed in a lot of the same sounds available on their sets on Soundcloud page. They are in need of a new EP to keep their music fresh.
Sunday also saw acts such as Minnesota, Clockwork, Porter Robinson, ATB, Figure and Excision. My personal favorite set of the weekend was Figure because his tent stage set allowed a personal feeling enclosing of his heavy dubstep beats and trap music. He didn't play other people's songs, he didn't get repetitive, and his sound was unique.
Sunday night Excision blew away the crowd with his 100,000-watt bass system he travels with. (And I think Bassnectar needs to invest in one of these.) Finally I could hear the music even all the way in the back! He played a lot of his new music giving viscous drum and bass style and dark dubstep with a raging laser show wowing the entire stadium.
Sunday's headliner Calvin Harris gave all the progressive electronic fans their dose of music. Being after Excision's heavy beats, I was a little let down by his radio-sounding hit dropping performance although most of the crowd thrived from it. Calvin Harris knew how to please his audience and had an amazing light show filled with lasers in all directions shining onto the clouds giving the show a very neat effect.
Overall Spring Awakening was a huge success for electronic music and generous to the fans that did not have to spend outrageous amounts on ticket prices unlike other festivals such as EDC. Hopefully the rave kids didn't trash Solider Field too much because we all look forward to next year.