Dancing Into 2016 at Reaction NYE [Recap]
New Year’s Eve is a night of reflection, champagne, dancing, and overall stupidity (responsibly). With everyone you know and everyone beyond that hosting something on NYE, it can sometimes be a difficult decision when it comes to which event to attend. React Presents made that decision really easy for all those in the Chicago area. They made their usual Reaction NYE party into a two-day warehouse festival with enough bass to keep you warm until the end of the winter. As with any festival in its first year, there were a few kinks, but that’s not what people are talking about after this epic NYE dance party.
Held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, Reaction was smack dab in the middle of a hotel park. The hotel after parties were abundant and most only a few minutes away from the venue. On night 1, tons of bass lovers in their t-shirts and shorts stood eagerly outside in the cold waiting for doors to finally open around 5:30PM. Both nights of the festival had their first sets at 5:45. With the festival falling on the 30th and the 31st, some unfortunate souls were scheduled for work on this mid-week holiday. With such late set times, the 9 to 5-ers didn’t have to miss a beat. The convention center was perfect for the amount of people attending; huge entrance that allowed for people in line to wait inside rather than freezing their fannies off outside, a coat check, chill area, bars in abundance, and 3 stages with back-to-back tunes. This gal’s biggest beef: No flow toys allowed! Now, this could very well have been the regulations put on React with the conditions of the venue. Most React festivals allow hula hoops and the like, but it was a bit of a disappointment to have to run back to the car to put it in the trunk. And for those who checked their coats at the beginning of the night, we tip our hats for your infinite patience getting that damn thing at the end of the night without inciting a riot. It was a madhouse. That’s all that needs to be said there.
All beefs aside, the stages were set up in a way that allowed for maximum dancing and no sound carry over. Nothing is worse than being in the back of the main stage and hearing the fumbled beats from the second stage in the background. Not at Reaction. Each stage had its own room in the convention center. The main stage (The Warehouse) was the highlight of Reaction’s production. Three large LED screens were spread across the low ceiling of the convention center, the music coming from the center panel. It was as if they took the extra room that would have been in the high rafters of an outside stage and went horizontal with the design. The wide stage let those who would rather dance than be in the front row to still have an elaborate LED light show right in front of them. The lights were vibrant and the visuals were on point. The second stage (The Hall) had a higher setup, which allowed for a higher stage and more wiggle room for each artist’s stage design if they brought their own. The Arcade Stage was a great idea…but the execution a little lackluster. Separated by curtains on two sides, the stage seemed to be an after thought to the other two stages. The games were free, which was pretty sweet, and it was entertaining to attempt a round of pinball after a couple drinks, but few stayed at the Arcade stage for more than a set or two. If attendance were higher, the lines at the games would have put a damper on things, but thankfully Reaction was not oversold. In future years, if Reaction continues to have an arcade stage, one can only hope that more time would be dedicated to this highly entertaining concept. Had the games been more abundant and the dance floor larger, it would be easy to spend too much time there.
Onto the music…
We danced, we grooved, we wore earplugs, we did it two days in a row. It’s difficult to be critical when every set exceeded expectations. React knows who to book. Build it and they will come. This year’s lineup included Deadmau5, Skrillex, Chance the Rapper, Purity Ring, Cherub, Chvrches, Joywave, and a ton more. Top 5 sets would have to be:
5. Prob Cause – A local rapper from the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Prob Cause has a poetic style reflective of Atmosphere. He’s got something to say and he spits it so smooth, it’s hard not to get into it. The beats flow effortlessly with his tongue, so anyone can easily enjoy- rap fan or not. If you’re ever in the Chicago area and catch his name somewhere, check him out.
4. Autograf – More local favorites from Chicago, this trio has been on the up ever since they moved into house music. Two out of the three in the group hail from a heavier electronic group Midnight Conspiracy, but they dropped the dubstep and now they’re on almost every electronic lineup in the city. Their smooth transitions and deep grooves had the crowd at Reaction transfixed for their entire set, dancing like the music was their life force. These guys are everywhere, so don’t miss them next time you want an Autograf.
3. Purity Ring – A personal favorite, Purity Ring had this writer singing at the top of her lungs from start to finish. At the Hall stage, they had their usual setup consisting of dripping white lights from the top to the bottom of the stage. The strings had globe bulbs that would illuminate in a fashion that no LED screen could recreate. Singer Megan James was in an outfit that reminded one of Buzz Lightyear – in the most fashionable way imaginable. She weaved in and out of the strings of lights as they cascaded with the music. Even those who stumbled upon this set stayed for the remainder.
2. Deadmau5 – The man, the legend, the opinionated shit-talker is finally back in full swing. His second set in the Midwest in the past 6 months, he just keeps getting better. Joel Zimmerman does what Joel Zimmerman wants, and we loved it! Much like his set at Summer Set Music Festival in August, he kept hold of a sound that is yet to be defined. It was as if he took the concept and structure of “Strobe” and created an entire set out of it. It had a seamless ebb and flow that pushed and pulled and dropped and lifted all over the course of the set. It was almost as if the audience went under a trance, hypnotized by the Mau5 on stage.
1. Get Real – No other set mattered once Get Real emerged onto the Hall on New Year’s Eve. From start to finish, booties were shaking and there was no pause for second thoughts. The duo, Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet, came onto the stage confident faces were about to melt, and they did. Playing through the midnight countdown, these guys had no time for “Auld Lang Syne.” The bass was the champagne, and we were getting showers of it for their entire set. It was clear that these guys stumbled upon something amazing and it was an honor to witness what these two have created. Back to back, the grooves were unparalleled.
Now, this Top 5 is not to say that everyone else on the lineup was chop liver. Skrillex of course played a hot set. Literally. The temperature of all those in attendance at his midnight set had the walls sweating. But of course, it wouldn’t be so hot if people weren’t rocking out as much as they were. Someone even had the beans to sneak in a hula hoop. Chvrches always puts on a great set with their stage presence, same to say for Cherub. Robin Schulz seemed to be a favorite of the crowd, his remix of “Prayer in C” made everyone come running from various angles of the venue. Bonobo’s DJ set managed to keep people dancing through his mellow and chill vibes. Glass Lux seemed too awesome for their Arcade Stage setting, the whole area was filled with fans of this Chicago group.
Reaction was a reflection of 2015’s house music revival. The genre has made a triumphant comeback this year with future house, deep house, tech house, and everything in between infiltrating almost every genre in some way. What’s not too love? It’s smooth, it’s got bass, it’s easy to dance to, and heck – you might catch a non-believer giving a song a head nod every few measures. Whether it still stays as popular through 2016 is yet unknown, but we can at least hope that Reaction continues to become a cultivation of everything we love about this particular music scene here in the unparalleled city of Chicago.