Reaction NYE – A Unique Groove Into 2017
Reaction NYE had its sophomore run at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL this past weekend, bringing Chicagoland into 2017 in flawless warehouse style. With a lineup to please the masses and unique additions unseen at any other festival, Reaction is well on its way to becoming the place to be for New Year’s.
React knows what Chicago wants to see, so Reaction makes a point to have a little bit of dance and a little bit of rap to keep everyone smiling. This year’s lineup had the likes of Flume, Anderson Paak, Dillon Francis, Gucci Mane, Zeds Dead, Tchami, Manic Focus, Mr. Carmack and more. The festival times were perfect for anyone who still might have been scheduled to work that grueling 9 to 5 on Friday, as the festival didn’t start until 5 PM each night. So, for those who tend to stay up a little too late on festival nights, you didn’t have to wake up at the crack of noon to make sure and catch your favorite set. With tons to do in the Rosemont area, attendees were encouraged to explore their surroundings and see what Chicago has to offer before dancing into 2017. But, once inside, the warehouse party didn’t disappoint.
The stages at Reaction got a little bit of the move-around this year. With the festival only in its second year, it makes sense that organizers try their best to make good use of the space they’re given. This year, there were 3 stages. The Warehouse stage held steady as the powerhouse of a main stage at the convention center. Sprawling from wall to wall, this stage had LED screens even bigger than last year, one behind the stage and one on either side of the stage. So, if you weren’t lucky enough to plow through the crowd and get to center stage, you were far from disappointed as there was a LED screen the size of the stage itself making sure you knew exactly what was up. In fact, it was even more entertaining to catch main acts like Flume and Anderson Paak on the big screen rather than craning your neck behind that unnaturally tall guy in front of you in the pit. The Warehouse stage was by far the largest with the biggest names, but it wasn’t the be-all-end-all of the fest.
The Arcade Stage accepted the award as Unique Festival Stage of the Year. No festival (to my knowledge) has had free arcade games ready to go for anyone to wants to play Space Invaders while listening to deep house. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t get much cooler than that. Got friends with you? No worries, the air hockey table allowed for some multiplayer action so your friends didn’t leave you behind. This stage has by far the biggest potential to be one of the coolest stages in history, and the lineup at that stage kept it smooth and dance-filled while the main stage brought the hip-hop squads. One setback: In its new location, the Arcade Stage was on the opposite wall of the Warehouse stage and the sound from the Warehouse tended to carry over. It wasn’t until you reached the farthest end of the crowd or stood near a speaker that the boom from the Warehouse wasn’t audible. Although, this wasn’t always the case as there were times where the Warehouse was empty to due stage setup and set changeover. This is when the other stages truly shined.
This year’s Corona Silent Disco pretty much won the festival. The third and final stage at Reaction, it was the last on the ticket but certainly not least. Silent Discos have been around for a while, and are at all React festivals, but they tend to be a little empty at times, not this warehouse beach party! With bouncing beach balls and comfy couches to lounge with your buddies, this silent disco was always popping. With the stage’s location at the entrance to the fest, this silent disco always had a line to enter. Plus, with one channel for everyone to be on the same page, this silent disco brought some awesome acts that attendees sought to catch. Those poor workers barely had time to wipe off the headphones before another person was grabbing for them. It was the most popular silent disco this gal has ever seen in Chicago, and I’m convinced that these are only going to bring in more fans. To those who have yet to check out a silent disco, they may look awkward from the outside but the fun is when you’re enjoying the music with everyone.
Last year’s Reaction saw some sad devastation to their art installation of towering cardboard boxes at the festival’s entrance. Attendees simply saw something they could seek and destroy. This year, it was much more clear that people put time and effort into their work and the festival did a much better job of protecting it. Artists submitted their works to be displayed at the festival, and attendees ate it up like candy. Several people came to check out trippy sculptures and paintings from real Chicagoland artists. React has done a great job of making sure that their festivals aren’t just about the music, but with a little extra flare for those looking for more. The intricate paintings lining the entrance held social and political commentary that anyone in attendance could appreciate, and the lighted sculptures in the center of the room were not mistaken for toys this year.
Day 1: First day of the fest had everyone pumped for the weekend. Mr. Carmack made sure to bring his unique brand of bass all the way from the far west coast at the Warehouse while Intermodal played the deepest of the house grooves at the Arcade. Danny Brown brought his unique mix of rap and dance while behind the decks as Home Improvement created another long line at the Silent Disco. Once Dillon Francis took the stage, the entirety of Reaction NYE came to his beck and call at the Warehouse. His simple setup but not so simple set had everyone bouncing with him on stage. Anderson Paak came to the festival, but he wasn’t alone. With his full band The Free Nationals, these guys brought the hip-hop soul to Reaction. Making sure to address the crowd and make the entire set a full-bodied experience, it’s no wonder he and his live band have been all over the spotlight as of late. After their set, a huge black screen shrouded the Warehouse stage in mystery as the crowd waited an uncomfortable 45 minutes for Flume to take the stage. However long we all had to wait, it was worth it when the Australian superstar came out inside his space-age 3D cube. The simple yet impressive setup made sure to not take away from Flume dropping hit after chart-topping hit. It was the perfect ending to the first night and several were sad to see the night end.
Day 2: Everyone knew it was New Year’s Eve, and they made sure to turn up appropriately. The Warehouse had back-to-back-to-back destination sets (the ones for which you’re willing to wait). Rckt Pwr held the award for the coolest Google-friendly name at the Silent Disco and got everyone in the right mood for the rest of the night. Manic Focus took over the Warehouse soon after and truly brought the funk, as he usually does. His unique brand had truly blown up over the past couple years, and fans and critics alike couldn’t help but move their booty. Once Tchami took over, all of Reaction was eagerly anticipating 2017. His set was so explosively entertaining it was mindboggling to think it was only 10 PM, for the energy in the room could not be ignored. After a set change, Gucci Mane took the stage and flipped the script to a different kind of turn-up. With everyone belting out each lyric, it was rare to see that many people in tune with the beat. His larger-than-life Chicago following was blatantly apparent and his set seemed to end a little too early for some. Last but obviously not least to take the Warehouse was none other than Zeds Dead. These guys have been all over the world bringing their own personal brand of musical evolution, and New Year’s Eve was the perfect night to bring them to the stage.
The highlight of the entire weekend was when Dom from Porn and Chicken came onto the stage a few minutes before midnight to get everyone ready for the New Year’s countdown. Acting as hype man, “Black Beatles” came on and everyone’s phones went live. React Presents even did the same, as they broadcast the whole thing via their Facebook page. Huge white numbers came across the LED screens and counted down as Dom and the crowd screamed a big “Fuck you” to 2016. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve ain’t got nothing on Reaction, Mariah Carey made sure to seal that deal. See you next year!