Spring Awakening Music Festival Continues To Shine

Spring Awakening Music Festival has become the largest electronic music festival in the Midwest. This comes after a ton of uncertainty and hardship over the course of the last few years. However, due to the fact that React Presents consistently puts on a great show, big-name artists continue to return to Chicago to play for their biggest fans. This year’s lineup included Armin Van Buuren, Marshmello, Zhu, GRiZ, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Alan Walker, Jauz, Galantis, Louis the Child, Paul Van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, Mija, and a ton more. Held for the second year at Addams/Medill Park June 9-11th, the festival switched things up a bit while still holding true to the SAMF reputation of a memorable dance party. As usual, we break it down piece by piece to give a glimpse of the festival on a bit of a deeper level. No sugar, just truth.

The Stages

The stages of Spring Awakening truly help to shape the entire weekend. With the festival in the middle of a city park, it’s up to these humungous structures to provide attendees with the best experience possible. The stages at Spring Awakening were larger than ever in width, yet sacrificed some LED space. Now, this could have been an illusion as the Equinox Stage had been widened enough to stretch across the park, where it stood in a smaller corner previously. The LED panels could have very easily been the same size, but somehow it all looked grander. All in all, does one really need all of that stimulation? Probably not. This year it was back to the basics; great sound and better music. This festival would never compromise sound quality for more pyrotechnics and that is how we know that true music lovers put this thing together.

The Solstice Stage looked much like the signature symmetrical and geometric shape of last year, resembling the “Super Aggro-crag.” It also stood in the same area. The two curated stages got a bit of a facelift, however. The stages rotated between 3 record labels over the weekend, a different one each day. The stage hosting Dancing Astronaut, Bass Kitchen, and Trance Arena stood in the same area as last year’s Equinox. The tented stage had ample room for 2 VIP decks on the right and left side as well as dancing room in the middle. The stage hosting Body Language, Anjunadeep, and Sunday School stood close to the main entrance. The stage had a bit of a jungle theme to it with camouflage netting. Both allowed for great light shows in the middle of the day.

Corona’s Electric Beach made its first appearance at Spring Awakening this year. A huge transparent dome equipped with sand and greenery took everyone to a special place to dance. Local and national acts of all kinds took the stage for an intimate dance party only a select few could fit inside. In addition to Electric Beach, the Silent Disco yet again made a triumphant appearance. It seems as though the people of Chicago are catching on to these silent discos as they have become more and more popular with each React festival, blooming from a small side stage to a destination stage.

Jauz at Solstice Stage

The Rides

Last year’s festival had only a measly Ferris wheel and a slide. This year, the Dancing Astronaut/Bass Kitchen/ Trance Arena stage had a little treat back row center. The “Freak Out” was the perfect addition to the stage with some of the most dedicated bass in Addams/Medill Park making it one of the coolest freak-out moments of the festival. Of course, the Ferris wheel still made an appearance, allowing attendees to get a birds-eye view of the whole festival

The Fashion

The fashion industry and the music industry have looked to one another for inspiration since the dawn of both. Yet, these past couple years have gotten out of hand. The festival fashion was in full swing at Spring Awakening. Unfortunately for some, finding your friend in high rise shorts and a glitter tank top was an impossible feat. It seems as though festival fashion has become a scene in itself. Just as the uniform of a raver, the uniform of a festival newcomer has become a little basic. Yes, they have finally caught onto staying hydrated with their iridescent camelbacks but, at this point, everyone looks the same! The festival was drowning in unicorn makeup and unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts. The whole thing has become a little comical. But the best part about it is that these people were all at Spring Awakening for one reason, the music, and for that, we tip our hats to all.

The Music

It becomes very difficult to stand out at a festival when every artist falls under the same umbrella. While several facets of electronic music remained represented at Spring Awakening, the crowd (and therefore the DJ) wanted to rage. It is very common for the artist on stage to go a little harder at a festival such as Spring Awakening. Here are the top sets (in this writer’s humble opinion) of each day.

Friday

Louis the Child have been taking the world by storm, and Spring Awakening was no different. Donning Bulls jerseys, these guys haven’t skipped a beat since their first festival appearance. The duo, hailing from Chicago, made sure to pay homage to their hometown all while dropping the best future bass one can imagine.

Sander Van Doorn played one of the most versatile sets at the Dancing Astronaut stage on Friday. Each beat drop made the crowd go wild, bouncing around and shuffling non-stop.

Armin van Buuren maintained as the favorite of the evening. His track “Great Tribe” had the entire crowd in a trance, bouncing around and singing tribal vocals across the park. His versatility and ability to feel the crowd and go harder than ever are unmatched. His surprise additional set on Saturday couldn’t hold all of the people trying to catch a glimpse of Armin at a smaller stage. “Great Tribe” got them every time.

Galantis was a surprise favorite of the evening. The duo has such a variety of music that several people can enjoy their biggest hits. From their most commercial hits seen on TV to their viral music videos, they have built a unique following. Their set pulled in several passers-by effortlessly.

Saturday

Mario Florek B2B Peter Kontor took the Trance Arena stage to the next level. From hard trance to the stuff on the softer side, attendees got a view of just how much these two dive into the genre. Each had their own style, and it was an awesome juxtaposition to see them play back-to-back.

Evix brought, even more, heat to the Solstice Stage than the Sun Saturday afternoon. Those entering the festival were drawn to the sinister bass coming from the stage as they walked in. We’ll be keeping an eye on Evix in the future.

Malaa was another dark set on Saturday. Wearing his signature mask with visuals inspired by the pitfalls of technology, the anonymous producer played a dark and bouncy set that was impossible to escape.

Zhu maintains as one of the favorites for the entire weekend. His set at Equinox was one of the most attended during the entire weekend. His set up was simple with the DJ booth and his live guitar player. As the ladies swooned over his sultry falsetto, one patron mentioned that he felt uncomfortable at how sexy the set was. “He was undressing me with his music.” But while he was uncomfortable, the rest of the crowd couldn’t get enough.

Sunday

Jauz, a favorite of the weekend, played one of the most lit sets of the weekend. He strayed away from playing his usual hits and made a point to add a little extra. He dropped several 90s and early 00s throwbacks. It was a unique set that perfectly fit in with the weekend.

Duke Dumont brought the house music to Equinox Sunday evening. Returning to Chicago after Freaky Deaky, the set was less pop music and more of the UK house feel we know and love. While still playing the hits, he made sure to get down and dirty.

Die Antwoord and their set proves that there can be a huge difference between an album and a live set. Their energy on stage, equipped with outfit changes and backup dancers, turns the entertainment value up to level 11. They have proved that “rap-rave” is a real genre and they have mastered it perfectly.

GRiZ definitely takes the cake as the best set of Spring Awakening. His massive fanbase makes perfect sense, as he is versatile yet still stays true to what he started doing several years ago. His saxophone is still within reach, but the dance factor has been turned way up. He loves what he does and it is obvious that he isn’t stopping anytime soon. He was the perfect set to end the festival.

 

The Heat

The weekend of SAMF was a hot one. Unseasonably warm temperatures flooded the Chicago area, leaving most at the festival huddled under the shade of the park’s trees for protection until sundown. Thankfully, Spring Awakening would never let its sweaty attendees down. A couple “Cool Down Buses” remained in the park with the air conditioning blasting for those looking to take a break. The Solstice Stage donned impressively large industrial misting machines at each end of the stage, dispersing crisp and cool water at all times. As usual, security and Celebrate Safe gave out free water to those in the hottest places, and the basketball court had mist hoses for those coming to and from the main entrance. But while ways to cool down were easily accessible, free drinking water was not. A free water station provided at the Equinox end of the festival remained jam packed with people all three days of the weekend. In fact, Saturday’s crowd boasted (an estimated) over 100 people likely missing sets in order to save a dime. To be honest, it was a long wait, but it wasn’t the only water available to attendees…So, if a set was missed over the sake of free water vs. a $4 bottle, that’s not the fault of the festival.

Chicago loves electronic music, and it shows in the way React Presents puts on Spring Awakening Music Festival. The linuep blows every other electronic fest in the area out of the water (except for the other React festivals of course). On top of all that, it is clear that this isn’t the first SAMF rodeo. From the Silent Disco to the Solstice Stage, every artist deserved an audience and every attendee had a chance to dance. Each year we mention the sound quality at Spring Awakening and we can’t say it enough; phenomenal. While the pyrotechnics and frills scaled down, the overall “fun factor” of the festival has improved with a smaller venue and easier access to more entertainment. We anticipate another successful year in 2018, and we’ll be there to tell our readers all about it.

Ashley Cizek

Went to school at UW-Madison, graduating with a BA in psychology. I hula-hoop, I write, I enjoy sunlight.

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