Why I Keep Attending Spring Awakening Music Festival
Each year, Spring Awakening Music Festival blows away its audience. From humble beginnings with rising stars, to an epic fiasco, this festival keeps getting bigger. Sensible Reason was there first hand to check out what this year had in store, and there were a few surprises along the way.
Entering into the fest a little late, it was easy to tell that the rest of the attendees had already been dancing all day, but that didn’t stop them from having a roaring good time until security ushered them out of the stadium. Day 1 brought heavy fog to the area, and with Soldier Field so close to the lake, the fog was so milky you could barely see the stadium. But, upon reaching the stadium, its immense size revealed itself.
Once in line at security, the music could be heard loud and clear. The sound at Spring Awakening was so large, earplugs were needed before even entering the gates. Each stage had been upgraded significantly. The Phoenix Stage was no longer a small tented corner of the festival, but a true side stage with open air and a large LED wall. The Hangar became more of a main stage than it had ever been, with streamers and a full lighting setup reaching into the crowd. The Equinox stage added a few more bells and whistles to its second stage status. This year saw more pyrotechnics, but this time they burst from the tops of the stages rather than in front of them, probably as a safety precaution. More LED panels widened Equinox, and the VIP area moved to the side of the stage, rather than straight back through the crowd, allowing for a better view. The Main Stage was of course the real humdinger, with its head in the end zone. The party was unbelievable on the field when the stadium filled with tens of thousands of people all singing and dancing to the same tune, living the same dream if only for a brief song.
The music this year (of course) blew everyone away. The Hangar is always a curated stage, and the first night was trance. Cosmic Gate brought an amazing set with several bangers and old favorites. By the second day, things had really started to heat up when Duke Dumont brought the definition of house music. His remix of “Hideaway” had people running to the Equinox stage to catch it. The after party for that night was Tommy Trash‘s yacht party, and the ship sailed into the night with beats that made the fish dance. Every night, Chicago’s the Mid was so packed it was almost impossible to dance, but of course the die hard music fans found their way to VIP to make the magic happen. Highlights came rolling through when Eric Prydz took over the Equinox stage. His deep house brought everyone to the ground, a kind of sexy that tops few. Strangely enough, the extremely popular Zedd was a favorite for this writer. While the popular isn’t a first go-to, his seamless set captivated his audience. He played all the hits, from “Clarity” to “I Want You To Know.” Somehow it was impossible to be sick of those top 40, overplayed, over exaggerated radio tracks once on the 50 yard line. A disappointment for the weekend was Headhunterz. Hardstyle fans were itching for the fast stuff, but he’s gone mainstream and the beats never came. The entire stadium filled for Diplo and Skrillex to show them what they were made of, and Jack Ü filled the stadium to the point where the main floor was closed off. But track after track, there was no transition, no rhyme or reason, the set disappointed even the most hardcore Skrillex fans. However, Diplo’s solo set seemed to have more people bouncing and screaming than his duet earlier in the night. He brought Skrillex to the stage, and somehow the disappointment returned…not sure what happened there…
The weather threatened to stop the fest, with pouring rain, high winds, and even some lighting in the middle of the day. It never stopped the music and it never stopped people from dancing.
With a lineup that includes Hardwell, Zedd, Jack U, Dada Life, and Tiesto…at its current core, Spring Awakening is a pop music festival. One can take this in a negative fashion (since “pop” has been a 4-letter word since before N’Sync made it sound even worse) however, the joy that this type of music – true “EDM” – brings is real. It has spread to a huge audience, but that doesn’t make it bad music. These artists aren’t teeny-bopper puppets making daddy more money like “pop” music makes one picture. Spring Awakening is filled with hard-working music lovers who have simply fallen under the spell of bass and synth, and they have made the world hypnotized with it as well. The kandi kidz, the bro tanks, the bright colors, the glow sticks – all of it is just an outward expression of what festivals like this make one feel when dancing. All the pryrotechnics and fancy fare are just a way to show the world that this music is life, this music is freedom in all its spectacular glory. We have so much to give, so much to love, and EDM, bass music, pop music, whatever you want to call it has a way of making us let loose and express that love. That’s why I come to Spring Awakening Music Festival each year. See you next year.