Spring Awakening couldn’t have come at a better time: Chicago was experiencing its first bright rays of the Summer after a horribly frigid and gray winter. Ice, the dirty kind that grows on the side of roads, stayed behind after the snow melted like an obvious metaphor for the city’s collective cabin fever.
Decked out in bright neon and charged with energy, the crowd at Spring Awakening danced through the whole weekend. Each day, starting when the gates opened, a great mass of dancers would completely fill Soldier Field and the other outdoor stages around it. This was the first time I’ve seen any part of Chicago, especially a place so rooted in one tradition, transform perfectly for an event. By the time the sun set, the crowd was silhouetted by gigantic screens and traced by beams of light. When DJ Snake played “Turn Down for What,” columns of fire shot from every surface of a sprawling and gigantic stage – understandably, everyone lost their minds.
Spring Awakening's lineup brought together huge names in EDM and dubstep – Tiesto, Knife Party, Kaskade, Pretty Lights, Diplo, Benassi, Dillon Francis, Borgore… the list goes on. Those big acts dominated the main stages – both carried with them an incredible soundsystem, lights, screens, fireworks, explosions – it was extravagant and incredible. Theres just something very magical about perfectly timed fire shooting across a stage to the beat of your favorite song.
The Hanger, a tented stage and 3rd largest at the festival remained my favorite through the weekend. Labels had the chance to curate the stage, bringing through some of the best of their talent. Fool's Gold and OWSLA owned the tent on Friday and I caught great sets from A-Trak, Kill the Noise and Kill Paris. One of my favorite sets of the weekend came from a B2B with Claude Vonstroke and Green Velvet of Dirtybird and Relief Records. Buygore (Borgore's label) and Dirty Dutch heated up the Hanger on Sunday with bass heavy tunes from Borgore, Chuckie, Klasman and Ookay. Seeing labelmates play gave the Hanger a nice and personal basement club feel.
Sure, complain about the lack of diversity in electronic music represented (a few times, I'd walk from one stage to another only to hear the same banger playing from a different set of massive speakers) but anyone who was at Soldier Field could tell you that the festival was a concentrated explosion of bass, lights, beats and energy which is exactly why you would want to be there.
The festival took place at Soldier Field, home of da' Chicago Bears. If you've been in this space for any other event (think sports), seeing the turf packed with a gyrating crowd is absolutely. The sheer scale of everything makes the weekend feel that much more incredible.
Music festivals take note: having vendors walk around selling beer is great. Maybe its not perfect when the average age of the crowd prevents them from buying a tallboy, but I could see this being a hit at festivals where hip dads don't want to lose their spot for Pavement.
Claude Vonstroke B2B Green Velvet
Faces from the crowd