On the weekend of June 10, 2017 in the center of Chicago, Spring Awakening Music Festival blew up the city with a varied lineup featuring musicians from house, dubstep, and funk amongst other genres. Taking place in Addams/Medill Park, the festival was a short 10 minute Uber from the Loop, and easily accessible for those in the outskirts of the city. Upon entering the gates, any festival goer would be immediately welcomed by the magic of the electronic community.
In technical matters Spring Awakening did not necessarily excel. Despite the short lines for security and wristband scanning, other aspects of the festival fell short. The most prominent being the long lines for free water. On a weekend where the temperature hit the high 80s and 90s, water was a crucial element in ensuring not only a fun weekend, but a safe one. However, only four water stations were available in the whole venue, with rumors that some were broken. This resulted in excessively long lines that twisted into and blocked off walkways. After waiting a full hour and a half to fill my reusable water bottle, I ultimately decided to leave the line and simply purchase water instead of missing more acts. That’s right, an hour and a half, and I still was waiting in line.
While I never saw the water faucets myself nor attempted to at any point after my first attempt that weekend, many fellow festival goers claimed that the water barely dribbled out. I imagine that dribbling water isn’t the most efficient way to fill camelbacks or even a standard water bottle. In addition, the vendors sold water bottles for $4 causing most of my allotted food budget to be spent on hydrating myself—a situation I’ve never experienced at another music festival. In terms of food the festival appeared to have a variety of options from booths with Asian and Mexican food to food trucks from local favorites such as Cheesies.
Despite the long wait for water, the festival made sure there was almost no wait for acts. Almost every artist showed up on time (minus Krewella who was about 30 minutes late) and, with a set change ranging from 10-30 minutes, I was impressed.
Yet what the festival lacked in organization it made up for with the lineup. On Friday I set out to see the Chicago based duo Louis the Child drop their signature remixes and crowd favorite singles. While the two catered to the crowd with a mixture of electronic music and popular music, their mixing was lackluster. But while the transitions were choppy, the set was still one to dance to. Promptly after dubstep artist Datsik unleashed his heavy beats and wubby drops to a crowd filled with bassheads. Just like every other time I have seen him line, he did not fail to deliver. Leaving Datsik’s set a little early, I caught the last half hour of Marshmello and to my surprise he too was dropping dirtier than usual music. But, the producer still incorporated his signature pop and future bass sounds. To round out the first night Galantis closed the Equinox stage with a set that was upbeat, high-energy, and easy to dance to. While there were a few abrupt transitions and tense build ups with unsatisfactory drops, the pop duo mixed it up by incorporating trap into the set.
Despite the sweltering heat and humidity on Saturday, each artist playing gave it their all. Malaa’s deep house set was smooth and steady with the perfect flow of build ups and drops. However, Krewella stole the spotlight for daytime acts with their high energy, dancing, impeccable mixing, and live singing. The two sisters, who are Chicago natives, deviated from their top 40 sound with heavy drops, killer remixes, and speeding visuals. After the two kickass females left the stage, the suave musician Zhu came out accompanied by a guitarist and saxophone player. All three were dressed in all-black and flowing black kimonos. The live music component along with his genre defying sounds made Zhu’s performance stand out amongst others that weekend. Finally, Mad Decent owner and trap icon Diplo closed out the main stage with a performance for the books. Outstanding visuals, pounds of confetti, and blasts of fire made the trap producers performance one that left me breathless from dancing, singing along, and sheer admiration. His transitions were perfect and his song choice varied. His performance stood out as the second best for the entire weekend.
Sunday proved to be my favorite day of the entire festival. Daytime acts included Mr. Carmack, Porn and Chicken, What so Not, and Die Antwoord. While Mr. Carmack played a dirty set with some stellar dubby drops, after an hour it got a bit repetitive. I temporarily left to check out Porn and Chicken, a duo I had never heard before let alone expected to see, and was pleasantly surprised with the performance. The djs brought an amusingly punk rock inspired set featuring a man in a chicken costume and dancers in all leather. Afterwards, Australian producer and dj What So Not took the stage. His surreal sounds were dramatic and signature. However, whether it was the sound system or incessant wind, the music sounded a little off and shrill. After What So Not came Duke Dumont with an upbeat house set featuring both tropical and electro music. The energy in the crowd was high and optimistic making it the perfect atmosphere to dance in. In a quick change of mood, South African rap duo Die Antwoord took the stage and threw a performance that was equal parts fun and downright weird. I can say with certainty the performance is one I will never forget and I am grateful I was able to catch the iconic duo before they break up for good. To close the festival, funk master Griz played the best set of the weekend. Each time I see the producer he puts his heart and soul into the performance, bringing good vibes and impressive musical talent. Accompanied by Muzzy Bear, Griz incorporated live music, old school classics, hip-hop, and jazz into his set. With seamless transitions and impeccable visuals, the set seemed to fly in a blur and left me in awe. It was the perfect artist to conclude the weekend with.
While Spring Awakening did not necessarily stand out in terms of summer music festivals, it is definitely a must if you are in the Chicago area.