CHICAGO, IL - Spring Awakening Music Festival. Chicago’s biggest electronic music festival that’s been going on every year since 2012. This festival used to take place at the iconic Soldier Field, but now resides in Addams/Medill park in Pilsen. If you are ever looking for a place to feel completely free and enjoy talented Chicago artists and touring acts from around the world, this is the place to spend the beginning of your summer.
This year brought in the electronic music fans of all genres: the head bangers, the trapolics, the trance lovers, and house fanatics. There were five stages this year, two of them being branded/themed stages. The Solstice stage being the main stage, Equinox being the second stage and the Silent Disco. The branded stages on stage three were Dancing Astronaut, Bass Kitchen, and Trance Arena. The fourth branded stage included Anjunadeep, Body Language, and Sunday School. All these stages gave fans plenty of genres and styles to choose from each day.
The weekend was a scorcher, ranging in the high 80’s and 90’s. Spring Awakening always cares about their attendees, there were cooling buses and misting fans at various places in the fest including the main stage! The only downside was not enough water filling stations, however, I noticed staff handing out water bottles to the crowd to help combat this. Not only was I impressed by their attention to care, but their attention to detail, as all their stages were carefully constructed to fit the look of the SA logo, as well as colors. The people are really what made this festival, however. The Chicago flags, the caring and kindness of others...in Chicago people always want to meet you. The festival was surrounded with carnival rides, that way if you wanted to cool off you can ride some rides and enjoy the view. We all come together for the music, so let’s dive into what makes this music festival so impressive...the music!
To open day one of Spring Awakening 2017, Chicago local group Axilon took on the Dancing Astronaut stage, one of the many themed stages that Spring Awakening had this year. The stage was under a tent decked out in shimmering disco balls. Well over 2,000 people showed up to start their day listening to Axilon’s music ranging from future bass, trap, dubstep, electro house, and hardstyle. The duo, members Skyler Shores and M.D.P., played a bunch of new tracks and originals. My favorite part was when they dropped a rendition/edit of “In Too Deep” by Sum 41-I didn't see one person not singing along at the stage. This hasn’t been the first time Axilon has performed at Spring Awakening, and it won’t be the last.
Of course, it’s not a festival without an infamous silent disco. The silent disco was in a pretty accessible spot this year. It was right in front of the Equinox stage, so it was not easy to miss. I usually find the silent disco to be quite the awkward spot...all the people dancing, and from the outside it doesn’t look like much, till you actually have the headphones on and are experiencing what goes on inside…."POPPIN" was an understatement. I got to experience the intimate gathering for Elevated, another talented Chicago-native who throws down only the dirtiest trap and bass. The stage was intimate, nothing fancy at all, just a DJ table which made the vibe relaxed. The headphones were noise-canceling, so I couldn’t hear a thing going on at the stages around us. The hilarious part was everyone around me being so into the set...they were attempting to take videos of which they may or may not have realized the videos wouldn’t pick up the headphone sound. Elevated was putting on for us, but the surrounding noise. But I think that made it all so much more special. Forgetting about the videos for a second and really enjoying each others company, while getting lost into the music yourself without any distractions.
Next there was the madness that is, Louis the Child at the Equinox stage. Yet another chicago-based group consisting of members Robby & Freddy. They started to play around mid-day almost around sunset, and if you know their future bass style, it was a beautiful melodic way to slow down and relax before the rage-filled nights. They played their hit song feat K.Flay, “It’s Strange” which holds a special place in any LTC fan’s heart. I saw friends wrapping arms around each other and rocking back and forth, looking at each other singing, “It’s strange, but I don’t need space from you...” I saw young lovebirds exchange hugs and kisses during the words, “and everything single thing you do, I like.” The words of the song lyrics came up one by one on the five visual board panels on the Equinox stage. It was one of those surreal moments that makes you love how music brings us together. Once they made our hearts feel all warm and fuzzy they decided to turn up the heat and brought out some surprise guests on stage! Josh from Flosstradamus and rapper Towkio (MORE Chicago-based artists) joined them for a special guest appearance. That is the best part about Spring Awakening, you will always get some surprises and pop-in performances from the Chicago’s music leaders in the scene. It’s a Spring Awakening secret treat that happens nearly every year! The four performed “Gang With Me” on stage which caught everyone’s attention.
I was joined at Equinox stage once again for the ninja warrior of the electronic scene, Datsik. Troy Beetles, the notorious Canadian dubstep producer, has been changing the game lately. Datsik recently added a mysterious gimmick to his brand, his asian-conical hat garnished with LED’s. This fits his brand so well with his song “Katana” and the idea of the ninjas being us as fans. It’s inspiring to see him up there at Equinox because I saw Datsik play the very first year of Spring Awakening--and seeing how he's evolved as a producer. The difference in his act was the crowd, the music, his image. So many fans scattered around in full ninja attire. Troy played a handful of old tracks like “Swagga” and “Light the Fuse” which of course was well-recieved from the crowd. He also played new tracks like “Tatrum” and “Katana”.
Let us not forget--it’s not Chicago without HOUSE MUSIC! Closing out the night with the legend, Benny Benassi, house music extraordinaire from Italy. Back at The Dancing Astronaut stage I had the “satisfaction” (wink wink) of seeing him perform many house music/electro house hits from over the years. Including satisfaction, which is always a throw back to being a youngster blasting it on the school bus on your little ipod mini. Or maybe that’s just me! But the beauty of hearing “Cinema” in its original form (not the skrillex remix), is also a real treat! The laser beams and lights flashing blue was quite astounding. The sea of people went as far back as the ferris wheel! You can’t possibly close out a night without pouring your soul out to some classic Benassi tracks.
A new adventure begins. Starting the afternoon noon off with a wave of heat and wind that will remind you why Chicago is called “The Windy City”. What better to start the day off with than two brothers from Chicago, High Five and Who Cares? These two sibling Bryan Gorecki (High Five), and Jon Gorecki (Who Cares), were the first to start on the Solstice stage (main stage) playing back to back. Their style ranges from deep house all the way to heavy bass music. There is always many late bloomers that come the second day of the set so this was a close gathering of people, plenty of space. And plenty of space calls for flow artists and shufflers! And while i’m watching the dancers of the crowd in their element, walking closer to the front of the stage...I notice how gigantic this stage is. It is honestly one of those euphoric feelings when you get so stand up next to something so tall, it’s a masterpiece of architectural art. Not to mention the middle is a lime green/yellowish trapezoid which alludes to the SA logo.
To continue on the voyage, I spent the rest of the afternoon camping out at the Equinox stage. The Equinox stage ultimately ends up being where most of the magic happens of the weekend. Saturday was the day for girl power, if I say so myself. Our favorite colorful haired woman-crush Mija, presented us with her collage of sounds. Mija is more of a jack of all trades as far as not labeling her music in any particular genre. But she did put on one hell of a show ranging from deep beats, house, trap, a little drum and bass vibes AND throwbacks. She played a version/remix of “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia which for any rave kid, thats a tear jerker. I was not prepared to bust out my fellow emo days but she did it….”I Write Sins Not Tradegies” by Panic at the Disco. No one could ever resist those lyrics, they are just simply engraved in your mind. There was a group in the audience next to me actually acting out the music video scenes of the song, the theatrics were real. Pure and sweet, nostalgia.
As if Mija throwing down some Panic at the Disco wasn’t nostalgic enough, the next to perform was Krewella. I know there are so many opinions on Krewella, but these ladies are some magical beings. They put their heart and soul into what they do, and their performance spoke for itself. The sisters Jahan and Yasmine opened with welcoming us and saying “Chicago, it feels good to be home.” and the crowd cheered to welcome them back. They were the completion of this “girl power” day. I heard discussions between some guys mentioning that they crushed hard on Krewella over the years. I even heard women talking about how much a inspirations they were to the women in the electronic music scene. When they first arrived in the scene, they were the definition of different. We got a taste of that when both Jasmine and Jahan sang “Killin’ It” and “Come and Get It”. Towards the end of their performance they continued to play old hit after old hit. I could hear people gasping in excitement all around me. It must of sparked bringing people back to the early raving years because it left me and a few other ladies streaming tears down our faces.
After the tears were swept away and it was time to collect myself, it was time to move on to something different...some classic headbanging dubstep with the dinosaur guru, Excision. Excision also known as Jeff Abel, is one of the biggest names in dubstep with a huge following. Although he did not bring the Paradox with him as visuals, he still didn’t hesitate to blow our minds. Opening the set slow and suspensive, the crowd was decked out in “I’m a f***ing headbanga” shirts just standing there with no movement in awe. As soon as the build up for the drop came into his first intro, all the headbangers broke loose into a sea of mosh pits and head banging. Excision played fan favorites like “Throwing Elbows”, in which you can assume many people took that literally and actually threw elbows. Also classics like “X Rated” and “The Paradox”
Last but not least, day three.
This was a mixture of a unique range of artists, starting with Mr. Carmack at the Equinox. What did I tell you? The Equinox stage was the spot. Mr. Aaron Carmack, or as i like to call him ‘King Carmack’ comes all the way from California. His genre ranges from hip hop, trap, chill, etc. Since the sun was boiling in with a little less wind as Sunday, his set was the perfect one to relax too. People were taking covers by the rail for some shade, while others just baked in the sun. The visuals projected on stage were showing a glitchy native american indian and a glitchy candy skull, which I felt like represented Carmack’s image well. The set really bounced around a lot in genres, from a little bit of dubstep and snippets of tracks from Bassnectar and Emalkay. I was actually quite in shock but impressed. By the looks of others, they were quite impressed as well. He deserved a standing ovation for innovation. Carmack truly never disappointments me. At the end of his set, like Louis the Child, also brought on rapper Towkio. Mr. Carmack played Towkio’s song “Gang With Me”. A whole bunch of dudes in the crowd all came together and sang the lyrics together. It was a bit of a change from the electronic music I was hearing all weekend, but totally impressive.
Now let’s head back to the dubstep world with Spag Heddy at the Bass Kitchen stage. The vibrant visuals of spaghetti and dollar bills were scrolling across the screen at the stage, which I got a kick out of. These visuals were illuminating the entire crowd under the tent, and it looked insane. Just as there were plenty of head bangers at Excision on Saturday, there was just as many attending Spag Heddy, and he sure threw down a lively set.
Right across from Spag Heddy, was JAUZ at the Solstice stage. Jauz, Sam Vogel, has been absolutely inspiring over the years making a big name for himself quick. Everyone knows Jauz for his mixed producing style, creating music in different genres like dubstep, deep house, future bass and even some trap music. His sets take you on a different journey of dancing every time. From head banging to 2-stepping, and that’s exactly what happened. From “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics to “Feel The Volume” and of course “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan. There were ladies decked out in shark onesies with the sides cut out to be a set of shark teeth. There were plenty of totems with Jauz’s symbol, (vvv). It wasn’t hard to tell that many people came to Spring Awakening just to see Jauz on Sunday.
On the other side of the festival there was a completely different kind of mayhem going on. There always has to be a weird act of the bunch, someone that brings a unique performance. Let me tell you...Die Antwoord was a whole other level of strange. If you’re a unusual human like I am, this was the performance you needed all weekend. The rappers, Ninja and Yolandi Visser are a group from South Africa known for their artistic and absurd cultural hip-hop music. The duo came out to greet everyone and it was pretty difficult to understand their english with their thick accents. They had several costume changes and back up dancers/performers with coordinating outfits. They didn’t hesitate to turn heads, it kept me hooked. Ninja made a couple of stage dives which I heard many people got some battle wounds from, but all in good fun. The art in the visuals is a big part of who Die Antwoord is. They had alien’s with marijuana leaf eyes, and giant penis’s and sperm floating on the screen, it was wild and caused a lot of laughter. They performed a few well known tracks, “I Fink U Freeky”, “Fatty Boom Boom” and “Baby’s On Fire”.
As Spring Awakening came to a close, I have to say that this was one of the best Spring Awakening’s in the six years the festival has been running. Although many of us missed the beloved Soldier Field, the perks of Addams/Medill park are refreshing and make the festival feel like a new home. The production value was simplistic and grand, the stages were easy to get to and weren’t too much of a hike. The performances always show Spring Awakening’s diversity of always bringing all different styles of dance music for any EDM lover. The themed stages, The Dancing Astronaut, The Bass Kitchen, The Trance Arena, bring new crowds for every day, they cater to all of us. Besides the extreme heat and lack of water stations, it all worked itself. They accommodated after the first day and made it work, they always find a way to care about their attendees. After being here for all three days, I feel a sense of self. You get caught up in the stress of life, and everyone deserves time to unwind. Spring Awakening brought laughs and smiles, nostalgia and hope. Electronic music is still so much more alive than I ever thought. It truthfully reminds me to never grow up, be myself and enjoy every moment you experience with the friends and strangers around you. This festival is the awakening to a new chapter of life every year.
Written by Erica Steinhouse