[FESTIVAL/PHOTO RECAP] Spring Awakening 2016 Brings the Heat on and off Stage | Weekend Edition
Saturday’s excruciatingly high temperatures weren’t the only source of very intense heat, as thankfully, plenty of heat was brought on stage by the many exciting performers. Over at the Electronic stage, local stars Porn and Chicken brought their usually energetic show to an eager crowd of fans actively raging along to the act’s racy antics. They preceded the not-as-consistent Sacramento brothers Hippie Sabotage, who amongst other things, easily got the crowd to shout things such as “Fuck Donald Trump” only to later ask them “Who here has a dream?” For those who became interested in the act due to their high profile remix of Tove Lo’s hit Stay High were probably in for a sobering surprise as not much of the group’s set sounded anything like the 2014 smash.
French hipster favorite Gesaffelstein brought more consistency to the stage early evening as he played an energetic and ear-pleasing set consisting of his trademark techno and electronic sound. He was followed by LA native, Flying Lotus, whose experimental and interesting set was definitely a more of an acquired taste. The stage was closed out that evening by the talented Canadian duo Zeds Dead, who brought one of the day’s largest gatherings. Effortlessly mixing house, dubstep, electro, glitch, and hip-hop amongst other genres, the crowd favorite definitely had a bit of something for everyone.
On the opposite end of the park, Dirtybird Records boss Claude VonStroke had the honor of headlining his own stage cleverly named the Bird House with acts such as techno wonder kid Danny Daze, Fortune, Chicago’s very own Steve Gerard, female powerhouse Nicole Moudaber, and English duo Simian Mobile Disco. Techno purists that complain of Moudaber’s hit-or-miss festival track record should have definitely been pleased as the Nigerian-Lebanese cult favorite had everyone present dancing or bobbing heads along to her bouncy and groovy set. VonStroke finished the night with an effortless tried and tested medley of past and present hits easily providing for one of the day’s best and most consistent sets.
In spite of its decline in popularity during the recent years trance enjoyed its own “arena” in one of the second tent-housed stages with acts such as Aly & Fila, Cosmic Gate, and German legend ATB. The late 90’s/early 2000’s hitmaker provided a healthy dose of current trance hits mixed along with updated versions of his own hits such as 9 PM (Till I Come). His incredible ability to engage the crowd has only improved over the years proving that past global chart success can be used to one’s advantage if done right. With blissful melodies and plenty of hands-in-the-air moments, all was right in the Trance Arena on Saturday night.
Chicago native and crowd favorite, Ryan Gary Raddon aka Kaskade, closed out the night over at the main stage with an amazing sing-along worthy set of his many hits to include newer tracks such as Disarm You and Us, past hits such as Never Sleep Alone and Eyes, and a brand-new offering entitled Fakin It. The 45 year-old father of three gave the crowd a heart-filled speech assuring that Chicago will always be his home and that he loves the city and its people. The beautiful pyro-technic display accompanying the last few tracks only accentuated the emotional and breath-taking set providing for some of the festival’s most exciting and must-see moments.
Sunday’s 30-degree temperature drop may have provided a much needed relief for many, although at times, it felt that a sweater was almost necessary. Too bad, this didn’t stop many of the attendees from being poorly underdressed. With beefed up security and better overall organization, it seemed that the festival finally got it right that day.
One of the world’s leading names in dance music, Pete Tong, took over hosting duties for Claude VonStroke the night before with the appropriately renamed smaller-tent stage All Gone Pete Tong. With acts such as Moon Boots, Golf Clap, fellow Brit Maya Jane Coles, and Chicago’s very own house music legend Green Velvet, he ensured that his brand had a little bit of something for everyone, especially those with a more refined ear. Although, Green Velvet played a satisfying but predictable set following Pete’s outstanding selection of some of the hottest Ibiza-ready records, it was Maya Jane Coles who saved the night by delivering a euphoric medley filled with multiple techno bangers that put a smile on even the most fickle of music snobs.
French producer and 22 year-old prodigy Madeon took over the Electronic stage early Sunday evening with his signature electro house sound effortlessly gliding through many of his hits while mixing in various styles and genres to accentuate the often instrumental cuts from some of his older EP’s and last year’s debut album, Adventure. Of note is his fascinating ability to mix in bits and pieces of tracks by artists such as Madonna that in theory should not work, but instead do with fantastic outcomes.
Canadian electronic band Crystal Castles followed Madeon bringing their euphoric electroclash sound with mixed results. New vocalist Edith Frances was intermittently heard resulting in many audience members wondering whether her on-stage dancing (that seemed more performance art resembling a seizure rather than dancing) was partially responsible or whether the constant in-and-out vocal was actually deliberate. The band’s lack of stage presence and engagement with the audience did not help matters as it was hard to tell if they actually cared that they were even there.
Things looked and sounded a lot better over at the DJ Mag stage where the one-man-show Chuckie drove the crowd wild with his incredible ability to connect and feel their energy resulting in what was undoubtedly one of the best and fun-filled performances of the entire festival. The Aruba-based DJ/remixer/producer always looks like he’s having fun and Sunday evening was no exception. Having the ability to play six year-old tracks by Swedish House Mafia and make it work, along with everything else in-between, is undoubtedly a gift not every DJ possesses.
After successful and massive sets from Dash Berlin, Dada Life, and The Chainsmokers on the main stage, festival closing duties were handed over to English trance superstar trio, Above & Beyond. To millions of trance fans around the world the group needs no introduction and this was certainly also evident in Chicago as many gathered for the guys’ set while singing along to almost every single track. Above & Beyond’s beautiful melodies and arrangements coupled with emotional and deep lyrics seem to resonate with every type of audience and transcend trends and genres. Few can argue that tracks like Thing Called Love and Sun & Moon are nothing short of electronic masterpieces made perfect for a festival setting or the car ride home after. As the festival drew to a close with unforgettable melodies, it was hard to imagine a more ideal finale.
With a new location, unbearable heat, and 55 hospitalizations over the weekend, Spring Awakening Music Festival 2016 could’ve easily been a disaster; however, it was anything but. With React Presents’ years of experience, it seems the festival organizers were prepared for it all. With plenty of food stands, merchandise shops, ground entertainers, and even carnival rides, this year’s event easily had something for everyone, including, most importantly, the multiple genres of music and over a hundred artists from all over the world. As the interface of EDM and electronic music overall keeps evolving it was pretty clear that sets and performances either hit the bullseye or almost entirely missed it. It is likely as tastes continue to change and more sub-genres keep popping up almost daily that things may again, look quite different in a year from now; but don’t worry, React Presents is already on it.