The first days anticipation was at an all time high as the blue line approached Jackson so we could hop onto the Red to our final destination and enter the mother ship at Soldier Field. Being that it was my first actual festival that I got in legitimately I was mad hyped that I didn’t even notice the hordes of scantily clad neon bodies filling the train and roads leading to the Spring Awakening Music Festival. I couldn’t register or even start to comprehend that I was going to rage out to sounds of Bart B More, A-Trak, Dillon Francis and Skrillex all in one day; then come back the next day to rebuild and then destroy myself once again to the incredible sounds of Will Joy, Diplo, Shermanology, Felix Cartal, DIPLO and Moby! What a feeling. As Soldier Field peeked out from behind the Field Museum, literally looking like a space ship had landed on the lake front, sending out messages to the thousands making the pilgrimage to SAMF.
The aftermath of what was the Spring Awakening Music Festival still reverberates within my collective EDM soul. As I close my eyes the bass kicks, the treble spits, bright and shiny sun rays pound down on thousands of neon clad bodies, love mixed with a few other herbal essences in the air and the absolute grandness and uniqueness of the venue made for an experience like no other. Yes you can go to Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and the countless other outdoor events in Chicago this summer but who can say they raged out to Skrillex in the rain on the 50th yard line of Soldier Field… well I know of a few thousand that did and we all got a story to tell, so sit back as you part take on my journey through my words and the visuals of Zach into the house of EDM at the Spring Awakening Music Festival.
Day 1 June 16th 2012, 2:00 PM
Waiting for the entire IMF family to come through gave me a chance to meet some pretty interesting people waiting to get in and stuck trying to get through. A lot of confused travelers and lost tourist to Soldier Field were greeted by thousands of yelling youths dress in all forms. It must have been something out of this world for them. The herds of tank tops and crisp trucker hats marked with “Swag” “Rage” “Love” were everywhere. But it was the music that filled the surroundings, vibrating off of the great walls of the historic Soldier Field.
Three stages of pure dance music scattered around the perimeter outside of the main stage or Da Main Stage as they so cleverly named it. The sound systems at each stage were definitely on point and all turned on to bone crushing, heart pumping maximum. Drinks, food, and merchandise flowed like a river everywhere with everyone snatching up some piece of this historic event. There was no real wait in line and everything was super professional, though I did hate the whole VIP thing and how they handled it. My beef wasn’t with access it was more with how at each tent the VIP section was always empty and the DJ stage was so far away from the actual people who wanted to be close to the speakers/DJs because of it, though the main stage had no such area (thank you).
As we entered my iPhone was loaded up with set schedules and a map of the whole grounds, so I was off to Krewella, who was just finishing up their set after spilling a bottle of Whiskey on their equipment; they were definitely a wild show. Nobody Beats The Drum were next but for some reason I couldn’t catch their whole vibe so I was off. Leaving the Equinox stage behind for Da Drive Stage and a little 3LAU. Having no idea of who or what to expect I was greeted by the masses of jumping bodies and the sweet sounds of house; I was home! Not only was I surprised by the energy and the great crowd control I definitely became a fan.
An hour later and a few brain cells lost along the ride, the monster called Bart Bmore hopped on stage. Starting off with his remix of “Take Me High” and ending with some organized noise Bart proved to be not only a dope producer but a DJ who knew what the people wanted. After his set I could definitely feel my energy level dropping fast but it was off to “Da Main Stage” for a little Midnight Conspiracy, but once again the crowd disappointed me and I made my way back to Da Drive Stage for some Joachim Garraud. It was deja-vu all over again; I had no idea what to expect but I was greeted with open arms and that rhythmic bass! By this point I’ve been raging for a few hours and the sun plus the heat was getting to me so I had to leave my group of jumping strangers to meet up with the rest of the IMF crew..
A-Trak was up next at the main stage and what a show. Trizzy had complete control on the decks as well as the crowd as he effortlessly blew through and hour show of his own productions, remixes and Fools Gold reps. This was the third time this year I’ve seen A-Trak and I’ve yet to hear the same set, he is truly the embodiment of the DJ/Producer/Showmen.
With A-Trak winding down, it was off to da Equinox for a little Dillon Francis antics. So I strapped on my baggie and took flight, but there must have been some type of kryptonite around cause I had no pep in my step. Could it be, I might have to sit this one out. Well it was and I regret ever moment as I watched from outside the tent the crowd go bananas while I sat and ate some pizza with a few strangers as they explained to me how they were all law students and if I had any criminal cases pending they could help me with. After a much needed rest, food in my belly and an earful of criminal law I was off again to da main stage for a little of that old school house from the legend, Benny Benassi.
As the sun set neon hula hoops, glow sticks and the lasers took over. Benny held the crowd in a trance for the first thirty minutes and just as fast as he came on stage it was over. WTF, mate! Did the world end, did the money not go through or was there something else. Who knows and who cares because the crowd dispersed just enough to where I got to move on up to the front of the stage for the headliner of the night, the three time grammy award winning dub step monster Skrillex!
A giant robotic pyrotechnic behemoth took over the main stage and from it emerged the man of the hour, Skirllex! Picking up where Benny Benasi left off, Skrillex dropped jewel after jewel of dub step organized noise on the congregation of bass munching masses. Mid way through his set the weather, which till this point cooperated perfectly, started to bring down a few drizzles. There was a collective scream of OH SHIT, though not audible thats what it sounded like, and the lasers took to the sky. Mixed with the drizzle, the lasers seemed to be sprinkling down magical essences on the raging masses.
Skrillex took to the mic and said “Chicago if the rain doesn’t kill my machines or Me we’re going to keep on going” as the crowd yelled out collectively “YEAH!”. Every two minutes or so the rain would start up again and then to come down harder and harder. Soaking wet and in complete rage mode the pyrotechnics went off in a huge cloud of smoke but the bass kept coming. By this time, the sugar coated peoples thought they would melt so a lot of them ran off for some shelter but those that stayed got an experience like no other. Making my way to the 50 yard line, just behind the sound booth, I met up with a bunch of dancers all in their own world oblivious to the rain and crowd around them so I joined and spent the rest of the night dub stepping with them. Hurt feet, tired soul, soaking wet and ears ringing; it was over but the journey had just begun. I couldn’t wait for day 2.
Day 2 June 17th 2012, 2:30PM: Expect the unexpected
Fully recovered and stretched out completely, I wasn’t going to let my excitement get the best of me this time around. It was a big night of must see acts and unexpected wonders. Ticket in hand I entered stage left and was instantly transported to another world as I stepped into SAMF day 2. Running a little late as always, I was trying to catch at least the last 30 minutes of Chicago’s own Robots On the Run, but before I could even make it into the main stage my ears were filled with the sounds of Moombahton coming from Team Bayside over at the Equinox stage and never made it that far as I was drawn to that sound like a moth to the light. Making my way up to the front, there again it was, the empty VIP section with three people looking at the DJ while the crowd behind the VIP were up in a roar dancing and jumping. But I digress. Team Bayside really brought it hard and set up the stage for another Chicago monster, Willy Joy!
Even though the tent reeked of a gym locker room, from the rain last night and dead grass, Willy Joy rocked the Equinox stage, or as I came later to know it as the Super Me and U tent, like no other. It was a preview of what was to come from Felix, Datsik and Diplo. Willy dropped tune after tune of moombahton cuts and bass heavy gems including some wild post apocalyptic trap remixes and exclusive production never heard until that day. It’s going to be a huge summer for this dude no doubt.
Making my way down to the Drive stage I could already hear the sounds of Shermanology taking over so I hurried it up and squeezed my way through the sea of hands in the air. Now, as a preface to my whole Shermanology experience, I only heard one song and a few video episodes of the group and didn’t expect much from the show. But boy was I wrong, if they were the only group I saw that day I would have been a happy soul. The way that they all played off of the crowd, the way that those angelic voices reverberated the crowd and the messages they sent out into the masses, I felt as if it was 1979 in Chicago at the Wearhouse (the birth place of House Music) and the people around me were just full of love. Shermanology definitely take top honors after that hour of love that they showed to the Chicago crowd.
After the Shermanology experience happened I was on cloud 9, flying high on the vibe as Nervo came out looking like some fine ass Marry Kate and Ashley sisters. But I didn’t get to stay long for their performance as I had a little journey to go see some Oliver Twist. By this time the rest of the IMF fan came through but we were all scattered around. And thanks to AT&T and their shitty ass service at Soldier Field it looked like I would be making new friends for the rest of the night. As Oliver Twist wrapped up a bass heavy set a short little Canadian fellow with a Marty McFly haircut by the name of Felix Cartel took over the reigns and completely destroyed the crowd. “Don’t Turn Off The Lights” still plays in my head as I close my eyes. I can hear the crowd signing right a long. After being blasted for a few hours from the likes of Willy Joy to Shermanology to Oliver Twist and Felix Cartel, I had to sit the next one out to fill the tank.
Next up was Datsik, and the bass hungry masses ran to the light. From right outside the tent I was able to witness, as I ate two slices of pizza and a RedBull, the blender effect of Datsik. What seemed like thousands of hands in the air rocking back and forth in sync rhythmically to the utter chaos that pumped out the speakers was purely amazing. I was just glad I sat this one out but mad at the same time. At least I got to observe and interact with the crowd outside of the tent just sprawled out along the grassy noel.
Now for some reason once Datsik was finishing up, masses of people were off heading to the main stage for a little Flux Pavilion but I wasn’t having that. I made my way up to front stage of the Equinox where Datsik blasted us with the sounds of a classic Snoop & Dre record and set the stage for mister Mad Decent, one half of Major Lazer, the express yourself body rocker, DIPLO!
Now this was my first Diplo set ever, even after going to every block party since 2009, so I was mad hyped to say the least. Mixing the unorthodox styles of hip hop with dub step and post apocalyptic trap and post zombie nation rave, Diplo commanded the crowd with easy. Balls flew in the air and crazy bodies jumped up and down as Diplo pushed the crowds buttons. Calling on stage the hoochies to “Express Their Selfs” and throwing bottles of cold water into sea of bodies. Luckily no one got hurt. Seeing the ridiculousness of the VIP Diplo skipped those bougie pompous asses and headed into the real fans for a huge stage dive. It was an experience like no other. I wanted to stay for Laidback Luke but I was mad courious to see what a ‘DJ Set’ from Moby would be like, and at that time I had enough of the gym locker room smell of the Equinox.
Diplo dropped a brand new Major Lazer record for the crowd and the place went bananas. Check the video as I captured the moment live.
On my trek to the main stage I met up with a bunch of colorful youths from the Diplo set who adopted me into their group and off we were to Moby. It seemed as if day two of SAMF was about breaking preconceived notions of what to expect and just go with the flow on a clean slate. That couldn’t be more true about the one they call MOBY. Who knew he could through down like that, it was seriously the highlight of the entire fest. Bass high treble low and a laser show to keep the thousands in attendance hypnotized in a trance. Incredible period. This should have been the headliner of day 2 not Afrojack.
So now for the only negative part of the whole review. I’ll try to keep it to a few sentences, concerning the set that Afrojack put on. One, it was no good. I love Afrojack as a producer but as a Headlining act, no way dude. Two, there was this pre-recorded voice of him saying CHICAGO ARE you blah blah blah,. WTF mate! I don’t know what he was thinking or what the people were feeling but I was definitely not enjoying the show. So I was off, I finally saw some of my IMF fam during the last five minutes of the show and they were heading off to the after parties but I was a cooked turkey, exhausted and beat. So back to the Red and on to the Blue as I left Chicago and the mothership. I will always love you SAMF, thanks for the memories!
Day 1 recap: the cliff notes
- Krewella over all at the three spot with Big Once over taking ever so often at “Da Colonnades”
- 3LAU over Zebo and Nobody Beats the Drum (sorry Andre)
- Bart B More over Designer Drugs, Nathan Scott and Manic Focus
- Joachim Garraud over Midnight Conspiracy, Downlink and Chris V
- A-trak over Morgan Page, Kill the Noise and Phenom
- Dillon Francis over Ferry Corsten, Gariel & Dresden and Gun Love
- Absolutely disapointed at Benny Benasi for just stopping
- Skirllex unequivocally KILLED IT! Womp Womp!
Day 2 recap: the cliff notes
- Team Bayside High over Robots on the Run, NORdjs, Funk Shui
- Will Joy over Stratus, Quintino, Lips N Meister
- SHERMANOLOGY over all!
- Should of stayed for Nervo but Oliver Twist did his thing
- Felix Cartal rocked everybody over Green Velvet, R3hab, Milk n Cookies
- Datsik over Carl Cox, Arty, and Jack Trash
- DIPLO OVER EVERYONE (Flux Pavillion, Hardwell, and Topher Jones)
- MOBY OVER EVERYONE (Wolfgang Gartner, LL, and Paper Cha$er)
- afrojack blew! If I could erase this experience and keep all the awesomeness that Willy Joy, Shermanology, Felix Cartel, Datsik, Diplo and Moby showed me I would be a happy soul.
Everything was clean and professional. There was hardly any wait inline. Tons of volunteer workers and venders willing to help out any time. Bathrooms were on point, and you only had to wait a minute or two for one. Plenty of refreshments, from beer to H2O and everything in-between. The VIP sections at the tents sucked mad balls and hosted nothing but bougie ass photographers and people with no rhythm who just paid huge amounts of money to stand and watch the DJ. The VIP section at the main stage was perfect only for the fact that those pompous ass people were up and out of the way of the real hardcore fans. Soldier Field is an amazing venue and I just wish more events happen like this. Church!
The CTA and the Cabs of Chicago rule. No complaints.
My ears are still ringing.
Special thanks to everyone at React Presents and all the people who made the 2012 Spring Awakening Festival possible!