When I first moved to this city, I was told that Chicago summers are a completely different world. The food, festivals, and nightlife all morph into a completely new experience. Restaurants have opened their patios, nightclubs unlocked their rooftops, and once again Soldier Field (the home of the Chicago Bears) opened its gates to become the beating heart of the third annual Spring Awakening Music Festival.
From the moment I set foot on my Chicago red line train to head south, I knew this city was ready for the weekend ahead. Hours before the gates were to open, trains were already packed shoulder-to-shoulder with smiling faces and body glitter. Everyone was excited and exchanging high-fives as we eagerly awaited our arrival at the Roosevelt stop. As the subway doors opened, the flood of passionate fans ascended the staircases onto the streets to make the mile-long trek.
As everyone streamed from different subway exits we all flowed together becoming one giant river of fluorescent-clad EDM fans. Donning bright beads and dark shades, the current moved slowly towards a pulsing Soldier Field. Those new to the festival chatted about their favorite performers they were planning on seeing for the day, while festival veterans with camelbacks at the ready were preparing for some marathon-length dancing.
Attendees were spoiled by not only the lineup, but with incredible weather the entire weekend. The sun was out in a clear blue sky and the slight breeze off of the lake made it an absolutely perfect atmosphere. There could not have been a better forecast for all three days.
Spring Awakening had an amazing lineup of talent from around the world, and it was painful to have to make difficult stage choices for the crowd. There was a lot of older talent and some newer up-and-comers to the scene, making for an unforgettable weekend.
Destroid was one of the most eye-catching acts at Spring Awakening. I was unfamiliar with them prior to being here, but they definitely grabbed my attention the moment they took to the Equinox stage. For those unfamiliar, Destroid is a dubstep group wearing futuristic ($1 million, according to the group) robotic suits with digital guitars and drums. Let that sink in for a moment. YouTube does not do these guys justice as their live performances are something special -- you have to experience it firsthand.
Eric Prydz and Tiesto were the final two performers on the Bud Light Platinum stage. These two were an incredible pair to wind down day one. Prydz lead strong into the night with his mix of house and progressive, asking “If every day goes like this, how do we survive?” in his song, “Every Day.” He kept a great pace moving the crowd to his legendary tunes, ("Pjanoo" and "Liberate"!) as the clock ticked closer until the final performer. As Prydz finished his set, there was a distinct moment where you felt the entire stadium perk up, regaining their strength for the last performer of the night.
Once Tiesto took the stage, he again reminded everyone why he is a legend in the scene. Playing some more recent favorites like Ellie Goulding's "Burn," and "Better When We're Wasted," Tiesto brought Friday night to an exciting close.
Flux Pavillion played one of the heaviest dubstep sets I’ve ever experienced. Each track had the entire field jumping and demanding more. When Flux played his remix of “Cracks (Freestylers),” the crowd went wild, bobbing in rhythm with the beat. At one point in the mix, much to the amusement of everyone, a pair of green-suited acrobats rolled across the crowd in giant inflatable hamster balls.
I’ve seen Steve Aoki once before at Summerfest in 2012 and it was fantastic. He’s known for creating one of the best atmospheres in the business and he certainly delivered once again. Simply put, Steve Aoki did exactly what Steve Aoki does: he brought energy, excitement, and two massive sheet cakes. Before he was to even take the stage, he made cameo during NERVO’s set exciting the audience even more. When he finally took the stage, the crowd was eagerly awaiting the traditional caking ceremony throughout his set and Aoki did not disappoint! He leaped down to the lower tiers of the stage, eyeing up his target, and unleashed frosted hell onto the front row. To ultimately bring this performance to another level, one of my favorites tracks was played, “Turbulence.” There was a surprise visit by Steve Aoki’s partner-in-crime, Laidback Luke, prompting a fantastic reenactment of their joint music video.
The final performer of the festival was Kaskade and he absolutely killed. As a Chicago resident, I am slightly biased, but there could not have been a more perfect person to bring this festival to a close. You could tell how proud he was to be representing his home town. Kaskade took to the microphone to remind this stadium that Chicago was the birthplace of house music, and there was no better place to be than right here in Soldier Field. The finale had everything: fireworks, smokescreens, streamers, and dozens of giant inflatable Spring Awakening inflatable balls being pumped around the audience.
During his set, Kaskade sharply faded into to “Last Chance.” Everyone in attendance wrapped their arms over each others shoulders and joined together to sing, “This is my one last chance, my one last chance to breathe.” As soon as we all came together it only took a quick slide of the fader, and we were back going strong to more deep house. Unfortunately, due to local regulations the concert hard-stop was at 11pm, and we weren’t able to have the encore that the audience was pleading for. Kaskade hopped up on his deck and took a bow to a sea of screaming fans, proudly thanking everyone before disappearing behind the scenes.
The stage went dark and the wind began to pick up; the finale was a perfect end to an amazing Spring Awakening weekend spent with thousands of the friendliest people on Earth.