Spring Awakening Music Festival: 68 Artists, 2 Days & 1 Wild Weekend in Chicago
Skrillex is an alien.
Or at least it sure seems that way as he stands atop a colossal space ship shooting streams of lasers across the crowd on a rain soaked Saturday night in Chicago. Soldier Field may be the smallest stadium in the NFL, but this past weekend it was home to one of the largest electronic dance music festivals that the city has ever seen. Spring Awakening Music Festival featured an array of artists spanning all genres and generations of electronic music, from fore fathers of techno like Moby and Carl Cox to new names like Kill The Noise and Arty.
The stadium’s immense concrete columns exude history and illustrate the irony of such an old venue hosting a festival for such a new style of music. While Woodstock symbolized the spirit of the 1960s, festivals such as Spring Awakening exemplify the technology and attitude of a new millennium in music.
“It reminds me a lot of the Grateful Dead shows I saw when I was young,” says security guard Steve Callahaan as he sprays sweaty groups of bystanders with a fire hose adding, “the music may be different but the vibe is still the same.”
Our cultural evolution from tie-dye and guitar solos to neon and bass heavy backbeats is the inevitable effect of our landscape and lifestyles being so significantly shaped by technology. My grandma may think that Skrillex sounds like her computer crashing, but to millions of people worldwide this style of technology driven dance music is much more than just bleeps and bass. Which is why thousands of fans from all across the country came to Chicago to partake in these two days of electronic euphoria.
It’s one thing to simply listen to this type of music but it’s another thing to be immersed in it and actually feel the bass rattle your rib cage. Soldier Field was transformed into an atmosphere of music and mutual enjoyment, where the fun was infectious and the people were extravagantly eye catching. In this surreal setting where what would usually be viewed as crazy becomes common. A middle-aged man with face paint and his nipples pierced spins shirtless in front of a hose. Another guy draped with a Canadian flag in a zebra striped spandex suit waits in line to buy beer. While a girl in pink sunglasses and an Indian headdress walks past a sculpture of a purple octopus with her helplessly dazed friend following behind on a dog leash.
It’s 3:15 on a scorching Saturday afternoon and while the dancing has just started, the music suddenly stops. “Sorry,” shouts Yasmine Yousef, one third of up and coming Chicago trio Krewella, “the other night Rain Man spilled whiskey on our computer,” and after some rewiring and an impromptu U.S.A. chant the bass is back. With their unbelievable stage presence and unique blend of bass and pop heavy hooks Krewella have come a long way since they started making music together just over a year ago. It’s evident that the effects of fame are foreign to the group as they all sit on the grass beside the stage smiling just minutes before they’re due to perform, greeting each and every fan with enthusiasm and appreciation. Despite being in their initial stages of success Krewella epitomizes the type of young genre defying artists who performed at Spring Awakening and who have come to dominate dance music such as Dillon Francis, Nobody Beats the Drum, and A-Trak.
In this day and age a laptop is an instrument and previously un-noticed geeks with an ability to make music on their computers have turned into full-fledged rock stars selling out stadiums and challenging the conventions of mainstream music. One man who has helped breach these boundaries is Diplo. He was featured in a BlackBerry commercial and has produced multiple hit songs, yet he still manages to make innovative music that’s as catchy as it is conceptual. His unique style of music is like a giant gumbo made up of various instruments and influences all marinating and mixing together to produce a head bobbing blend of exotic high-energy music. He’s also an aphrodisiac, since some sex drive inducing quality in his music makes girls get up on stage and start to take their clothes off. And if Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest then nobody told him that cause as the festival came to a close and most people were resting up for their work week Diplo stands atop a speaker and shouts, “they told me to stop at 3:30 and start slowing it down a bit, but I said fuck no!” So to those of you who are still questioning if EDM is here to stay or wondering whether or not you should take a trip to Chicago for next years Spring Awakening I’d say, “Fuck yes!”