Tens of thousands packed Soldier Field this past weekend as the Spring Awakening Music Festival celebrated electronic music in a variety of forms with headlining performances from artists like Moby, Bassnectar, Calvin Harris and more...
For the second consecutive year, Spring Awakening marked the beginning of the major, Chicago outdoor, music festival season. While the neighborhood festival season has been underway for a few weeks, Spring Awakening has become the first massively attended fest for the second consecutive year, outdoing itself in 2013 in terms of attendance and number of artists booked.
Once again featuring live music on four stages, Spring Awakening 2013 built upon 2012 by adding a third day to the festivities and (despite numerous complaints at the inaugural staging of the competing Electric Daisy festival in Joliet only two weeks prior) once again, it's hard to consider Spring Awakening anything but a success.
Taking advantage of Soldier Field's sprawling museum campus environs along the lake, three stages were set up outside of the stadium with the main stage centered inside in the north end zone. By the time Moby took the stage to close out Friday night, revellers filled the field and most of the stadium's lower seating level (though there was still plenty of room to spread out in the south end zone).
Unlike multiple outdoor music festivals in city parks (like Union Park on the city's west side), Soldier Field never felt cramped (even as fans headed inside en masse for the headlining performances each night) and bathroom/concession lines remained manageable too.
You'll find food and beverages cheaper at other festivals but with Soldier Field a part of the equation that was to be assumed. Five dollar bottles of water, however, preliminarily place Spring Awakening atop the list of most expensive festival hydration offerings. Luckily, the weather never reached Lollapalooza-like levels of sweltering heat this year.
What I found most impressive about my maiden Spring Awakening voyage was the fans. Unlike what I've experienced in the past at EDM events (most notably surrounding "Perry's Stage" of electronic music at Lollapalooza in 2012), the vibe at Spring Awakening Friday was great. The crowd demographic certainly skewed younger than the rock festivals I'm more accustomed to and as a result the energy level was immensely higher from start to finish too. Fans clearly embraced not just the live music around them but more accurately the overall festival experience.
At the end of the day, an electronic dance music concert is an event (a social event as well as one where over the top is typically the norm and, to some extent, it doesn't even seem to matter who's performing at times). Judging from the attitudes, the clothing, etc., Spring Awakening patrons were ready to celebrate... and celebrate they did - into the wee hours - at after parties by major artists like Moby and Paul Oakenfold at smaller venues like The Mid and House of Blues.
Lollapalooza has a tendency to be overly drinky at times (which brings with it its own set of problems). Pitchfork can be a tad pretentious. North Coast presents such a wide range of artists that it's kind of hard to pin down. But the vibe Friday night at Spring Awakening was downright positive. I didn't see a single fight and just about everyone seemed overly friendly and outgoing. Attribute that to what you will... but the simple fact remains that it was the most pleasant atmosphere I've encountered at a music fest since Riot Fest 2012 in Humboldt Park.
Celebrating electronic music both new (Bassnectar and Calvin Harris) and old (Moby), local (Flosstradamus, Krewella, Felix da Housecat), national (Wolfgang Gartner) and international (Oakenfold), the festival sets itself apart with diverse bookings spanning a variety of electronic music genres, all the while celebrating the vibrant culture and immense musical contributions of the festival's hosting city, cognisant of the fact that Chicago vitrually invented house music in the early eighties (a major influence on today's EDM offerings).
To that end, as the bookings above suggest, the live performances certainly indicate that there's something for everyone at Spring Awakening. Friday afternoon, Swedish DJ John Dahlback weaved elements of Pink Floyd into his set of techno and house. From there, I entered a packed Soldier Field where Dirty South was enthralling a throng on the main stage. Eventually, it was back outside for R3hab's headlining performance on "Da Equinox Stage 2" where the sounds of Daft Punk's "Around the World" had the crowd moving.
But it was Moby, not surprisingly, who stole the show. At forty-seven years of age, and despite his occasional forays into alternative, punk and more, Moby remains one of the more important figures in the recent history of electronic and dance music. The ten million copies sold worldwide of his breakthrough album Play in 1999 brought that form of music to the masses and legitimizes it in the minds of the casual fan even today. His name alone continues to make him one of the more easily recognizable figures in a genre of music that continues to reach new fans.
I've seen Moby perform in the past with a full band - a dynamite performance that saw him move deftly from vocals to turntable, guitar and more - But Friday night at Spring Awakening, Moby was on his own performing a rare DJ set for the Soldier Field faithful.
Mixing portions of Play's "Natural Blues" as he took the stage (a song he'd come back to frequently during the set), Moby climbed the staging, jumping up and down so the crowd could get a better look.
Hitting on everything from ambient sounds and electronica to faster paced techno, the New York born DJ ultimately recieved one of the warmer receptions Friday night.