Summertime in Chicago is one of the most beautiful and welcome seasons of the year, trading the bitter cold and gray skies for a period of vibrant colors and endless activity on the streets, parks and lake. After what feels like nine months of frigid weather and reluctance to set foot outdoors, the beginning of summer brings with it the comfort to finally shed our layers and enjoy everything the city has to offer. For local fans of electronic dance music, this means one thing: Spring Awakening.
Each year, the Midwest music festival stands as the officially unofficial start to “festival season,” drawing in dance music veterans and up-and-comers alike from all across the spectrum. SAMF consistently brings together the region’s most avid fans for a weekend of pounding beats, tasty food and celebrations of the city’s history as a beacon for the genre. And last weekend was no different.
The festival’s 2017 edition boasted headlining performances from the likes of EDM heavyweights Martin Garrix, Marshmello, Diplo, Armin van Buuren, Excision, Krewella, Benny Benassi, GRiZ and Alesso. Rounding out the top of the bill were more alternative acts ZHU and Die Antwoord, who brought style and diversity to the roster. On each of the event’s three days, a special tented stage was dedicated to a specific movement in dance music, giving fans the chance to experience curated forays into the realms of house, trance and bass music between the main stage sets.
Weekend highlights included surprise appearances from the Bulls’ own Benny the Bull and local rapper Towkio during Louis the Child’s Friday set, a Saturday takeover from label Anjunadeep, and the newly established presence of Corona’s Electric Beach stage.
Featuring a healthy mixture of names big and small, as well as expertly balanced representation from several of EDM’s most popular subgenres, Spring Awakening was able to successfully craft a weekend experience perfectly suited for nearly every type of dance music fanatic.
This year, the two main stages – the Electronic Stage and DJ Stage – were given new identities. The Solstice and Equinox stages were even positioned further apart from one another, reducing the amount of sound bleed experienced during last year’s event. The result was a more undisturbed listening experience at both stages, and more room for the crowds to enjoy the music without having to deal with other fans trying to migrate through them to reach another stage.
In order to combat the heat, which climbed into the mid-90s during parts of weekend, Spring Awakening provided several free water stations for attendees to utilize. Despite the convenience of free hydration, however, the lines that formed during the hottest parts of the day were staggeringly long and full of people deciding between missing portions of the music and getting a sip of water. The addition of several more stations would be a benefit for the festival moving into future iterations, preventing the bottleneck effect and giving attendees more options to find a free drink.
But even with the long water lines and sweltering heat, the overall feeling walking across the grass-strewn Addams/Medill Park was incredible. After waiting for a proper music festival in the Chicago area throughout the winter months, getting the chance to roam the grounds and crowds in search of high-flying musical performances was worth any hiccup experienced on-site. With a fully inclusive and rejuvenated lineup, excellent layout and space for dancing and a wealth of fun and delicious foods and activities, Spring Awakening succeeded once again in showing the Midwest how to throw a bona fide weekend dance party.