During Afrojack’s headlining performance Sunday evening, the Dutch DJ had one major question on his mind: “Is this crowd ready to rage?”. The question had one significant flaw, the majority of the audience had already been raging for nearly 20 hours, and that’s assuming some in the audience managed to sleep Sunday morning. Chicago’s Spring Awakening didn’t just lure fans of the city’s historic House heritage (e.g. Green Velvet, Derrick Carter), it was a glowing beacon for bass heads and co-ed weekend party warriors across the United States. Asking this crowd if it was ready to rage was equivalent to asking embers if they are ready to burn, just one quick breath and they ignite in their fluorescent glory.
Even with temperatures soaring Saturday, very little, besides possibly a funky downtempo set, could slow the ebb of the audience. In fact, the Saturday afternoon sun hit so harshly on Soldier Field that security took to soaking goers with commercial-sized hoses for much needed relief. When temperatures became too unbearable to handle inside Soldier Field, just ask LoBounce following some equipment failure, the scantly clad dance fiends could find some solace, and further explore the world of EDM, beneath the broad tents that covered two of the three smaller stages.
So what exactly was it that fueled this multi-day rager? It wasn’t the drugs, that’s for sure. What follows is an exploration into the sets that kept Soldier Field raging.
Senior Staff Writer
Porn and Chicken
Da Colonnades Stage – Saturday – 9:00 p.m.
If you live in Chicago and love to party, you already know about the Porn and Chicken Dance crew. If you don’t live in Chicago and love to party, pack a toothbrush, get here Monday, call off till Wednesday, and experience what you probably didn’t even know you were missing. With megastars manning the decks at the larger stages, less than three dozen revelers watched as Orville Kline, Phives (aka Fei Tang), and The Sleepers (aka Dan Dwyer) filled the stage with booty-bouncing beauties and a bombardment of bass beats. The trio ran tracks including Notorious BIG’s “Hypnotize”, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, and Miike Snow’s “Black and Blue” through their testosterone-spiked, beer-soaked electro gauntlet. As the final song confirmed (Taking Back Sunday’s “Cute Without The ‘E””), Porn and Chicken isn’t an outfit grown from the seed up Chicago House music, but the underground offspring of hardcore and 90’s electronica explosion. Best viewed in a raunchy, sweaty dance club.
Da Drive Stage – Saturday – 3:00 p.m.
With his graying hair gently flowing in the lake front breezes, Chicago-native, turned Brooklyn resident, Tommie Sunshine prof’d a clinic on the effective club remix. Possibly in reference to his lesser-skilled peers, Sunshine dropped the uptempo, vocal-heavy “Ima Read” by fellow Brooklynite Zebra Katz, which is emphatic about bringing an unnamed female to college and “teaching[ing] that bitch some knowledge.” Lesson 1: develop an overwhelming base of both pop and dance music. Not only could Sunshine get folks dancing with bangers from current project Horsepower, he could reach back a few decades to update favorites like Wish feat. Fonda Rae’s “Touch Me”.
Da Main Stage – Saturday – 6:00 p.m.
For the Chicago-based trio behind Midnight Conspiracy, 6:00 p.m. feels more like breakfast time. A notion that resonated through the onset of their set. Without their “Eye Live” laser lightshow, Mikul Wing and Louis Kha came out a bit sluggish with their Italo-pop remixes. Graham Cody, the collective’s behind the scenes production guru, was the set’s defibulator, adding a jolt with new single “The Eye”. Even without their customary setup, three surprises awaited the crowd: a winged female dancer, a bass heavy Beatles remix, and an all out moshpit.
Da Main Stage – Saturday – 7:00 p.m.
Few artists, in any genre, can match the appeal of A-Trak (born Alain Macklovitch). Not only does the 30-year-old have unprecedented turntable skills, and the ability to remix nearly any track for today’s younger EDM audience, but the dude continually takes risks, like sporting a denim vest atop a tie-dye shirt while spinning Future’s “Same Damn Time”, all of which he committed to on Saturday evening. Unlike Duck Sauce, his project with Armand Van Helden, which heavily samples disco era material, A-Trak kept the material more recent for the Spring Awakening Crowd, like fusing Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out” with Lil’ Jon’s “Shake What Your Momma Gave Ya!”. Now seemingly customary at dance festivals, A-Trak felt compelled to make a reference to MDMA, playing the vocal riff from Cedric Gervais’ “Molly”. The song Madonna infamously hyped during Avicii’s Ultra 2012 performance — less than three hours after Duck Sauce left the stage. (Personally, I found that tidbit humorous and slightly sarcastic on the part of A-Trak.)
Photo by Lilian Cai
Da Drive Stage – Sunday – 6:00 p.m.
If you aren’t prepared to be stepped on, sweated on, and quite possibly not-so-accidentally groped, don’t attend a Datsik show. But if you’ve actually read through to this point, grab your fanny pack, DayGlo trucker cap, sunglasses, and catch this Canadian producer whenever you need your earth rocked. Alongside mentor Excision, Datsik helped pioneer the polarizing Bro-Step, infusing those constant mechanized bass wobbles Sunday with a double dose of hip-hop. Highlights: a chopped up remix of “Gin and Juice” and watching security try and contain teens that kept invading VIP. Performing before the events major names, the set was a quart of Red Bull to give ragers momentum through festival conclusion.
Nobody Beats The Drum
Da Equinox Stage – Saturday – 4:00 p.m.
Already well-known in their home country of the Netherlands, Nobody Beats The Drum are currently crossing the great U.S. spreading their love for hip-hop infused electro, and progressive big beat. Beset with early difficulties, including a misspelling of their name in the official schedule and problems with their live visual performance, the trio persevered, eventually attracting a modest crowd with edits from their recent release Currents. When Rogier Van der Zwaag’s visuals took full-effect, the production tandem of Sjam Sjamsoedin and Jori Collignon reared back and popped the entire crowd across the face with the intensity of “Blood on My Hands”. NBTD kept the crowd mesmerized til set close, interweaving the old-school synths and techno kick of “Mind Control” seamlessly through other tracks. This tactic worked, at least for this writer, who lurked over to their early morning afterparty alongside Benny Benassi.
Photo by Lilian Cai
Da Main Stage – Sunday – 10:00 p.m.
Afrojack is both Beauty and The Beast. The producer is capable of beatufully polished Top 40 remixes, like his live edit of Gotye’s uber-popular “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Then he can blast you against the massive human wall with some of the filthiest bass-driven Dirty Dutch to grace mega stages. To help cool the audience, Afrojack delivered his signature chapagne shower to those lucky enough to have made their way to the front of the stage.
The rage factor was appropriately epic near the end of the set when the MC announced Afrojack would he dipping into some of his “next level shit”. With the stadium nearly full in the crisp lake front air, it was engaged in unapologetic bass warfare, as Afrojack fired from all directions. The tempo subsided near the end of the evening, when Afrojack sent the festival dancing down Michigan Ave with “Can’t Stop Me”.
Photo by Lilian Cai
Da Equinox Stage – Sunday – 5:00 p.m.
Don’t know if it was the beats, the beauties, or the free booze showered on the front row, but this was quite possibly the most packed I have seen a festival side stage prior to dusk. If the Material Girl somehow mangaed to birth a pair of golden locked daughters from Erol Alkan and Boys Noize, the outcome would be NERVO after an appropriate amount of clubbing. Miriam and Olivia Nervo, Australian-born twins, made the Soldier Field Green “Feel Like Home” with the warm embrace of their electro-pop bangers. The set would land even higher on this rage list if the sisters could have passed on the Gotye and “Molly” remixes, and maybe toned down the heart hand signs.
Da Drive Stage – Sunday – 8:00 p.m.
Diplo switches genres more often than most people get a haircut, even if that happens to be bi-monthly. Sunday night happened to be a clinic on the up-and-coming juke and trap movement, a style that has its roots in the South Side of Chicago. Based around a frantic hip-hop aestetic, dancing to Diplo’s beat could easily be confused with a spiritual exorism. To free up some dance floor near the stage, Diplo invited a bevy of ladies to bounce around onstage as giant balloons circulated to the far reaches of the tent. For an hour, Diplo claimed the day’s best set, but then there was Moby.
Da Main Stage – Sunday – 9:00 p.m.
A great thinker once penned a list of truths including death and taxes, now one more line must be added to the short list: bliss at a Moby concert. His fame may be based in flowing melodic concepts, but as a DJ Moby goes H.A.M.. Sure, “Porcelain” could be heard, but only beneath the rave-worthy Hardstyle. The pulse was delivered through Moby’s core. When he wasn’t seamlessly mixing tracks, he was up front hyping the crowd and taking pictures of the adoring audience. The theme was heavy, but not dark. Even as Moby dropped dubstep wobbles, there was an underlying aura of joy which transformed the snarling rage face into one broad communal smile.
Photo by Lilian Cai
Da Main Stage – Saturday – 10:00 p.m.
Sans backing band and soaring emo-core screams, Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) is still a rock star. The 80’s culture help cultivate the careers of Hollywood Strip metal bands, now it seems America has turned it needs for angst and radio-friendly aggression towards the sounds of Skrillex’s jump up dubstep. But as the young producer continues to tour the globe, he is enhancing his sound while neglecting a large portion of his fan bass.
Contained in his massive mothership, Skrillex started the set at nitro-burning hyperdrive with “Right on Time”, a multi-layered “Levels” remix, and his early remix of La Roux’s “In For The Kill”. With a steady rain beginning to settle on Soldier Field, he changed the tempo toward his current fascination with techno and acid, effectively dropping the overall energy of a crowd still geared for ear-gasmic bass drops. Soldier Field may not have been behind the mix, but Kill Frenzy’s “Make Dat Booty Clap” should be in the bag, grate, or harddrive of any touring DJ.
Fireworks, fire, Knife Party’s “Internet Friends” and raising his mothership dozens of feet above the stage helped to recapture the momentum. Following an exploration into trap, Skrillex took time to memorialize MCA with the Beaties Boy’s “Sabotage”. Possibly knowing about the weather-related shortened set, the OWSLA-founder dropped a previously unheard new track with the lyrics, “Going wild for the night”, fitting for a DJ who has nearly 500 straight wild night. Now in the next few hundred, it will be interesting to witness how Skrillex can maintain his bass while appealing to a broader international dance audience.