Spring Awakening: Chicago Fest Brings the Heat

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Chicago – Addams/Medill Park was the place to be this past June 9-11, as the Spring Awakening Music Festival strafed the Windy City with a heavy mix of bass, trance, trap, techno and house. Produced by React Presents, SAMF drew nearly 75,000 fans and also served as a vital stop on the America’s Best DJ Summer Tour Presented by Weedmaps & DJ Times.

As usual, DJ Times was there with a dedicated exhibition booth repping the title sponsor Weedmaps, handing out the latest issues and taking votes for the 12 America’s Best DJ nominees playing the festival. They included Audien, Diplo, DJ Godfather, Ghastly, GRiZ, Jauz, J.Phlip, Kill the Noise, Krewella, Marshmello, Mija, and Victor Calderone.


Sunday School: Victor Calderone’s techno rumbled.

Highlights from ABDJ nominees: Audien got plenty of hands in the air during his Friday afternoon set, as he dropped snippets of old-school cuts (Darude’s “Sandstorm”) and more recent faves (Above & Beyond’s “A.I.”), plus his own remixes (of Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime”) and originals (“Leaving You”).

Also on Friday, on the Equinox Stage, Ghastly mixed head-snapping bass joints with melodic EDM cuts like “We Might Fall,” his recent single featuring Matthew Koma. On the mainstage, Marshmello drew droves of festival-goers and he didn’t disappoint with his own deft mix of shimmery, singalong originals like “Alone,” tickly trap tunes like “Blocks,” and manic drops on scorchers like Excision & Space Laces’ “Throwing Elbows.”

Closing Saturday’s mainstage, Diplo served up a fusillade of hits – from the Spice Girls, Skrillex, Daft Punk, Whitney Houston and more – that had fans singing along and kicking up plenty of dust.

Closing the Mainstage: Diplo dropped the hits.

On Sunday, Victor Calderone dropped a set of rumbling techno grooves, which ramped up the intensity on an otherwise steamy day – closing with Carlo Lio’s chugging, hypnotic “Like This” was a nice touch. U.K. DJ/producer Eats Everything followed up with his brand of occasionally quirky, but undeniably satisfying house flavors.

Back on the mainstage, Jauz rocked a set full of familiar sounds (grunge, dubstep, metal, electro-house, R&B) – Nirvana one moment, Montell Jordan the next, plus festival faves like his own wobbler, “Feel the Volume.”

At the Bass Kitchen stage, Kill the Noise commanded a bro-fest sporting more testosterone than a high-school- football summer camp. Amid the aggro vibes, KTN did indeed kill it with furiously wound-up salvos like “Feel Your Love” by Flux Pavilion x NGHTMRE feat. Jamie Lewis.

On the Equinox stage, GRiZ—alternating between laptop and saxophone—played more sweetly with smooth interludes, R&B grooves and lovey-dovey vibes, an ethos exemplified on “Wicked,” a summery, downtempo tune that delivered stuttering drops, piercing effects and lilting guitar lines.

Saxy Music: GRiZ gets in the groove.

Among non-ABDJ noms, highlights included: Felix Da Housecat’s Friday set in the Body Language tent, which delivered some of the fest’s best sounds – an irresistible mix of tech-house, electro, and ecstatic gospel-soul moments. Also, Jody Wisternoff’s gorgeous Saturday-afternoon set in the Anjunadeep tent rewarded blissed-out fans with deep, supple grooves – smiles all-around.

Andrew Rayel jolted the Trance Arena on Saturday with choice cuts from his recently released Moments album, including “Heavy Love,” the anthemic collab with Max Vangeli. Gorgon City’s closing set in the Sunday School tent offered great house grooves (like “Real Life,” its new collab with Duke Dumont) and dark spot to dance – a very welcome development after a weekend of pumped fists and thrown elbows.

Next stop on the America’s Best DJ Summer Tour Presented by Weedmaps & DJ Times: this Friday, June 23 at Webster Hall’s “Girls + Boys” party, as ABDJ nominee Dieselboy co-headlines the “Blood, Sweat and Bass” tour with Canadian DJ/producer Downlink.

ABDJ Booth: A fan stops by to vote.

Both the online voting and the tour will run until Labor Day, and the America’s Best DJ Award Show/Closing Party will take place Columbus Day Weekend in October. Fans who vote (in person and online) and fans who keep up with America’s Best DJ on Facebook and Twitter can win a slew of prizes. Additionally, one lucky voter (chosen randomly) will win a trip for two to the ABDJ closing event.