The Spring Awakening @ Soldier Field, Chicago

Last weekend was The Spring Awakening held in Chicago. It used to be a single night event with two or three major headliners, but with the massive popularity of electronic dance music continuing to surge, and React, the promotion company, continuing to pull off massive successful events, The Spring Awakening has expanded to an entire two day music festival. It took place at Soldier Field in Chicago, and had the main stage on to the football field itself.

When The Spring Awakening was first announced I was super excited because the (initial) lineup included Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten, two heavy hitters in Trance. One of my favorite duos, Gabriel & Dresden were also on the bill. And Moby, too! Later on Carl Cox and Green Velvet were also added.

On the other side of the coin were acts such as Skrillex, Wolfgang Gartner, Laidback Luke, Benny Benassi, Diplo, etc, etc. I tried to like these guys when they started to become popular, but I can't get into it. There's no atmosphere, or melody for me to enjoy. I really don't dig its sound. It's not relaxing, or uplifting, or groovy. It doesn't take me on a journey. Blah blah blah... damn kids.

Saturday

I arrived around 6pm on Saturday. I took a look around for a while, and proceeded to the "Trance" Tent, aka 'Da Drive Stage' where Morgan Page, Gabriel & Dresden, and Markus Schulz were going to perform.

Joachim Garraud was already spinning some tunes when I arrived. There's no way this guy is a real DJ. The last half of set had so many randomly stereotypical popular songs. "We are your Friends", "Smack my Bitch up", and "Sandstorm"! Sandstorm! In 2012, Sandstorm was played at one of the largest dance events Chicago has ever held. It blows my mind that anyone would consider playing that song.

After that horrible experience, Morgan Page hopped on stage and played a rather mediocre set.

I had been making my way up to the front throughout Morgan Page's set. Once he left the stage, he took a lot of the audience with him. I suppose everyone left for Ferry Corsten on the main stage, but I stuck around for Gabriel & Dresden.

Unfortunately, they performed a very standard set. :/ Out of all their tracks, there was only one that I hadn't heard before. I had a lot of fun hopping around to all of their recent hits, but there were no surprises whatsoever. They could've played some amazing classic Trance hit, or wowed everyone with a new Mashup, but it felt like we got the minimal amount of what they were willing to do. They really phoned it in. :( What a waste...

I probably should have joined everyone else for Ferry Corsten, but I still had a good time rocking out to the tunes. I was right up front, and there was a dude next to me rocking out just as much. He bought me a couple beers!

The absolute best part of the day was when Markus Schulz took over the decks. He played an absolutely phenomenal set. Absolutely amazing. It felt like time literally stopped in the aura of atmosphere he spun with his set. The vibe never quit, and continued to build and build and build. It was awe inspiring. I feel bad for having listened to him on Internet radio for more than 10 years, and JUST NOW seeing him live. Out of an evening of mediocre and terrible performances, Markus Schulz shined so brightly.

Horse Head guy was blown away too!

Markus closed out the Trance Tent for the evening, and everyone begun to question whether to outright leave, or go into Soldier Field for Skrillex. I'll admit that I did like Skrillex in the beginning. His sound was quite different than everything else. It was very fresh and distinct.

But now the industry is completely saturated by imitators and trend-followers. I listened to Skrillex's set for about 20 minutes, and was surprised how his sound has completely faded into the genre he (somewhat) created. I thought Skrillex was supposed to be at the front of this sound, but he sounds just like everyone else. it feels like he's having a hard time differentiating himself from his followers. The only real difference he has is his signature look, and his ridiculous amount of energy.

So, I left. And I didn't go to any of the after parties. I just went to bed. Because I'm lame.

Sunday

On Sunday, I spent a lot of the day running errands around Arlington Heights, and Schaumburg. I eventually made it back to The Spring Awakening before 5pm to catch Derrick Carter on the main stage.

The Main Stage, aka "Da Main Stage" was setup on the field of Soldier Field. Plastic mats covered the entire greens to prevent damage, and the stage was setup on the North side of the field.

Lance Herbstrong was performing some songs on stage with a live band, but I wasn't really paying a whole lot of attention. Compared to the previous day, there were a whole lot less people in attendance, but those numbers quickly built up over the next couple of hours.

Derrick Carter played a very nice smooth set for a very warm Sunday afternoon. It was the perfect tone and base for what was to come afterward. Most of the crowd didn't seem to get into it at all. They just stood around, and talked to each other. It was really easy to get up to the front.

Derrick Carter's set moved right into Green Velvet. Green Velvet picked up the beat left over from Derrick Carter and started off with a ridiculous Milli Vanilli

His pal warmed up the crowd out front, while Green Velvet kept beat back on the decks. Once they were done messing around, he went start to business with some hard electro-ish techno and house tunes. These tracks completely ripped up the crowd. The vibe was already set, and Green Velvet just had to throw down.

The crowd was pretty amazing. A huge amount of people started to flood Soldier Field, but I had plenty of room around me at the front. I was able to rock out hard to the music, and not smack into anyone, and have anyone smack into me. It was a great atmosphere. Smiles all around.

Throughout the set, Green Velvet got a hold of the mic, and sang vocals with his tracks. Other times, he'd let the song continue to play, and dance on stage in front of the crowd.

Green Velvet ended on a thunderous hard track, and let the ending play out for Carl Cox to take control. I knew Carl Cox would ratchet up the intensity, but he took it to "the next level." His tracks tore through the crowd, and everyone was hopping around with their hands in the air.

Soldier Field really started to fill up during Carl Cox's set, but it was still quite comfortable. There was plenty of room to rock out.

It was an amazing 3 hours of Derrick Carter, Green Velvet and Carl Cox, and I was front and off-left for the whole thing. And with Markus Schulz on Saturday, these guys made the weekend worthwhile.

After Carl Cox, Flux Pavillion took the stage, the vibe to a sharp course change into the Electro House / Dubstep sound. Bleh... They should've had Moby directly follow Carl Cox. Even though, Moby plays a lot of Electro-ish tracks, it would've been a great way to transition out of the monster Techno aura that Carl Cox created. Flux Pavillion basically threw the vibe away and started from scratch.

Anyway, I got out of the crowd, and walked around a bit.

When I was walking around, I ran into Green Velvet. That guy can go incognito pretty easily when he puts on a hat, and takes off his sunglasses. I shook his hand, and told him that his set was fantastic, and the best I had heard up to that point.

In the background, Flux Pavillion played a very Skrillex-like set, including many tracks from his performances over a year ago. I have no idea why this guy was on stage between Carl Cox and Moby.

Finally, Moby took the stage away from Flux Pavillion and began laying the groundwork for an energetic Electro-like set. His DJ performances are a stark difference than his original work. His original work is very ambient and uplifting, whereas his DJ performance are very hard and energetic.

His DJ performances used to be super super rare, but ever since 'Last Night' in 2008, he's been back in the clubs, and each year he's been DJing more and more. I came across a couple of his recorded sets, and wrote my impressions about it here, but I never had the chance to actually hear him live.

Today was finally the day, and his set turned out exactly how he had portrayed himself in those recordings. High energy, but overall lacking. I wouldn't say it lacked individuality, but it's missing something... for me, anyway. There's no hook. There's no... something. His sets aren't really memorable. I don't know.

Maybe it's just hard for me to separate Moby the artist, from Moby the DJ. Maybe I'm just giving him a pass because I know he's a good artist.

Anyway, I left before Moby finished his set, so I could return to Madison and get to work the next day.

Markus Schulz, Derrick Carter, Green Velvet, and Carl Cox made my weekend, and I was quite satisfied. Gabriel & Dresden were fun, but were a bit disappointing. Moby was ok, and I missed Ferry Corsten, but other than there were no other DJs and artists I really cared about.

The Spring Awakening was mostly a festival that mirrored the sound of today's electronic dance generation, and not my own. That's why I am SUPER excited for the Wavefront Music Festival at the end of June. This is packed full of the sounds I love, and artists I follow. I can't wait.




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