Wavefront Music Festival - Day 1

The summer of music festivals continued this last weekend with the Wavefront Music Festival. Wavefront was hosted by Spy Bar on Chicago's Montrose Beach, slightly north of the downtown area.  The purpose of Wavefront was to bring together the old crowd of electronic music lovers, with the new crowd.


For the past couple of years, React has grown and grown and become the leader in electronic entertainment in Chicago, and the type of talent they've brought to Chicago has been mostly mainstream.

I complained about this a little bit in the Spring Awakening post, but as dubstep, electro house, and other certain genres have become quite mainstream, the other genres are starting to become second class citizens. At first, there was room for everyone, and all of electronic dance music seemed to flourish, but these days it seems like those genres are getting choked out by the popular crap.

I think the fans of true dance music are starting to notice, and fight back a little bit. There was an article a couple weeks ago, railing on the popular DJs today, enforcing that they don't even play DJ sets. They basically just play rock concerts. They play the same set from front to back without little variation at all. They don't play to the crowd.

And that's exactly what the kids these days want. They go to these major events to hear their favorite tunes, rather than hear something new or reactive to the vibe. That's why so many of these DJs are playing the same songs from the last 3 or 4 years, and why they play so many pandering dubstep remixes. The crowds at these concerts only seem to care about the content of the song, rather than the vibe.


Wavefront had two stages, the North stage and the South stage. The South stage had plenty of electro house, dubstep, and other popular crap. They had such acts as Bad Boy Bill, MSTRKRFT, Erick Morillo, Chris Lake, John Dahlback, Eric Prydz, and Duck Sauce.

The North Stage had me sold on Day 1, though. They had Visionquest, Art Department, Matthew Dear, Benoit & Sergio, Guy Gerber, Steve Lawler, and Sasha. All groovy mellow house, whether it be Progressive House, Deep House, or Tech House.

Day 1 - Saturday

Five and I both purchased weekend passes for this event, and went down to Chicago on Saturday afternoon. We got to the beach around 3 o'clock, right in the middle of Visionquest's set.




Visionquest played a very nice mellow opener set for the day. It wasn't outrageous or over top. It was the perfect start for the day. And the perfect set up for Art Department.

Art Department played an amazing bass heavy deep house set. I recognized a couple of tunes from some of their previous sets, and ones from Sasha, too. This was how I knew I was home at this festival. The crowd responded and grooved along with the set, and Art Department kept pumping in the vibe.



The sound from the North Stage was incredible. In that above photo, you can see piles of subwoofers in front of the stage. You could move almost anywhere on the beach, and still hear the music with perfect clarity.

And most of the crowd was pretty well spread out too, so you could move around without bumping into people. There were people in the back, laying on their towels, catching some sun. Other people sitting in some plastic chairs, relaxing to the wonderful music.



As Art Department finished up their kickin' groovy set, Matthew Dear hopped up on the stage and starting setting up for his act. The North Stage was a little weird in that the actual DJ platform was on wheels and movable. The next DJ perform would set up on the back side of the platform, and the roadies would rotate the platform around when it was time to switch.

The platform rolled around, and Matthew Dear picked up right where Art Department left off.




Matthew Dear's set was a little bit more melodic, and not as bass heavy. He brought the vibe down a little bit from the heights Art Department brought it to, but Matthew kept it going.

Five and I started wandering around a little bit to see what else was going on. We walked over to the local stage and listened to Gene Farris for a little while. And he was playing a pretty energetic Housey set. I feel bad for missing him all the times he's come to Madison.





Bad Boy Bill was throwing down on the South Stage. But it really wasn't my thing. I remember somewhat liking his style 8 years ago when he was spinning more Trance tunes, but even then it felt like too much of a Big Room sound, and not enough substance. It seems like whatever substance he may have had back in the day is long gone now.

Five and I continued to walk around the festival grounds. We went away from the beach, and took a look around the food stands for something to eat. The Turkish food stage was really really good.




We went back down to the beach to catch MSTRKRFT performing on the South Stage. These guys are one of the few electro groups that I haven't written off yet. Underneath their occasional obnoxious sounds, they still carry a beat. It's still Dance music. Most popular tracks these days, and Dubstep especially really isn't dance music as much as it is "rock-out" music. You can't dance to it. You throw your fists and arms in the air, and rock out, or rage out to it.

Unfortunately, MSTRKRFT's set didn't really evolve over time. When they transitioned from track to track, it felt more like they were simply changing it up, rather than building on whatever vibe they had set. So, after awhile, it really didn't carry as much weight. It went back to the mentality of having a set list, rather than a vibe. Bleh...



One of my friends, Dimple, sent me a couple texts saying that she finally arrived to the festival and was over at the North Stage, so Five and I went over there to meet up with her.

On stage, Nic Fanciulli was spinning, but I really don't remember his set at all.

The sun was starting to set, and Boys Noize took the stage, and began to close out the first full day of Wavefront.




Boys Noize was not for me at all. I think Five described them best when he said they just sounded like noise. I ran into another friend of mine, Brandon aka Apple Country, who is a huge fan of Boys Noize. All of his friends were hopping around and having a great time.

We walked over to the South Stage to catch Erick Morillo, but he wasn't really all that great either. He was spinning mostly Big Room House.  The sound from the North Stage was so damn loud, we could still hear Boys Noize tearing up the crowd through Morillo's set.  Even when we were on the far side of the stage, we could still hear it.



I had a whole lot of energy at the beginning of the day, but having woken up really early to catch a bus to Milwaukee, and being disappointed by the last couple of sets in the day, I was exhausted. So, Five and I took off for the day. We drove north a little bit and went to a small pizza place with a whole lot of comfortable seating. It was a pretty fine day, and we still had the rest of the night to look forward to.

Wavefront had plenty of after parties to choose from, but the one I was most interested in was the one at Smart Bar.

Visionquest + Art Department @ Smart Bar

Art Department blew me away earlier in the day, and I definitely wanted to hear more of them. Five and I arrived at the club around 11pm, and it was already pretty packed.


In the booth, the members of Visionquest were taking turns spinning their house beats. It was a mix of Deep House, and regular 'ol House. And much like their set during the Wavefront Festival, they kept a lid on the vibe. They never went over the top, or blew me away, but kept that perfect tempo that continued to tease me.  It really felt like they were holding back, but that was par for the course as they were opening up the night for Art Department later on.

Visionquest is a 4 man group, and it seemed like each member was given an hour (or so) to spin the set they wanted. When we arrived Ryan Crosson was on the decks. Around 12:30 or 1 o'clock, Lee Curtiss took over the controls for the better part of the evening. Lee played a fantastic set, but again, it still felt like an opening set.

As 2am rolled around, I was starting to feel the wear of the night. Lee's set wasn't energizing me enough to keep moving, and I was really only waiting for Art Department to take over and blow me away.




Around 2:30, Shaun Reeves set up and began spinning some of his tracks, and that was pretty much it for me. When was Art Department planning on showing up? It's approaching 3am, and they still aren't here? Were they only going to spin for an hour?

Bleh, I was falling asleep, and needed to find a bed. It was a long day. So we left, and ended our first day of Wavefront.

Overall, Art Department was pretty damn fine. Matthew Dear and Visionquest weren't half bad either. But a lot of the other scheduled talent fell pretty flat for me. I wonder if Art Department ever showed up to Smart Bar that night.

The real fun was on Sunday, anyway :D