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DMNW On the Road: Why Our First Spring Awakening Music Festival Won’t Be Our Last (Review)

Branching out from the PNW music scene this summer, the Dance Music Northwest team decided to pack its bags, and venture to Spring Awakening Music Festival. Located in Chicago, SAMF is the largest EDM festival not only in the state of Illinois, but the American Midwest in its entirety!

A three-day affair, SAMF is held at the grassy, Addams-Medill Park, located about three miles from the immediate downtown Chicago area. Was it worth the 1,764 mile flight to Chicago? Let’s break it down:

Set-Up

The festival consisted of six stages: two equally massive main stages (Solstice and Equinox), the intimate Corona Electric Beach dome, two tented stages, and an open-air silent disco arena. Throughout the festival, carnival rides, food trucks, and vendors filled the area.

The water stations, nicknamed “water world”, had huge lines at times. We’ve heard some attendees had to wait 25-30 minutes to fill up their camelbacks – that’s like half a set! The festival added more water stations this year, but might need even more in 2019.

Would You Believe This Was One of the Lines at a Water Station? (Photo: Stanley Sutton/DMNW)

Coming in clutch though were some of the drink vendors: one tent provided free cartons of water, and another passed out free bottles of flavored sparkling ice. Along with a small roaming harm reduction team, medical tents, and friendly security personnel, whom were always eager to lend a helping hand, fan safety felt like one of the festival’s top priorities. Aside from reports of a cellphone snatcher, we felt very comfortable, and secure, in such a new environment.

The Experience

The majority of the stages had a VIP area that is sectioned off from the GA crowd. The VIP areas have a special viewing area, nicer bathrooms, and a lot of room to dance. There are also beverage stands at the VIP areas, with very short lines.

Chicago’s Skyscrapers Looming Behind the Equinox, One of the Two Mainstages This Year (Photo: Stanley Sutton/DMNW)

It was fairly easy to navigate around the festival; it’s all spread out in a circle-like shape. In the middle were food trucks, and carnival rides, all surrounded by stages. Each of the six stages were a minute or two walk away.

The bad thing about the stages being so close? Bleeding sound. If you are standing towards the back of a stage, you can hear EVERYTHING that is going on at the neighboring ones. You had to move toward the front of the crowd to avoid noise conflict, which wasn’t impossible (except when everyone filled the Equinox mainstage for NGHTMRE’s performance) – just annoying after a while.

Another downside to moving toward the front to avoid noise conflict? It became hard to dance, because you were in the thick of it all. Maybe next year, the stages can be a bit more spaced out. Maybe even placed on the closed off surrounding roads? The park is that big!

Weather-wise, the humidity took some getting use to. Each day, the humidity was around 97%! While the first two days had sun and clouds, it rained on the last. This made day three a muddy affair, but that didn’t stop people from dancing!

Spring Awakening Sunday, the Last Day, Had Us Dancing In the Mud! (Photo: Stanley Sutton/DMNW)

The festival ended early at 10 pm each day, but the action kept going at SAMF’s official after parties, taking place at some of Chicago’s biggest clubs. After party tickets, announced about a week before the festival, sold out within minutes they were released.

If you decide to ever go to a SAMF, and want to go to an after party, buy tickets the moment they go on sale! We learned this the hard way. Almost all of SAMF’s headliners, this year, performed at an after party, including Deadmau5, and Kaskade (redux set!).

The Music

The lineup this year was stacked, from Kaskade, Deadmau5, to the legendary Tiesto. Even Zedd joined the party(!), stepping in for an ill Dash Berlin at the last minute. Trance, bass, you name it – there was a little something from every electronic dance genre.

We Couldn’t Resist This Year’s Lineup! (Photo: Spring Awakening Music Festival)

Performing one of the best sets of the weekend was Porter Robinson. Even though Virtual Self was promoted on the lineup, we didn’t complain when Porter switched things up a day before his performance. Never losing the crowd once during the set, with mud on the ground, and the rain pouring down, Porter made sure to give the best performance for his dedicated fans.

While We Were Sad That Dash Berlin Couldn’t Perform, Zedd Was One Heck of a Replacement! (Photo: Stanley Sutton/DMNW)

We also saw many of the artists pay tribute to Avicii. Playing the most Avicii tracks was good pal Tiesto. While he didn’t perform a 12-minute tribute set, like he did at EDC a month earlier, he dropped a few Avicii classics, which had everyone smiling from ear-to-ear.

Having never been to Chicago, we got to listen to some of the city’s local heroes throw down at the silent disco. We were exposed to some diverse sets, which allowed us to learn more about the Windy City’s current scene. We also learned the city has a strong bass and trance community – both of which are energetic, and close knit.

It was a joy to dance, and befriend, people from across the Midwest! We’ve heard Midwesterns are a hospitable bunch, and based on our experience at SAMF – we couldn’t agree more. We felt welcomed, and the vibes last weekend helped create memories we soon won’t forget.

Overall impressions

The Other Mainstage, the Solstice (Photo: Stanley Sutton/ DMNW)

SAMF 2018 had a great lineup that catered to fans stretching across all genres of dance music. For all the PNW festival goers, it is most comparable to Fvded In The Park – think twice the size, with carnival rides and a lot more stages. In our opinion, SAMF is a cheaper festival to attend for an out-of-state festival. Music festivals give us a chance not to only meet new people, but to travel to places we’ve never been before. The vibes of the fest will bring us back for round 2 in the future, for sure.

Will you be attending Spring Awakening 2019? Let us know in the comments below!