It’s time for the fourth edition of Chicago’s annual Electronic Dance Music Festival. The first three festivals were held in Grant’s Park. This year marks the fifth installment, and organizers are looking for more diverse musical acts. The lineup is shaping up to be a spectacular event.
The first day of the festival was devoted to traditional jazz, along with experimental and new age acts. The weather was perfect, but the weather was kind of unpredictable, causing delays in many events. By the end of the day, we were treated to an amazing free concert by a local group called The Blue Man Group. It featured members of the cast of O Brother’s Weenie Man and The Doobie Brothers.
The second day brought a tribute to DJ Cdboys. Two groups took the stage and provided some of the best party music I’ve ever heard. Just before the show ended, a light show appeared behind the stage. The light show was spectacular, covering the entire ceiling of the venue. My eyes were drawn like a blind person when I looked up, and when the light show went out, my ears were too. My ears weren’t just red; they were actually bleeding.
I left the festival with three concerts scheduled for the afternoon. After spending the morning watching the sunrise over the lake, I took a cab back to the venue. While there, I discovered that the event was canceled due to rain. So, it was just as well that I hadn’t planned to spend the afternoon exploring Grant’s Park.
Worn gloves from Fatboy Slim, Native American headdress from Cherokee Childress, and dreadlocks from Donnas are just some of the offerings from the day. My brother, J. P. provided the turntables for the evening’s festivities. A couple of hours later, the DJ’s in attendance played selections from artists including Knife Live (of the legendary Aphex Twin), Tiesto, Kero Kerocho, and Diplo.
There’s a big difference between a mainstream party music festival and an electronic music event. The latter is usually much smaller in scale, aiming to showcase unheard of DJs from various genres. Most DJs at such events tend to specialize in one or two musical segments. DJs at these events are usually young, fresh faces of the industry looking to break into the competitive world of electronic music. It’s not uncommon to see them playing only new music or re-releases of old classics.
At the main event, the Electric City Music Festival, which is held annually during July in Chicago, DJ’s from around the world bring the music to an audience of hundreds. The festival includes original music by DJ’s as well as favorites from other genres. For example, this year’s featured artist was Disclosure. Previous acts have included Disclosure, Rihanna, and Google. This is not your typical block party in a small alley with a few tents; instead, the Electric City Music Festival is a one-day affair that incorporates a free-form jam-packed with DJ’s from across the region.
A typical Chicago electronic music festival will include a wide range of musical talent from more conservative artists to more experimental DJs. One particular highlight is the “Lilith Weekend.” Loosely based on a sketch from a movie about a girl who conquers her enemies, this annual event draws a crowd that dresses like monsters and makes monster music. One of the highlights of the festival was a performance by Sufjan Stevens. His set featured several songs recorded from his new album entitled “Songs for Christmas,” and it featured instruments from such diverse artists as the Rolling Stones, LCD Soundsystem, and Kanye West.