• Daniel Gwizdalski

A (Festival) Summer in Review


Each of the past few summers I reflect on what I did and did not do, the planned and the unplanned memories that (ideally) make each summer better than the last. For me, it has always come down to the music.

While this summer has been a bit abbreviated for me, the 3 festivals I did make it to still created so many memories that made it in its own ways the best summer yet. Having been amongst 3 noticeably different crowds, I got to view each with a new set of eyes and in some ways as an outsider.

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is always a big IF for me. A bit too many DJs and too few live acts for me to justify buying a 3 day upfront, which was an especially tough decision this year, as only a few of my favorite artists were playing each day. As luck would have it, I won two three day passes (more coming on how to go to Festivals for free soon!) from MusicFestivalCentral. At this point, I've gone to SAMF more for free than I have by buying tickets (also won a contest in 2015)..

Highlights:

  • Louis the Child hometown set with the Chicago Bulls drumline

  • Rufus du Sol was phenomenal as always, and I wish there were more live acts at SAMF. They do lose a few points for being late, though. This is a major pet peeve of mine and Rufus has been late 3/3 times I've seen them

  • Robin Schulz 🤷‍♀️ top 5 set of the weekend

  • GRiZ throwing down the best GRiZ set I've ever seen, coming from someone who has seen a few. I was surprised to say that at SAMF of all places.

What Spring Awakening does well, they do very well (lineup). Otherwise, SAMF was lacking in a few key areas:

  • Stage design - Stages were heavy on the production but covered with cheap vinyl that made the stages look like something you'd see at a county fair.

  • Water - I've never waited in line for water as long as I have at SAMF. It was one of the hottest weekends of the year and React should have had their act together. The lines were so unbearable that the medical tents ended up handing out sealed bottles of water themselves.

  • Everything besides the music - Spring Awakening isn't called a Music & Arts Festival for a reason, but it's still underwhelming how little they invest in the festival experience outside of the lineup itself.


Electric Forest

This year we decided to go VIP (Good Life) for Electric Forest and it was absolutely worth it. Actual bathrooms, VIP entrance, VIP lounges and viewing areas, and late night secret sets for about ~twice~ the price of a GA ticket is much more reasonable than other festivals ($1500+ for Lolla or Bonnaroo? Not a chance). Overall EF was the best festival experience of the summer, but wasn't without its own hiccups..

Highlights:

  • The lineup - over the course of the weekend I saw more live acts than DJs, which was a huge difference from the previous year. EF and its curated stages brought such a forward thinking lineup, which I hope to see more of next year.

  • Odesza - my 10th Odesza show and the first with all the new material. There aren't many things that can beat Odesza in the Forest. I had been looking forward to this for so long, and it didn't disappoint.

  • The experience - if you haven't been to Electric Forest, it should be at the top of your list, even if primarily electronic music isn't right up your alley. Madison House and Insomniac do an incredible job at creating an unforgettable experience. The Forest is yours to explore and it is filled with unique surprises and scenery at every turn. Having come from SAMF just a few weeks before, this was such a welcome change and is, in my opinion, the best part of the forest.

  • Our neighbors - we've been lucky to have awesome neighbors at the last few camping festivals and they can always add so much to your experience. Shout out Zach and Sean!

Unfortunately, not everything went perfectly. During our first search I am convinced security stole from my bag. As someone who rarely carries cash for this very reason, it was really hard to start the festival on a positive note with that on my mind.

Lollapalooza

Chicago's crown jewel has quite the reputation, for better or worse. A star-studded lineup with one of the best skylines in the world makes these four days some of the best of the Chicago summer. However, the act gets old fast: the throngs of drunk underage suburban teens on summer break make Grant Park an almost filthy place to be, especially if you frequent Perry's Stage. When it's noon on a Thursday and you're watching kids throw up, girls crying, and everyone is asking you for a cigarette (who do I look like? do I look stressed? you kids are stressing me out.), I can't help but feel like my festival days are coming to an end. We've all been there before, but I truly believe Lolla would be significantly more enjoyable with an age limit (although the people watching might be a bit less entertaining).

Highlights

  • Porter Robinson's 30 minutes in the rain

  • ​Ironically also one of the negatives - Porter only played for about 30 minutes before the festival was evacuated. We had planned to leave in the middle of his set to catch Lorde, which obviously never happened.

  • Blink182 - I've always been a huge Tom Delonge fan. Seeing them without him was definitely a bit unusual, but Matt Skiba is a Chicago legend. Respect.

  • Oliver Tree - I caught Oliver Tree's first live show and he was incredible. Not only is he an incredibly talent artist, but one of the most hilarious personalities I've ever seen.

  • San Holo's 1pm set - I was looking forward to seeing San play a proper Chicago show and Lolla certainly did not disappoint (see: this intro​ and this drop. holy shit)

  • The XX - Schedule conflicts galore on Saturday led me to some tough choices. The toughest was splitting Chance the Rapper and The XX headlining sets. I had just seen The XX in April, so I opted to catch the first half hour of Chance. He's a hometown hero and at the peak of his career. Despite all his praise, he was 20+ minutes late and watching from the back just wasn't quite doing it for me. I skipped to The XX and saw one of the most incredibly raw and emotion performances I've ever seen. If you ever get the chance to see The XX, don't pass it up.

Til next year!

Danny


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