After just one two-day festival last year, Spring Awakening Music Festival has rapidly become Chicago’s hottest music festival not named Lollapalooza. SAMF, unlike Lollapalooza and other festivals, is an all-electronic dance music festival. Even if you do not seem interested in a weekend-long EDM experience, it is definitely something worth checking out before you dismiss it. If you don’t have fun at it, something is wrong with you. If you are considering going, go. Trust me. Three-day passes and single-day tickets are still on sale!
As a big EDM fan and someone who experienced both days of Spring Awakening last year, I thought it would be helpful to everyone to explain who to see and why you should see them. Feel free to disagree with me; these are just my choices. Some decisions were extremely difficult; others took no thought whatsoever. It should be assumed that wherever I am starting from at each day, I do not particularly recommend anyone before that, but that does not mean you shouldn’t check them out. I have included links if you want to check out some of the artists.
While everyone is calling this the weakest day on the schedule, Friday still boasts a number of very good artists. Honestly, the fact that Friday has the fewest big name artists helped in that each hour had just one big artist, so there were few tough decisions.
4:15-5:15 DJ Bl3nd
This is an interesting one. You will never hear DJ Bl3nd on any radio stations or in EDM pop culture, yet he holds the record for most weeks (45) on Billboard’s “Uncharted” category for his YouTube views. Honestly, DJ Bl3nd scares me just because of his mask, and it makes me hard to take him seriously. However, he does produce some quality music and is known to have awesome live sets.
PANTyRAID is a fun American duo that will be a great way to kick off a long run on the main stage. These guys produce much more melodic music than many top artists and can be a lot of fun on stage.
6:30-7:30 Bingo Players
You may not know it or not, but you have undoubtedly heard some Bingo Players music before, most likely “Rattle”, which is played in tons of DJ sets and was recently remixed by 2 Chains, and also “Cry”, which Flo Rida ripped off a few months ago. Bingo Players is a Swedish house duo that is sure to deliver an awesome show.
7:30-8:30 Dirty South
While already a must-see DJ, Dirty South’s debut album, Speed of Life, released a couple months ago, has made him one of the top artists of the entire festival. After years of producing really catchy progressive house, Speed of Life features influences by Coldplay and U2, among others, and combines an incredible blend of both house and other genres of music.
An interesting English dubstep band, Nero is definitely one of the feature artists of SAMF. Famous for collabs with Skrillex (“Promises” and “Holdin’ On”), they have put out three recent albums that all feature some great, fresh music. Quite simply, Nero will put out an incredibly interesting and engaging performance that will definitely stand out from all the other artists of the day, particularly right after two progressive house artists.
Spring Awakening usually makes it easy for people to choose who to see at the end of each day, but on this one, it is not quite so simple. Moby, a greatly respected electronic producer, is not known for the same firepower that Bassnectar has or the catchiness of Calvin Harris, but he is still known for having great shows. That said, he could end up being one of the top acts of the entire festival, but you could find yourself wanting to head home early. Check out his full Coachella set to get an idea of what he will be like.
Saturday has probably the highest volume of top artists of any of the three days, but that leads to some impossibly difficult decisions.
Stratus performed early afternoon on Sunday at last year’s North Coast and turned out a great show. His music is a fusion of all kinds of EDM that all culminates in a fun show. Team Bayside High would also be a good bet during this time slot.
All three choices (DotEXE, Oliver, and Don Dada) are all extremely different but all pretty solid. Check out any of them; there’s not a high opportunity cost with any of them.
4:30-5:30 Lucky Date
This is my pick for best performance by someone you don’t know too well. Fresh off a huge remix of Hardwell’s “Apollo”, Lucky Date is going to go big at SAMF. He is known for having fun with the crowd during some pretty killer progressive house drops. Savoy and Walden are also during this time slot and are both good artists, but I definitely suggest going to Lucky Date here. Lucky Date is performing in the lone tent remaining on the grounds, and tents are the fucking best.
5:30-6:30 AN21 & Max Vangeli
Beyond the awesome factor of their names (yes, that is pronounced “Antoine”) and the fact that they are childhood best friends making music together, this Swedish duo has been on the scene for years and is sure to give a great performance. They opened for many of Swedish House Mafia’s One Last Tour concert and are very popular in Europe. Their music ranges from chill progressive to surprisingly filthy drops.
This is where the day really heats up, which also means the decisions get tough. The choice here is between three very different artists: Flosstradamus, Nervo, and 12th Planet. I am going with Flosstradamus here because their performance is going to be completely different than anyone else’s all weekend. Floss is a Chicago trap duo that have become very popular in the last year or so, particularly with their remix of Major Lazer’s “Original Don”. Their performances contain a lot of dirty remixes of hot rap songs and otherwise fun trap. It is basically one giant party. Nervo is a house/dub duo of twin girls that are also good, and 12th Planet is one of the founders of modern dubstep– both good choices, but Flosstradamus is really one of the performances I am most looking forward to all weekend.
I hate this. This is the most difficult decision all weekend. Both Zedd and Nicky Romero are two of the top five artists that I was looking forward to at SAMF. I am choosing Zedd because right now I think he is a better artist. Nicky Romero is great, but he is not quite polished. It will also be a break from the main stage, and I think the smaller stages are sometimes even more fun that the main stage. The good news is that both of these guys are so young and will be around for years to come. Zedd’s “Clarity” has recently gained mainstream popularity, but his tracks “Spectrum” and “Fall into the Sky” are both very popular in the EDM world.
8:30-9:30 Wolfgang Gartner
Back again for a penultimate time slot at SAMF, Wolfgang Gartner is sure to have a great performance on the main stage. Plenty of people will want to see Zeds Dead during this time slot, and I suggest seeing them if you like hardcore dubstep, but that is not for me. Wolfgang will be more of a progressive house show, and he is going to go big this year on the main stage.
Bassnectar takes his talents to his third Chicago music festival in three years, and even if you don’t like his music, his performance on the main stage will definitely be a ton of fun to close out Saturday night.
The final day of the festival has nearly as much star power as Sunday and closes out with the top artist of the entire weekend.
Probably the only Guatemalan artist you will ever see, Carnage plays an interesting blend of many different types of EDM. He has played some big stages over the last couple years and is gaining popularity all around the world. For an early slot in the day, Carnage is a great artist to go to. His brand-new remix of Martin Solveig’s “Hey Now” is one of the hottest EDM tracks right now.
These guys deserve to have a spot on the main stage. Starting as a hardstyle duo, they have transitioned more to house recently, and they are one of the hottest artists out right now. Their brand new track “Get Loose” was Hardwell’s final song in his Ultra set and has been remixed by Tiesto. Their collab with Hardwell is also a top song in the genre. Listen to these two and tell me that Showtek will not be one of the best performances of the weekend.
A local dubstep group and early-afternoon performer at last year’s festival, Krewella has become incredibly popular in just the last year. The group is incredibly fun to see and are looking to prove themselves on the main stage at the biggest EDM festival in their home city. This one is easy.
The only trance artist that I have suggested. I am not a huge trance fan, but ATB is an extremely popular artist and should have a fun show. If you find him too boring, Mord Fustang will certainly turn up the heat.
7:30-8:30 Porter Robinson
His performance in Chicago this winter was one of the best EDM performances I have ever seen, and I was not even expecting much of a guy brand-new to the scene whose debut album was mostly boring dubstep. He is expected to play tons of unreleased tracks that will sound a lot more like his more house-influenced “Language” and “Easy”. He will also have a stunning visual show to go along with his crazy drops.
8:30-9:30 Tommy Trash
It will be nice to finally get off the main stage and see a wild and fun house artist. His biggest songs recently have been his remix of deadmau5’s “The Veldt” and his collab with Sebastian Ingrosso, “Reload”. This is going to be a great performance, and it will be a great way to close out the non-main-stage part of the weekend before returning to the inside of Solder Field.
9:30-11:00 Calvin Harris
A big artist in the EDM world for a few years, Calvin Harris has gained huge mainstream popularity with his release of 18 Months last fall. This will be a fantastic way to close out an amazing weekend.