Wavefront Music Festival, Day Three: Bringing Down The House?

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 8, 2013 8:20PM

Year number two of Wavefront Music Festival, held at Montrose Beach, is officially in the books. The final day of the festival wound down with a twerk-off, fireworks and a rumbling DJ set from Justice. Champagne showered the front rows of the crowd, the cabanas were overflowing with scantily clad models and the dubstep beats blew through the speakers at a volume that rattled our brains and raised the attention of nearby condo owners. It was, by all accounts, a party but we're left wondering if it was the party we signed up for.

Last year's Wavefront Festival was the North Side's version of the long running Chosen Few Picnic. It was communal. It created an underground, block party-esque atmosphere. And it was all about celebrating house and techno music. In 2013 everything that made last year's festival cool was blown out to the point of excess. We loved the idea of having dancers on stage periodically throughout the day but when the fest began running through two or three or four sets of them per performer, it wasn't hard to lose interest. We loved the line-up last year and were impressed with the talent booked this year, but it wasn't hard to tell when we compared the size of the crowds at the traditional house music stages and The Wave Stage (which featured nearly every dubstep and bass-heavy artist of the week) where the focus was shifting. And, while we fully understand that the ultimate goal of a festival is to make money and that Wavefront is not the first to implement a "VIP" option, we couldn't help but feel the VIP and cabana packages created some serious segregation within the festival.

That said, the point of this and every music festival is the music and that was on point Sunday.

We enjoyed Sultan and Ned Shepard's second year at Wavefront—although with a set containing Bruno Mars, Krewella, at least three Calvin Harris tracks it played more like a generic Top 40 radio station playlist and made us further appreciate EDM artists who are actually creating their own tracks.

After hugging The Wave stage for most of Saturday we headed over the The Cube on Sunday, where the artists were definitely more house driven, for Scuba's superb set. Funky baselines with synth and vocal samples echoing in the background got us kicking up sand while laser-like electronic accents sliced through his loops. We were able to stay for 45 minutes but it shocked us by how fast it went by.

Crookers—once a duo, now just the solo effort of Francesco "Phra" Barbaglia—is perhaps best known for remixing Kid Cudi's "Day 'N Nite" several years back so it was no surprised to hear a heavy hip hop influence in his set with heavy bass and the slightest hint of a reggae twist. We caught snippets of Snoop Dogg songs, the aforementioned Kid Cudi remix and, although we thought it had finally been laid to rest, Kanye West and Jay-Z's "N***** In Paris." Interestingly enough, Diplo dropped this track into his set, which immediately followed Crookers, as well. We were pretty sure that Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" had replaced this song as the inescapable track of the summer.

Speaking of Diplo, that was something to be seen. From his solo career as a DJ and producer to the stars (M.I.A., Snoop Dogg, No Doubt, etc.) to his time in Major Lazer to his position at the helm of Mad Decent records, everything Diplo touches seems to turn to gold. Luckily he gave the Midas touch to his performance last night as well. A nonstop barrage of everything from popular reggae beats to current radio hits to Major Lazer cuts begged some serious energy from the huge crowd. His set had flow, it had originality and best of all we felt like Diplo truly put his own spin on the tracks he was dropping rather than just pushing the "play" button. It all culminated with a personal invitation from Diplo to the young women of the audience to join him on stage and show off their "twerking" abilities. Obviously, madness erupted as girls scrambled over the barricades and dancers were left hanging from the stage's rafters.

While the rest of the festival's performers welcomed similar gimmicks, the French duo that is Justice wasn't having any of that, which was totally cool with us. No stage dancers. No water cannons. No nonsense. Just music and a relatively minimal light show. Justice's set varied so greatly from anything else we'd seen or heard that day it was heavenly. Dark, cosmic loops intertwined with their own classics like "D.A.N.C.E." and "Genesis" and wonderfully random selections like Run-DMC "It's Tricky" and Junior Senior's "Move Your Feet"—remember that one?

Our final stop of the day took us to Nicolas Jaar's set on the much more intimate side stage. A far cry from anything else we'd heard that day Jaar was spinning easy riding beats adding a bit of flavor with some live vocals and synths. It was an excellent way to wind down after a wild weekend.

After two years, we're sure that Wavefront has made its impression on Chicago's festival circuit. We're also hopeful that it finds its identity. Is it a family-style celebration of house music or a VIP-laden EDM blowout? We'll curiously await the answer until next summer.