The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Chicago's Electronic Dance Music Festival Outlook Raises Multiple Questions For 2014

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 6, 2014 5:30PM

Last year we were worried Chicago's electronic music bubble's walls were being stretched towards the point of bursting. With four major music festivals centered around electronic dance music plus the ever-expanding Perry's stage at Lollapalooza, our weekends and our wallets were really starting to feel it. This year, however, the EDM summer landscape is looking much different.

Of course, React Presents' premiere dance music celebration Spring Awakening is still a go, returning to Soldier Field for its third year, June 13 - 15. The local promoters put together yet another impressively solid lineup in 2014 including white hot bookings like Diplo, Kaskade and Knife Party. React Presents will also host its fifth annual North Coast Music Festival, an EDM-meets-jam-bands-and-hip-hop bash, over Labor Day weekend.

While it appears this year's major calendar events will be unaffected by React Presents recent sale to controversial EDM giants SFX Entertainment, the transaction does raise questions as to how this will affect React Presents' future bookings, especially at the local talent level. React has been influential in putting Chicago-based DJs and producers like Krewella, PHNM and Zebo in front of crowds of thousands. With a new, big bucks-oriented boss seated at the head of the table, one has to wonder if these types of bookings will continue to be allowed as frequently with festivals and even smaller club and theater shows.

React presents has helped raise the profile of local electronic artists and DJs like PHNM. Photo via PHNM's Facebook page
Local electronic artists can take solace in a new name on the scene this summer though. Third Rail Music Festival makes its debut May 24 and 25 on the Chicago Tribune Festival Lot (a six-acre plot located at 560 W. Grand Ave., just west of the Chicago River). When Chicagoist spoke with festival coordinator Alex Elckshire of MO Events, LLC, he told us he hopes this new festival will "carve out a niche in the industry." Specifically, he hopes that niche is underground talent based in Chicago. Third Rail will consist of "most, if not all" local performers ranging from house to trance to dubstep. Third Rail Music Festival has the capacity for 10,000 festival goers but Elckshire said he hopes to draw 5,000 in its inaugural year.

Third Rail will fill a gap over Memorial Day weekend left by EDC Chicago. After just one year, numerous noise complaints and major concerns about drug control, Insomniac Events pulled the plug on the Chicago offshoot of candy kid mecca EDC Las Vegas, promising to return with a new festival experience in 2015.

Another question mark on the horizon is Montrose Beach-based Wavefront Music Festival. What started as a downhome tribute to Chicago's house music legacy in 2012, became an over-the-top display of bass music and boozy extravagance by the following year. Now it looks as though the three-day festival could dwindle to half its size or, worse, disappear altogether. DNAinfo Chicago reports that after the city was inundated with noise and traffic complaints over the already busy Fourth of July weekend last year, it's looking to reevaluate its contract with the festival. Emails to Wavefront producer Dino Gardiakos requesting an update on Wavefront's future weren't returned.

Though it's clear that Chicago has planted itself at the forefront of electronic dance culture, we're clearly in a transition phase. When considering all of the festivals that have popped up throughout city limits in recent years, it's not hard to look at the track records of these festival and event promoters to tell which ones will be around for the long haul. Still, we're interested to see how this summer shakes out.