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Spring Awakening Music Festival Instates Age Limitation For 2015

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 3, 2014 7:00PM

Spring Awakening Music Festival 2014/Photo: Katie Karpowicz

When SFX Entertainment (a subsidiary of corporate concert giant Live Nation) purchased React Presents earlier this year many loyal customers feared the locally based electronic music promoter would go the way of its money-hungry new owner.

Judging by the moves Spring Awakening Music Festival (a flagship weekend event thrown annually by React) is making this week, fearful fans were assured that the folks behind React are continuing to set the Chicago standard in summer fests. On Monday, a holiday pre-sale email sent to newsletter subscribers and media announced that the formerly all ages electronic dance music festival would move to an 18 and older age restriction in 2015.

"SAMF truly appreciates the support from our younger fans, but we believe the festival is an experience for adults," the email asserted. "This difficult decision was made to promote safety amongst our fans and ensure the best experience from our attendees and future attendees. We encourage everyone to attend the festival when they reach the appropriate age."

The responsibly ballsy move highlights an important factor that's arisen in the national festival circuit in the last five years: music festivals have become an adult experience. Instead of a three-day escape surrounding a live music lineup, more and more ticket buyers treat the festival experience as a weekend-long booze and, often, drug-fueled haze with a killer soundtrack.

Installing an 18-year age minimum at Spring Awakening, held every June at Soldier Field since 2011, seemingly comes as a direct response to a highly publicized and criticized React-produced Skrillex show at Navy Pier held in October that sent 16 fans to the hospital. The show was accessible to fans 16 and older.

Spring Awakening Music Festival 2014/Photo: Katie Karpowicz
Electronic dance music, or EDM, concerts seem to be the biggest target in the concert scene's age-appropriate crackdown. Younger music fans have drifted en mass towards the genre as it rises to mainstream ubiquity and the results have, sadly, been increasingly dangerous.

Festivals similar to Spring Awakening like Las Vegas' Electric Daisy Carnival and New York's Electric Zoo have both recorded attendee deaths and suffered as a result. After a 15-year-old overdosed at EDC in 2010, the festival was forced to relocate from Los Angeles and the Zoo cancelled its third day last year after a frightening two fatal overdoses.

Spring Awakening Music Festival is the first of its kind in Chicago to instate an 18 and older limitation and hopefully it will prevent any similarly tragic fates from striking our local scene. The question now is if other local festivals will follow suit.

Lollapalooza, traditionally an all ages event, didn't respond to Chicagoist's request for 2014 arrest and hospitalization numbers but in August DNAinfo reported that more than 34 attendees were arrested in Grant Park this year, most of which were drug related.

While Spring Awakening's transition to an 18 and older event might sound like a threat to ticket sales, it's worth noting that an automatically older crowd might attract 20 and 30 year olds previously turned off by coming face to face with music fans half their age in a party setting.