As thousands left the festival grounds, a deafening roar of celebration rose out of the crowd; a celebratory "Thank you" for the amazing weekend they had just experienced.
Last weekend, React Presents completed its 8th year of the Spring Awakening Music Festival. This time, they pulled it off in suburban Hoffman Estates. React's achievement comes after a long rollercoaster of events that started almost a year ago with news that the company was struggling to find a new location for the festival. That aside, it appears the Village of Hoffman Estates is ready to discuss adopting the EDM festival for a second year after what GoPride.com considers a well-executed event.
As an avid EDM concert and festival goer, I had the privilege of attending the event for my third year. Coming out of the gate I had both hope and apprehension for the Chicago-based production company. Being in the suburbs threw more than one new wrench into the mix. Parking and transit was one of the greatest concerns. React had just announced that they were going to have shuttle busses to and from the festival to nearby train stations and the nearest blue line station. This came shortly after the bus faux pas at Ultra Music Festival. Delightfully, React came out in full force with what appeared to be 50 busses! Sergeant Mark Mueller of the Hoffman Estates Police Department praised the promoters for how efficient the bus system was. "It was like Disneyland," he told GoPride.com. "You could leave at any time of the day. One bus filled up, and another pulled up right behind it." The department was also impressed at React's diligence in getting several nearby businesses to allow their parking facilities to be used for the mass of festival goers that drove to the festival.
Production wise, it was a total hit! The acts were great, the stages were beautiful, and there was ample access to water and health services. It seemed fairly easy to navigate the festival grounds in the new location. React also threw in a couple new surprises, including VIP food amenities, being able to access both main stages without leaving the VIP zone, more Ferris Wheels and a hot air balloon! There were plenty of fireworks and pyrotechnics to go around too. Along with the return of the Corona Electric Beach and the Monaco sponsored Silent Disco, this year was also met with the introduction of a new stage, The Bus Stop, a Chicago built school bus called The Good Bus that has been permanently converted into a bass-booming, cross-country, traveling EDM stage. Readers may remember The Good Bus's appearance when it led last year's Haunted Halsted Halloween Parade in Boystown. When music festivals open for the day, there usually isn't much going on. The bus served as an awesome warm up for festival attendees, going full force with classic house, funk and techno, and I was very happy with the addition.
Spring Awakening didn't go without its faults though. And this wouldn't be a fair review without critique. For one, I felt that there was more land that wasn't taken advantage of. It wasn't bad though; I still got my 10k steps in early on. The Function stage felt tucked away behind the food stands. A consequence of layout, but not enough to stop attendees from seeing their favorite artists. Another is that the Solstice main stage felt disproportionately more extravagant than the Equinox main stage, boasting a taller installation and way more fireworks. Last year I remember both stages being equally impressive. To me, it almost felt like React was holding their breath, and as a result hesitated on pulling out all the usual stops on production. Frankly, for having a lot riding on a lot of changes, React pulled off another fantastic festival.
On a high note, police on site were delighted with the attendees. And the feeling was mutual. The sight of festival goers laughing with officers and giving high fives was a good sign that the weekend was going to be met with a warm welcome.
"The people were great and listened well to directions" explained Sargent Muller, who also commended festival organizers on the medical presence. "The medical staff was fantastic. The main medical tent had to have had 40 beds and doctors on site. People were brought in, given treatment, evaluated, and if they were good-to-go they were allowed to return to the festival."
And yes, while many didn't realize it, the Mayor and members of his office came to check out all the fun. And while Sargent Muller acknowledges that there is room for improvements on all fronts, he gave a nod of approval, and so do I.
React Presents faced a ton of obstacles this year, but the first-class production company rose to the occasion, defying odds and doing what they do best. And after hearing the roars and cheers from the crowd leaving the festival, I think everyone agrees. Spring Awakening Music Festival may very well have found its new home in the suburbs, and I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I look forward to seeing what amazing things they'll have in store for next year.View full gallery of photos from Spring Awakening Music Festival 2019