text: Alex Gavin | photography: Peter Kulak
Over the weekend of June 30th to July 1st we at Quip busted our pasty whites out of seasonal retirement, sunning all fifty shades of pale to kick off this summer’s festival season in style. But it wasn’t for your typical fun-in-the-sun activities, unless you’re reading this from Ibiza. For its first year in production, Four Headed Promotions put on Wavefront Music Festival at Chicago’s own Montrose (aka ‘No Rules’) Beach. Spanning two full days of debauchery down in the sand, thousands of Chicago’s finest wompers upped their risk of skin cancer to worship at the alter of house. And what a fitting place to host such an event, as Chicago is widely considered the birthplace of the brand of EDM that has dominated the music scene for almost two-straight years.
And it is important to note, this is house music. This shit is everywhere. Throughout the entire festival, not an instrument could be found. Decks, MIDI controllers and mixers prevailed, reflecting EDM’s general takeover of the American music scene moving into the summer. The notion of another electro-only festival may have seemed foreign this time last year, but with the baffling rise of dance music, a change of events that has the style almost synonymous with pop, Wavefront was able to stand on its own two feet in a music market that is quickly becoming saturated.
Turnout over the weekend was decent considering this fledgling production shared weekends with Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan, an event that surely sucked thousands of Wavefront’s target audience. But, even running under capacity the festival experienced some growing pains throughout the weekend. A confusing beer purchasing process (buy tickets for beers at one place, stand in line again to redeem the tickets for beers) drew a lot of ire from the crowd.
Also, the stages were maybe a little too close, and at times the sound bleed was overbearing when walking the grounds. There is nothing quite as unsettling as two off-beat dance tracks awkwardly bouncing between stages, and the haphazardly placed local stages were often drown out of the mix entirely. But, that is expected with first-run productions, and when face up at your main stage of choice, the sound was crisp and booming. So in the end, it all worked out.
Saturday featured headlining performances from Toronto’s own MSTRKRFT, Boys Noize, the King of Acid himself, and international superstar Eric Morillo. Musically, these acts are relatively diverse, and it was a nice triangulation of EDM styles on showcase. MSTRKRFT’s main focus went towards thumping bangers and sampling their own remixes from their catalogue, while Boys Noize went strictly acid for his 90-minute set. Noize’s dedication to acid electro has been growing since 2010’s Power, and the man avoided playing past hits from the Oi, Oi, Oi days almost entirely. He has truly come into his own as the genre’s poster child. Morillo whipped out a high-energy set of his own style of upbeat EDM. Whenever I think of traditional house, the brand established in Chicago’s underground over thirty years ago, Morillo is a top of mind performer.
There was a definitive shift in atmosphere once the beating sun took the rest of the day off, and the crowd’s energy elevated significantly for the day’s closing acts. However, the show ended at 10 p.m. due to a local noise ordinance, a depressingly early time for an EDM show. Oh well, life goes on.
Sunday promised to be a seasonal highlight of mine, with performances by DFA’s Mahoney, Shit Robot, and one of my favorite human beings on planet earth, Mr. James Murphy. But unfortunately a wind storm wrecked the vendor tents at about 12:30, and the grounds had to be evacuated for a safety concern. After over two hours of delay, the show resumed, but neither Shit Robot nor Mr. Murphy were slated to pickup any stage time. Total bummer, but it was just one of those things that happens. The festival recovered nicely from the little snafu, as nicely as possible, and by about 4 o’clock it was as if nothing happened.
The festival closed out with a rare performance from Duck Sauce, production and DJ superduo fronted by A-Trak and Arman van Helden. Holy shit, these guys know what they’re doing. Straying from the traditional house offerings from the rest of the festival, Duck Sauce went pop-disco on everyone’s ass for a rousing 90-minute set. It was a refreshing listen after almost 48-straight hours of four-on-the-floor beats, and even though it was a Sunday night, the crowd gave it their all. I can only imagine they weren’t the most productive employees come Monday, but when you get a chance to see Duck Sauce, on the beach, it is an easy decision: fuck work.
Looking forward to next year, and I think that this will become a mainstay in the Chicago summer scene.
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