The landscape of electronic music in Chicago is currently in flux, and nowhere was this more evident than at Wavefront Music Festival on Montrose Beach. In a few short years, dance music has once again broken out of the city's clubs. With other festivals popping up in the Chicagoland area aiming for a younger audience, namely Spring Awakening (also in its second year) and Electric Daisy Carnival (who debuted in Chicago on Memorial Day Weekend), Wavefront aims for an older, more discerning clubber, but still offers enough rave to catch the attention of the younger demographic.
For this reason, Wavefront felt like two events separated between the two main beachside stages. The Wave Stage, framed by a 40-foot mock tidal wave that spritzed the crowd throughout the weekend, played host to above-ground artists like Cedric Gervais, Fatboy Slim, Diplo and Justice. The playful stage set-up, coupled with the artists it hosted, seemed to captivate most of the day-glo youth that populated the beach all weekend.
In contrast, The Cube Stage was decked out with LED screens from floor to ceiling. Headliners on this side of the beach—Guy Gerber, Danny Tenaglia, Audion, Dubfire, Damian Lazarus, Jamie Jones—played a comparitively sophisticated sound to an older audience. In fact, the only crossover between these two crowds happened when The Martinez Brothers and Scuba played on the Cube Stage on Sunday afternoon.
One major difference in this year's Wavefront was the addition of two stages and another full day to the schedule. This allowed for a broader and deeper pool of artists, but bigger is not always better. The additional stages were placed in a straight line, both facing the same direction, smack in between the two larger main stages. Needless to say, the one major issue that plagued last year's festival was once again a problem: sound bleed.
This was not only an issue for attendees, but performers, too, especially DFA boss James Murphy, who refused to play his set on Friday night until his monitors were louder than the stages surrounding him. After making the crowd wait for a little over 15 minutes, he finally manned the decks, much to the relief of fans and organizers. In another unfortunate turn of events, Sunday's All Day I Dream stage, featuring Lee Burridge, Hoj and Mike Khoury, was forced to pull out due to an inadequate allocation of the smallest stage on the grounds, an oversight from organizers that caused many revelers to take to Facebook to air their grievances.
In a tip of the hat to Chicago’s place in house music history, Saturday’s Legends Stage was the highlight for many in attendance over the weekend, with standout sets from Diz, Derrick Carter vs Mark Farina and Frankie Knuckles with Jamie Principle. And over the entire weekend, the Ty Ku Solarbeatz stage, which was dedicated to the overwhelming pool of local talent from across the city, saw larger crowds than last year.
With the second year under their belt, Wavefront has a lot going for it in the future, but a few issues that still their need attention if they hope to continue to draw in an older and more experienced crowd. That being said, not many festivals are brave enough to book Maya Jane Coles, Ida Engberg and Crookers on the same bill. More than a few people were overheard saying that it was about time Chicago had an event such as Wavefront, and with any hope, it will just get better in the years to come.