After months of living vicariously through live streams, I finally had the privilege to attend my first festival in two years this Labor Day. With roughly 20,000 attendees, my friends and I ventured to Chicago for the first ARC Music Festival. Union Park was the dance floor for two days with some of the hottest names in house and techno. Although this was Auris Presents’ first crack at a massive, those mad lads knocked this one out of the park with one helluva party!
ARC’s lineup was smacking! I wouldn’t have expected anything less for a festival held in the city where house music was born. Saturday kicked the weekend off with sets from megastars like ZHU, Fisher, and Cirez D. The best set from a DJ I’ve Never Seen Before award goes to Layton Giordani. Let me tell you; he brought the effin heat! His set was so hot it started raining because everyone there needed to cool off.
Sunday’s lineup was also fire; literally, it was humid. Being an old man who attends festivals, I was pretty worn out from the day before. Luckily, I visited Dr. Will Clarke and Hot Since '82 for a prescription of bangers kicking my rear back into gear. When the oontz-oontz got a bit too much for me, and I wanted something more boots-and-cats, I took a timeout at the main stage with Jeremy Orlander, Camelphat, and the king himself, Eric Prydz.
Aside from having such a stacked lineup, the guys at Auris did a great job designing the four stages. Each dance floor felt like a different festival with unique decor and vibes.
The Grid was a massive field of green grass with plenty of space. An enormous screen sandwiched between smaller monitors and speakers sat at the front, surrounded by shipping containers painted in neon green with splashes of blue and yellow. At night, strips of LED lights filled the dark park with vivid color as the flock of strobe lamps perched on top of the stage swept the crowd with an assortment of lasers.
Elrow was the second biggest stage at ARC, but it wasdefinitelythe most intoxicating. Decorative balloons dyed in flamboyant shades of pink, purple, and green covered the ceiling. I remember seeing performers in strange costumes walking around the dance floor on stilts led by exotic handlers as rainbow confetti rained down like we were at Carnival. It was all weird and confusing but funky and exhilarating, a sample of the originalElrow in Spain.
Between The Grid and Elrow was theGoodBus. Which, as you can probably picture, is a fully-functional mobile renovated school bus with a 10,000-watt machine! Aside from this festival, this party on wheels has made its way through Electric Forest and Summer Camp.
Expansion was the dustiest stage of them all. There were times when I thought the lasers were drawing designs on steam generated from a machine, but nope, it was clouds of dust. My nose is starting to close up just thinking about it. However, having the bathroom located in the back of this stage was clutch since not many people knew about it. So, thank you.
Getting to Union Park was pretty easy. I took the L train the first day (the CTA trains are beautiful and easy to use, BTW) and a rideshare the second. Getting out of the park was a different story. My friend and I walked back to our hotel on Sunday since we didn’t want to wait for transportation. The humidity did not make the 2.5 miles trek easy, nor did the sweat-soaked jeans I wore.
Even though the festival ended at 10 pm, the party continued with ARC After Dark: official afterparties spread across five Chicago clubs both nights, which isn’t surprising since Auris is aband of club owners and those in the nightlife industry. There was Blacklizt at Radius, Will Clarke at Spybar, the Adam Beyer-less Drumcode takeover at Concord Music Hall, and many more. I only had the energy to attend one, which was the PRYDA AFTER PARTY BABY! Thus completing a goal of mine, seeling all three of Prydz (current) alias in one weekend.
Besides getting walked through when I was trying to dance, I found that everyone was pretty chill; everyone there was just trying to have a good time after a festival drought. There was a lot of black attire. The outfits are similar to those seen here at iHeartRaves, but just in black with more black. Oh, and also a bunch of psychedelic Hawaiian shirts and overalls.
The thing I’ll remember the most about ARC is the people. ARC reminded me how magical it feels when you make a new friend over your shared love of music and overpriced water, or how sometimes all you need is a weekend running from stage to porta-potty with your tribe to feel like everything is going to be alright.
All in all, I had a fantastic time. If you have a chance to reconnect with your crew, then I would highly recommend it. 10-out-of-10, I would hella do it again!