All house and techno lovers are congregating at the same place this Labor Day Weekend. Thanks to its successful debut last year, on September 2-4, Chicago’s Union Park is hosting the greatest international house acts for ARC Music Festival. Incredible world-renowned artists, including Fat Boy Slim for a rare stateside festival appearance, the smooth deep house sounds of Nora En Pure, the king of techno Carl Cox, and acid techno maven of Charlotte de Witte.
We’re also excited to see the Spanish experiential party brand elrow returning for another full stage takeover. Last year the elrow tent was decked from top to bottom in neon, and the vibes (and confetti blasts) were thick all weekend long.
The lineup includes a diverse mix of homegrown talent, industry legends, and today’s brightest stars in underground dance music. From Get Real to Carl Craig, Ann Clue to Honey Dijon, Maine to Wax Motif, the lineup represents a cross-section of the many intersecting elements of modern and classic house and techno culture.
ARC’s curation is second to none. Seldom do we see lineups like this stateside. And they’ve made the deal sweeter by adding a bevy of tantalizing B2B sets that you may not see anywhere else. Back-to-back sets are an art form, and these selectors are primed and ready to give the dancefloor an education in proper dance music. The B2B lineup includes Derrick Carter b2b Mark Farina, Skream b2b Eats Everything, Öona Dahl b2b DJ Three, Gene Farris b2b Mike Dunn, and Hiroko Yamamura b2b DJ Hyperactive.
The music isn’t the only thing you’ll want to come for. Curated production and art elements will be scattered throughout the festival, so even when you’re stage-hopping, you’ll be immersed in the ARC experience. And if you’re like us and food is one of the main reasons you like to go to festivals, ARC will be serving strictly local cuisine for your elevated palate.
Since you love house and techno as much as we do, you’re probably already familiar with the headliners, but there are many more acts to dig into. We chose a few you should check before heading to ARC.
Chicago local Hiroko Yamamura stays true to their roots by spinning classic Chicago, influenced by The Warehouse, technology, and straight-up techno. Yamamura was dubbed one of XLR8R’s Top 10 Chicago DJs, and that didn’t slow down during lockdown. Yamamura played virtual sets in those two years, including one for Beatport Live’s Movement Festival At Home.
Sama’ Abdulhadi is representing Palestine at ARC Festival this year. Co-signed by Boiler Room, New York Times, Red Bull, and even landed a cover on DJ Mag, AbdulHadi is hardly underrated. However, she represents the thriving techno scene in Palestine—and is even nicknamed Palestine’s queen of techno—so if you haven’t had a chance to catch a set, this is your time.
Chicago’s house music queen is DJ Lady D, and since you’re in Chicago, you have no choice but to pull up to her set. She’s played at events including Lollapalooza, SXSW, and Wanderlust, but a set at ARC is the perfect match. You can expect the best house, techno, and disco from one of Chicago’s trailblazing selectors.
Dutch DJ Chelina Manuhutu comes from a musical family. Her father, Johnny Manuhutu, was part of Latin funk band Massada. There’s a bit of that Latin funk in her lively tech house sound. The powerhouse artist has appeared on stages worldwide, including Creamfields, elrow, and all over Ibiza. When Chelina takes the stage, expect the energy to flip into high gear with big basslines and spicy rhythms.
The three-day, four-stage festival has so much to choose from, you’re bound to run into some set time conflicts. But with out-of-this-world production, first-class music acts, and exquisite culinary choices, no matter what you pick, you’re going to have the best Labor Day Weekend that Chicago has to offer.
Charlotte de Witte
De La Swing
DJ Lady D
Giolì & Assia
Nora En Pure
Chicago native and the Godfather of House Music Frankie Knuckles famously said, "The minute you think you're greater than the music, you're finished." This ethos is intrinsic to one of Chicago's premier (and newer) dance music happenings, ARC Music Festival, returning for its sophomore year this Labor Day Weekend to the city's epicenter in Union Park. The three-day festival pays homage to Chicago's proud history as the birthplace of house and includes a lineup stacked with dance music legends like Carl Cox, Honey Dijon, Seth Troxler, Derrick Carter, Mark Farina, Mike Dunn, Fatboy Slim, and more than 50 other artists. When asked to describe in a few words what the 20,000 daily festivalgoers can expect during this second annual go-round, ARC co-founder Stu Hackley offered an unambiguous picture. "Amazing F**king Music." Paying tribute to one of the most prolific global genres over the past 40 years is no easy feat. The house music community is broad, diverse, and encompasses a wide range of tastes and sonic textures. So how did the ARC team translate the once-underground genre onto the American main stage? As the iconic lyrics of vocalist (and Chicagoan) Celeda still ring out across dancefloors today, "Music is the answer." In 2019, a mutual love for house and techno brought Hackley together with industry veteran and festival co-founder John Curley, who grew up in the Chicago club circuit in the early-90s. However, soon after the seed for ARC began germinating, the pandemic arrived. Fortunately, it afforded the duo downtime to "get to root of what Chicago really needed" from its next big festival. "There was no specific formula," says Hackley. "It was us two music heads, almost just thinking, 'What would we want to listen to? How do we see this coming to life?'" Three years later, and coming up on its second installment, ARC aims to represent every facet of house, techno, and underground music on a large scale. With Chicago's influence on the electronic music scene top of mind, the ARC team has intentionally curated an experience that captures the true essence and history of dance music as a genre rooted in equality, diversity, and inclusion. "We try to create something that has a little bit for everyone," says Hackley. "Everyone is welcome at ARC. I don't think we're speaking to any one individual. When we talk about ARC, we talk about how to reach people who love good music and want to appreciate it in a great city, with great weather, and have an amazing time. It's an intrinsic gut feeling that we go off by being [dance music] fans ourselves that helps us speak to the audience that's out there." This spirit of equity also comes to life on ARC's stages. The festival ensures that its diverse lineup of artists—from legendary classic house DJs to progressive newcomers—get equal footing and billing, with the goal of cross-pollinating audiences and exposing festivalgoers to new artists. "We aim to really mold and mesh the classic sounds and the new sounds together," says Hackley. "There are other festivals that will book some of these legends or founders of the genre, but they don't get prioritized set times. We do the opposite. We want to put every artist on equally prominent stages and really represent what each of them has given to this music." And from a production standpoint, ARC eschews flashy gimmicks. The team has refined a laser focus on the fundamentals: high-quality sound, amazing production, and a cohesive, creative visual experience across its three stages. "At the basics, we focus on solid production and sound," says Hackley. "It starts with just creating an uncommodified, real experience. We don't want people to step onsite and feel like they're being taken out of the club environment they're used to feeling." The festival fosters an immersive journey, where attendees can flow seamlessly between the technicolor containers of the ARC's largest stage, The Grid, and the psychedelic flamboyance of Elrow. A journey onwards moves into the deeper, jungle-like vibe of Expansions. And for festival pass holders looking to party late into balmy Chicago night? The ARC After Dark party series hosts artists at venues across Chicago once the festival wraps for the night. ARC offers three types of three-day festival passes. The ARCitect (General Admission) pass includes priority access to purchase tickets for ARC After Dark events. The GLOBAL (VIP) pass provides access to the Global lounge, elevated viewing areas, and private bars. And the ICON (VIP Plus) pass includes all-inclusive access to locally catered food, hors d'oeuvres, and top-shelf alcohol, with access to the Icon lounge for the best views at the festival. In recent years, house and techno have slowly but surely returned from across the pond in a massive way. ARC aims to foster a burgeoning and increasingly diverse dance music community in the US, united under the banner of good f**king music in the city where it all began. Follow ARC Music Festival on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
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