September 7, 2021
Chicago celebrated the fading days of summer with ARC Music Festival. An ode to the birthplace of house music, the festival brought together a diverse lineup of house and techno artists for a one-of-a-kind open-air event just south of downtown. It was a first-time event of this caliber for Auris Presents and the veteran group of Chicago dance music promoters proved that their years of experience were the key to a successful weekend. The finely curated music and art experience rivaled that of European festivals. This kind of event is long overdue.
Spread out over four unique stages at grassy Union Park, ARC was a carnival of the senses featuring performances from Camelphat, Deborah De Luca, Meduza, Seth Troxler, Fisher, Zhu, Eric Prydz, and more. The international lineup gave just as much shine to Chicago heroes like Steve Gerrard and Hiroko Yamamura as it did to house music legends like DJ Heather, Derick Carter, and Gene Farris.
Here are five reasons why ARCblew us away
If you had streamers in your cup, you were definitely at the elrow stage. The Spanish experience creators brought the circus to Chicago for the first time. And the tent tucked away behind the main stage was the first to be full each day. The stage was a day-glow flashback to the ‘60s, appropriate for the end of our very own summer of love. It was a party within a party with its tie-dye color palate, vibrant décor, stilt walkers, actors, jugglers, and elrow’s dancing avian mascot, Rowgelia.
The stage produced some beautifully wholesome moments. Like when the crowd erupted in unison as Fisher dropped an appropriate remix of Jefferson Airplane’s, “Want Somebody to Love.” Or when Hot Since 82 spotted a Baby Yoda stuffy raised high in the center of the dance floor, and eventually placed it front and center on the DJ booth to silently watch over the crowd as he closed the festival out. Apparently the t-shirt Yoda is wearing was made by a fan for the DJ's baby, Enzo.
Arius marketing director Joe Calderone said that the elrow stage required 70 pounds of streamers and confetti. If you were anywhere in the vicinity of the stage you would know when the hourly confetti blasts happened because you could hear the crowd shout in collective joy every single time. It’s the first time many at the festival heard of elrow, but it won’t be the last. Elrow returns to Chicago for a full venue take over at Radius nightclub in October 2021.
Photo Credit: Kursza
ARC organizers clearly understand the value of letting a performer stretch their limbs a bit. Many of the sets at ARC were longer than an hour, with some headliner slots stretching out for two. Longer set times meant artists like Camelphat, who played during a picturesque sunset on Sunday, could take the audience on an aural journey, shift moods, build emotion, and tell a complete story. It also meant that set time conflicts weren’t the end of the world because you could easily bounce between artists and catch enough of each set to make it all worth it.
Photo Credit: Kursza
The festival’s two main stages the Grid and Expansions were an example of how Arius hopes to build unique spaces. The production was impressive, especially for a first-time festival. The Grid, ARC’s mainstage was a magnificent build of cascading shipping containers, a massive mural, and a web of LEDs and lasers that came alive at night. Let's be clear though, it was a captivating spectacle during the day as well. The arena was spacious and the sound was incredible.
Photo Credit: Kursza
Expansions was smaller but a gorgeous work of art just the same. A cross between an alien spacecraft, bird's nest, and a raver treehouse. The natural build felt at home nestled among the trees. It was the proper environment for people to get a little bit soaked in the rain during the Saturday night Cirez D set.
Photo Credit: Lunar Speedboat
Let's not forget the ARC Car! The hometown team took over a purpose-built 45-foot rear-engine school bus for the weekend. With a 10,000-watt VOID audio system and a lineup of local legends, the GoodBus was the smallest of the four stages, but it was mighty.
The sense of community felt at ARC was undeniable. From the camaraderie between the DJs to the hugs and high fives we saw on the dance floor, there was a unifying spirit that hung in the air throughout the weekend. For many ARC was a return to festivals after a nearly two-year break during the pandemic. So the feeling of being back on the dancefloor amongst our people was palpable. It was also a destination festival, with festivalgoers converging on Chicago from throughout the country.
Those who came to the festival went because they hoped to be part of a historic event. Enjoying a weekend of underground dance in the sun with thousands of your closest friends is one of the best feelings life has to offer. There were multiple times I felt the spirit of old-school rave culture.
When you dive deeper beneath the surface, you realize that the sense of togetherness is part of the construction of the ARC itself. The founders include a list of industry legends who helped push the culture forward in Chicago and beyond. They joined forces to build an event company that puts fan experience above all else. Their love for the culture permeated through the festival grounds all weekend.
The Midwestern charm of Chicago is one of the main characters in the story of ARC. The city’s people are some of the most welcoming and genuine in the country.
Chicago’s food culture is outstanding. I got a Chicago hotdog and an Italian Beef in the same meal. I skipped the Malort.
The delightful city that birthed a youth culture movement that’s lasted for nearly four decades is a hearty, honest, and non-pretentious place that is full of natural and architectural beauty. And an amazing music culture that stretches back to the days of the blues. ARC harnessed the vitalic energy of Chicago, its deep-seated history, and charming appeal and put it on display for all to experience. We can't wait to return to ARC for year two.