At Spring Awakening, which ran Friday through Sunday at Soldier Field, it was easy to divine the hierarchy of the EDM world. If you're on the fourth stage, you might have an audience of 20 friends. Two and three, people know who you are and when you say "jump," a couple of thousand folks will leap skyward. Mainstage is the big-leagues. In short, minors to majors; just like baseball.
Take Chicagoland's Louis the King, who played Friday afternoon. The DJ duo is still in school, but already has a clothing sponsor and a tasty new mix, "Dimension," that it just put together. The pair is in the minors, but could move up as the seasons pass.
You are always aware of the pecking order. In fact, R3hab, who closed the second stage Friday and had Lucky Date guest briefly, asked the crowd to make some noise (a frequent request) and fretted about not being on the main stage. Moby, whose bestselling album, "Pray," had tracks licensed by so many advertising people that you actually know his music without knowing it, was the headliner on Friday. He was well-received, but nothing like Bassnectar. It also helped that Bassnectar and Calvin Harris, who closed the proceedings Saturday and Sunday, respectively, had their sets augmented by fireworks. However, Harris' set didn't seem to pull the crowd in, perhaps because it came at the end of three days dancing and whatnot.
Bassnectar played Lollapalooza last year, and wasn't fazed by a brief downpour during his set. "Got a raindrop in my eyeball," he tweeted (a shield was erected to keep rain out of the electronics) Soldier Field, as configured for the festival, was close to capacity (two upper decks were closed off). Bassnectar rocks it freestyle, which means beats over and under hip-hop, punk and other genres. "Ping Pong" stood out because it felt different from so much of what had gone before, cuing beats from the named sport.
Happily, Chicago house was in the house, mostly at the third stage on Saturday. Chicago's Felix Da Housecat and 12th Planet, who hailed from Detroit, represented the twin poles of old-school dance music very well. However, if it was time travel you wanted, Green Velvet mixed his set live, throwing in sermons and old tracks like "La La Land" and "Electropop." Most DJs at these events do not mix live (live sets are noted on the schedule). Green Velvet did what some remember DJs of doing back in the day: cuing the mix to the energy of the room, making his drops fleet and supple. He was followed by Paul Oakenfold, whom more than few attendees were excited to see since Oakenfold is 30 years in-country, and is still more than going strong. Also in the same vein on Friday was PopSh!t, whose mix was littered with fragments of "Hollywood Swingin'," and Cash Money Broz. "Ill Behavior."
Homegrown group Krewella turned in a strong set on the main stage, with the trio offering "Killin' It," "Can't Control Myself" and "Come and Get It."
Perhaps the loneliest place at Spring Awakening was the Truth booth, which educates youth on the dangers of smoking. DJ Paul was there actually scratching vinyl, which seemed almost quaint. Smokers were all over the place, even though Soldier Field is a smoke-free venue (an employee said enforcement was impossible).
The cohort who comes to these events (this one was all ages unlike the recent Electric Daisy Carnival) does gives you the impression that being 30 might be the age where you exit the kingdom. The dancing, drug use (smell the air and see little bits of foil being passed around), light shows and costumes could be the 60s all over again, complete with the parental lack of understanding.