By: Dani Deahl
The absurdity of the situation hits before even entering the room. Legions of fans swarm the edges of Navy Pier, past kiosks hawking sand art in bottles, chain restaurants and boats offering dinner tours of the Chicago skyline. A guy in a green man onesie fist pumps past an elderly couple disembarking one of these boats, clutching a small bouquet and a cookie wrapped in ribbon. The hordes were here at Chicago’s biggest tourist trap to see America’s best DJ and hometown hero Kaskade.
As one of the only stops on the tour that boasted the full production setup, expectations ran high. Upon entering, the bones of the show were apparent. An enormous, oval truss hung from the ceiling with a smaller cluster inside, all leading towards the far side of the room where giant, curved petals of lights framed a stage. Even with the expensive setup, the room could have easily been mistaken for a retro warehouse rave – the cavernous space highlighted opening DJ Amtrac playing tech and deep-house driven tunes to blinking pacifiers and girls in fairy wings.
The show began with a dramatic, extended introduction of titular single “Atmosphere” and from there snaked from Kaskade’s older classics to hard, percussive drop remixes of newer material. The ability to flow between original works like “Angel On My Shoulder” and harder re-interpretations including his Kaskade vs. Pryda’s “Sometimes Powerdrive” allowed for unexpected moments of surprise in what could have been a straightforward catalog rehash.
Additional touches brought the experience to life – not only did Raddon himself sing “Atmosphere,” but both Lights (“No One Knows Who We Are”) and Skylar Grey (“Room For Happiness”) made guest appearances. At one moment, he disappeared in a cloud of smoke, popping up moments later in a DJ booth situated in the middle of the room where he played mostly older material (this is when it felt most rave-like). During the last moments of the night, confetti cannons burst out of nowhere, over-compensating for the room and blanketing everyone as they tried to Instagram the moment.
The much-hyped production for the night lived up to expectations. Every piece of the stage moved, from a big video panel directly behind the main stage’s booth to six LED panels that not only constantly moved along the oval track on the ceiling, but rotated as well. Twice, a sail emerged, wrapping around the central cluster of lighting over the crowd with a cloud-like effect before being filled with fog and drawn back to release it.
Aside from all the glitzy touches, to Chicagoans, the best part of the night was probably when Raddon took a moment to speak to his hometown. “I grew up a few blocks from here,” he said to a screaming crowd, “I bought records right up the street.” The room erupted as his final offering, “Eyes,” dropped in.
Rarely does an artist over-deliver but Kaskade’s Atmosphere tour certainly does, providing a show where you enter a fan, and leave feeling like his friend.