We already knew Chicago is the king of house, but it is also becoming a festival capital. With Lollapalooza already drawing thousands, there are new festivals contending with and, to be honest, surpassing the expectations of Lollapalooza. React Presents, a production company founded in 2008, has really raised the bar on what a Chicago festival needs to look like for its patrons. They have also corned the market with their push to do more in Chicago and the festival scene. Not only have they hosted Freaky Deaky, Reaction NYE, and co-hosted North Coast, they have also worked with prominent clubs in Chicago such as Concord Music Hall and The MID. By doing this React Presents has shown consistency and drive to build the music scene in Chicago.
Recently, Magnetic Magazine attended two of React Presents festivals, Spring Awakening and Mamby on the Beach. While these two festivals are worlds apart, they are both a perfect part of the Chicago and Midwest festival stops.
Spring Awakening was and is the perfect festival for any raver out there. The festival stacks its line up so that you will be dancing all day with Martin Garrix, Diplo, Marshmello and Excision. One of the things we love about Spring Awakening and React Presents is that it showcases many Chicago and Midwest talents. It seems like it is easy for a production team to forget its roots and home, but React Presents shows that this is nowhere near their radar. The festival gave us Felix Da Housecat and The Trap House, both from Chicago. This list of Chicago and Midwest artists goes on and on, with new faces and music to love. The Silent Disco was the perfect stage to post up all festival long. You could hear music from Chicago local artists while seeing the sunset on the same wonderful city. React Presents placed the festival so that you may see the Chicago skyline from the west side and the Silent Disco with local artists made the city skyline come to life.
Not only is this festival so popular because of its line-up, React Presents has perfected the festival experience with amazing production, live dancers, specially curated stages, VIP options, a Ferris wheel and more. And don't think the party is over when the festival ends, React works with clubs and venues to host a plethora of parties throughout the city creating a painless experience trying to figure out what to do next, which can be tantalizing in a large city.
Soon after Spring Awakening, React Presents gave Chicago another one of its immersive festivals, Mamby on the Beach. This was Mamby on the Beach’s junior year only starting in 2015. While it is still a young festival Mamby on the Beach has already shown Chicago that it is a staple in the festival scene. One of the best things about Mamby on the Beach was that it was in fact on a beach. This sounds silly in retrospect, but for Chicago this is the only music festival that you can walk right into the water and hang out while listening to some of your favorite artists. However, the reason we love this festival so much and all of React Presents festivals is the experience past the music. Mamby on the Beach was apart of React Presents “More Than Just Music Series.” The festival went beyond its line-up to create a cultural and art festival. The festival not only focused on the artists on stage, but also the festival goers.
It’s no secret that music festivals are evolving from more than just music. In fact, it was never really the case that music festivals were simply music. When we immerse ourselves into a festival we find that the food, the art, the attractions, and even the people around us are what make a music festival unique to any other experience. A culture seems to be a normal part of a music festival. Festivals such as Electric Forest and EDC have really captured this notion of creating a holistic music festival. Not only are you buying tickets for the perfect music, but now many are buying tickets for the culture around the music festival. At many festivals we see the musicians being the only ones focused on, which on its own is a fine idea; however, many festival goers want to have a deeper impact on how a festival proceeds. Due to this, we have seen a greater number of festivals pushing for local artwork, local food, and fashion colliding into one space.
This idea of an immersive festival was not really done in Chicago. While Chicago has Lollapalooza and Wicker Park Fest, where both could arguably be set into this category as more than just music, it was not until React Presents really pushed the boundaries of a music festival in Chicago that we see this movement and a demand for it in the next generation of festival goers. Both Spring Awakening and Mamby on the Beach have incorporated this idea. While Mamby on the Beach was officially denoted as part of the “More Than Music Series,” you can see this idea in all of React Presents events.
What made Mamby on the Beach more than just music was literally everything around the musicians' stage. One of the first things you notice coming into the festival are the art installations; they are everywhere. Throughout the duration of the festival graffiti artists gave us live action paintings suspended between two trees and geometric objects. At night you could dance around with fire dancers from Pyrotechniq and Chicago Moon Fire Jams during your favorite set. To keep yourself dancing all day, you could stop at one of the many local food trucks that had fantastic food. One of our favorites was Kate and Jan's Hot Dogs Trucks, because you can't be in Chicago and not have a local Chicago Hotdog.
While all of this seems pretty common to music festivals, React Presents set the bar high in Chicago by incorporating Health and Wellness workshops. Again, this is an integral part of West Coast festivals; however, we have not really seen a push for including Health and Wellness workshops in the middle of a festival in Chicago. Any time throughout the festival, you could visit the Solarbeatz van to practice your yoga skills, learn about safe and earth friendly products to use, your sexuality, clean eating, and more on your physical and mental health. It was amazing to just come from the beach after dancing away and calm down on a yoga session. The best part is that the leaders of the workshops were extremely welcoming to newcomers. You did not need to know anything about yoga or their talks, they helped you understand why yoga and the talks were important to your health and how to apply it to your real life.
React Presents showed with both Mamby on the Beach and Spring Awakening that “more than music” festivals will be part of the new generation in Chicago. While there have been attempts, we have not seen a push as hard and effective as React Presents’ push towards focusing on its festival goers. With the Health and Wellness workshops, you can see that React Presents is looking to focus on their festival goers which Chicagoans are not use to but happy to have.
Tell us why you loved Spring Awakening and Mamby on the Beach this year!