In Its 2nd Year, Wavefront Music Festival Sets Itself Apart From the Pack

wavefront sand

We captured tons of great pictures. Click for: Day 1 photos | Day 2 photos | Day 3 photos

Last weekend Chicago’s Montrose Beach, located on the massive Lake Michigan, played host to the second year of Wavefront Music Festival. There were a few reasons the MMIBTY team couldn’t have been more excited for July 5-7 to arrive:
1.) Only one of us lives in Chicago while the rest of us either hadn’t been or we had visited and fallen in love with the city only to have returned home at a later time
2.) Wavefront is a three-day music festival that is literally on the beach, making it like no other festival in America
3.) It’s one of the few festivals that books big name acts (such as Rusko, Diplo, and Justice) while also focusing on more underground names in Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones/Damian Lazarus, and dOP to name a few. [Check out dOP’s live set HERE]

The key takeaway from our experience with almost 75,000 dance music fans was this festival was so much fun and truly a fantastic time – maybe the best dance music festival in the U.S. But since we had a handful of writers in attendance I’m going to let you hear about it from each one’s perspective.

wavefront crowd

Jon Gilman [Boston]:
After visiting Chicago for the first time last Summer for Spring Awakening Music Festival I knew I had to make a return trip as soon as possible; Wavefront presented the perfect opportunity to do just that. Since I’ve been getting into more underground sounds lately, fueled by a lot of Deep House and Tech-House, I was really excited for the opportunity to see artists I’ve heard of but had never seen live as well as brand new artists I’d never been aware of. I planned to spend the majority of my three days at stages like The Cube or Oasis, which played home to Dubfire, Maya Jane Coles, Guy Gerber, Seth Troxler, Nicolas Jaar, Scuba, and plenty more. While I did put my time in at the side stages I felt myself getting a little bored by redundant 4-on-the-floor patterns. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed what I saw, but I felt myself needing a little more.

With that said a lot of my time was spent at the main stage, which was aptly titled The Wave. This is a stage where I was pleasantly surprised and blown away by some guys I didn’t necessarily expect it from. I’m talking about artists like Sander Kleinenberg, who may have had the set of the weekend and played songs like Pryda’s “Layers” and Mat Zo’s remix of “Alive” (see below). I expected a completely funky set by Sander after falling in love with his Dance Department guest mix from December 2011 (listen if you know what’s good for you), but this set was a lot more progressive and really spoke to what I look for in a DJ set (he is known as a DJ’s DJ after all). I was also pleasantly surprised by Jacques Lu Cont and Cedric Gervais. I was reluctant to see Gervais but he threw down a bunch of Electro bangers I’d never heard before. Sets I expected to be great and panned out to be great came from TJR, Rusko, Diplo, Chris Lake, Justice, and a surprise Chris Lake/TJR back-to-back set.

The vibes at Wavefront were great and I had a spectacular time with good friends, soft sand, and a wide variety of music. I really got the feeling that Chicago is the true home of House music at this festival and I thank everyone involved who made it such a great time! By the way, if you ever have a chance to go to a Chicago warehouse party make sure you get there even if just for the experience – and ask me about the one I experienced with Visionquest.

Empire of the Sun – Alive (Mat Zo Remix) [as played by Sander Kleinenberg] | Purchase on Beatport
Chris Lake & Marco Lys – La Tromba (Chris Lake & Nom De Strip Remix) [as played by Chris Lake] | Purchase on Beatport

Jon D [Chicago]:
It’s always a good sign when a new festival is able to address the few minor shortcomings it had in its first year to bring about an even greater second year. This is exactly what occurred with Wavefront Music Festival last weekend. We saw the fest double in size without any loss of comfort or, more importantly, musical integrity. Even the parts that we couldn’t control held up their end of the bargain, most notably the perfect weather all weekend. Let’s get right into some highlights. Wavefront’s curators have sought to make “Wavefront week” a Chicago equivalent of Miami Music Week, full of varying types of musical outings showcasing “Wavefront Approved” talent at venues around the city. Wednesday evening, July 3rd, featured the kickoff event at Castle with Sasha and Guy Gerber, who absolutely blew the cover off the new Void Audio system at this reincarnation of a classic Chicago club. Thursday featured a “Food Truck BBQ” organized by former Deep Dish member, and SCI-TEC label boss Dubfire. Needless to say, munching delicious food truck empanadas to dark, tribal tech house is a very interesting combination.

My official festival journey on Friday consisted of stellar sets from Venezualan duo Fur Coat, Alex Niggeman, Guy Gerber, and a knockout live performance from French Vodka-guzzling trio dOP who showed why they rank near or at the top of Resident Advisor’s best live acts list every year. If you’ve ever been on the fence about live performances in electronic music, these guys should clear up any confusion about how involved a live act can get…a few packs of a cigarettes and at least a fifth of Vodka later – with some of that fifth landing on the faces of unsuspecting audience members.

Day 1 winner: dOP

Saturday presented some more interesting dilemmas. As a Chicagoan, the featured “Heritage of House” stage features some oft-seen local talent that we can easily catch around the city. Not to say the music isn’t fantastic, it’s just readily available here and my goal for the weekend was the catch some of the more rare international names that had made their way to the city from different corners of the globe.  I, however, had to catch some of the Derrick Carter and Mark Farina b2b set at the Heritage stage – and they predictably killed it. Other highlights of Saturday included French super group Apollonia, comprised of individually successful members Shonky, Dan Ghenacia, and Dyed Soundorom. Their set was a laid back assortment of beach-worthy deep house tracks that fit the setting perfectly. Guti at the Cube stage also brought the heat with his usual brand of deep Tech-House infused with some Latin rhythms.

Day 2 winner: Apollonia + Guti (Tie)

Sunday’s schedule was dense with acts I “deeply” wanted to see.  Bosses of 3 of my most respected underground labels were on deck to spin one after another.  Hotflush Recordings boss Scuba, Crosstown Rebels’ Damian Lazarus, and Hot Creations Jamie Jones (and Lee Foss). They certainly did not disappoint, with Scuba kicking things off with a fantastic set featuring tracks from Catz ‘N Dogz, KINK, and labelmate/rising star George Fitzgerald. Damian Lazarus brought the usual heat with incredibly rare tracks that were nearly impossible to ID, of the ones I managed to find I enjoyed Stefan Lechner- Whipper (Original Mix) [Wolf Trap] especially. Jamie Jones probably delivered the knockout punch of the weekend with a nearly flawless set chock full of Hot Creations mastery that only set the table for an equally powerful Hot Natured performance. Sunday was certainly my favorite and I can safely say that it provided the best consecutive hours I’ve ever experienced at a music festival.

Day 3 Winner: Jamie Jones

Stefan Lechner – Whipper [as played by Damian Lazarus]| Purchase at Beatport
George Fitzgerald – Thinking Of You [as played by Scuba] | Purchase at Beatport

Jake [Vermont]:
Two weeks before the Fourth of July, I found myself without any plans and the heat of the East Coast coming down upon me. As I called my friends to check for plans, I was pleasantly surprised that Chicago and Wavefront Music Festival was on the agenda. Without wasting too much time, I bought tickets, booked my flights, and began packing for what I didn’t realize at the time would be one of the best festival experiences of my life.

Location: Chicago is becoming the land of music festivals, hosting a major electronic festival almost once a month during the summer (think EDC, Sring Awakening, Lollapalooza, North Coast, etc.). This festival was located right on Lake Michigan, on Montrose Beach. Yes I said that right, Wavefront is a four-stage festival dropped right on the beach. The festival grounds were huge as well, with plenty of space between stages allowing for attendees to bring blankets and snag Adirondack chairs to check a tan before the major acts took the stage. Chicago was a great host location; I recommend attending any festival in the windy city.

People: One of the first things we noticed, or asked ourselves, was “Where are the candy ravers?” “Where were the furry animal costumes and spunions sucking on their pacifiers?” The answer: they were few and far between. Wavefront drew a more mature crowd both in age and musical taste. The attendees were all festival veterans, knowing their limits, happy to help others, and most importantly there for the music, not the drugs. This perhaps, is the major reason why I fell in love with Wavefront this year.

Music: When showing the lineup to friends at work and around town, many asked me “Where are the headliners?” Ahh if they only knew! Wavefront curated perhaps the most diverse and well-respected lineup I have ever seen. Being as we were in the City of House Music, many of the tents were filled with local legends and mega-groups of genres not as popular to the typical festival goer. Acts like Appollonia, dOP, and Hot Natured were great to see for the first time, and the stages were never close to packed. The Wave, aka main stage, hosted more mainstream acts with highlights being Proxy, Sander Kleinenberg, and the set of the weekend, Jacques Lu Cont. Rusko brought the Drum and Bass, which I, unlike many, thought was one of the better sets I’ve seen from him in awhile.

Pre-sale tickets for next year go on sale in August, I will be buying and I hope you all do to.

Here was a highlight track from the weekend, as played by Rusko

Sara [Dallas]:
Having personally gone to numerous music festivals, it’s safe to say that Wavefront has a place of its own in my heart. Aside from the impeccable lineup, amazing sound qualities, and grand production – it was the first festival I had ever been a part of that was on the freaking beach! Literally having sand flowing between your toes with the sun shining down near a striking body of water while raging to Rusko? Doesn’t get much better than that. All I have to say is, you Chicagoans are straight up spoiled. With fests like Spring Awakening and EDC these past few months it was hard for me to believe there was going to be another one with such great names. But Wavefront – going strong for its second consecutive year – proved that the city is full of dance music fanatics who are always down to party.

The three days spent at Wavefront are some of which I will never forget. Witnessing TJR drop “Rack City” b2b with Chris Lake (yeah that happened), eating, sleeping, raving, repeating – with Fatboy Slim, and finishing off the weekend with a twerk fest con Diplo – this festival could non-regrettably be one of the best I’ve ever been to. Being exposed to so much Deep House through Maya Jane Coles, Frankie Knuckles, Dubfire and more at the home of House music was absolutely amazing as well. It was a great balance between all of the mainstream dance music and underground sounds. Having a wide variety of artists and being set apart from everyone, Wavefront Music Festival has a wave of its own that it rides, soaring with flying colors. And with that I’d like to finally say thank you. Thank you for the beach, the lights, the memories, and everything that happened during it all. I can only hope to be a part of it all again next year! Stay wavey, my friends. – S

Lana Del Rey – Young and Beautiful (Kaskade Remix) [as played by Diplo]