The City is Our Venue: DePaul’s guide to the annual Chicago festival season

Crowds gather at Grant Park for the 27th edition of Chicago’s Lollapalooza (Photo: Adam Webb, Aug. 5, 2018).

DePaul’s biggest draw to prospective students is the ability for them to immediately become engulfed within the vibrant community of Chicago. A city known for many things, its music scene is probably the most notable. Between the seemingly endless shows and venues and live music nights at bars, Chicago is a place for music fans and local artists alike to thrive. Beyond these smaller shows, however, lies one of the biggest festival seasons in America. Every summer, Chicago residents have the ability to attend Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Riot Fest, Spring Awakening, and North Coast. Each sporting their niche genres and identities, students at DePaul are gifted with an exceptional opportunity to experience some of the best live music the world has to offer.

DePaul students Samantha Hollis and Julianna Dyer enjoy Deadmau5’s set at Spring Awakening in Addams/Medill Park (Photo: Adam Webb, June 8, 2018).

The season kicked off this year with Spring Awakening on June 8th in Addams/Medill Park on Chicago’s West side. The house music festival has been blasting beats since 2012 and provides an exciting weekend of sensory overload. Headliners this year included Steve Aoki and Deadmau5. Quinn Sandelski is a recent DePaul graduate and has attended the festival for the last three years. “It’s definitely my favorite of the bunch. Everyone there is full of good vibes and that permeates the whole experience,” said Sandelski. “I don’t plan on stopping the tradition any time soon.”

Students interested in attending the festival next year can take the Red line down to Roosevelt and then hop on the number 12 bus to Roosevelt and Loomis.

Concertgoers take a break from the music to enjoy one the rides at Spring Awakening (Photo: Adam Webb, June 8, 2018).

Pitchfork and North Coast share the location of Union Park for their respective festivals, but provide very different experiences for their attendees. Pitchfork, which has been around since 2006, showcases artists from multiple genres but really has its roots in the alternative rock scene. North Coast, on the other hand, is full of exclusively electronic dance music.

Jenny Fisher attended both festivals this year and found each enjoyable for different reasons. “It’s crazy how the same location can seem so different depending on what is going on,” Fisher said. “North Coast definitely has that ‘festival’ feel which is a lot of fun, but Pitchfork is just like a whole weekend of rock shows with everyone there for the music.”

Just north of Addams/Medill, the venue can be reached by once again starting south on the Red line, taking it to Lake and then transferring to the Green line going west to the Ashland stop.

Father John Misty performs on Sunday evening at Riot Fest (Photo: Adam Webb, Sep. 16, 2018).

Another Chicago staple is Riot Fest, having been around since 2005, it has seen multiple different locations serve as its home, but for the last few years, following a dispute with the community around Humboldt Park, the punk festival has been hosted in Douglas Park. The weekend long rock-fest provides an experience similar to that of Pitchfork. With minimal focus on the big lights, vibrant colors, and ‘good vibes’ mentality, Riot Fest is a place for the music and the music alone. While it does feature its traditional carnival themed rides and sideshows, the overwhelming feel from the crowd is that people came to see their favorite artists rather than be entertained by an overall experience.

Taking the Brown line to Washington/Wells and then the Pink line to Califronia will drop concertgoers off a stone’s throw away from the festival.

While all of the festivals have been growing in size and scope in recent years, none are more well known and anticipated on a national level than Lollapalooza. One of the biggest festivals in the world, Lolla has moved away from the strictly rock lineups of its early years and now provides an experience that can excite eclectic tastes from around the globe. Between the music, the art, the food, and the atmosphere, Lolla is a weekend that serves has an inevitable highlight for many Chicagoans’ summers.

Fans throw balloons into the air during Matt and Kim’s Riot Fest set (Photo: Adam Webb, Sep. 14, 2018).

It has received criticism in recent years for the younger audiences and the rampant drug and alcohol use contributing to an environment that is less about music and more about a quality Instagram post. Even with this, however, Ryan McQueeney has found a silver lining. “Everything evolves and grows and we need to find the beauty in that. Yes, at times, it can be frustrating to feel like the festival has changed from what we once loved, but we keep coming back because deep down we know that we do still love it,” said McQueeney, who has attended the festival six times in his life. “The music is still amazing. The experience is still amazing. If kids in flower crowns and henna tattoos also think it’s amazing, then it just shows how connected the human experience is.”

Finding its home in Grant Park, a simple ride on the Red line to the Roosevelt station will put you in walking distance from the park.

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