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Article and Photos by: Charles Yamabe

Chicago, IL — Labor Day weekend in Chicago saw one of the best Electronic Music Festivals of the entire summer. ARC held its second annual music festival at Union Park on the near Westside of Chicago. The weekend started out perfectly with some of the best weather that Chicago has seen all Summer. Hoards of fans started to flock to the area early on Friday with the first artist starting at two in the afternoon. The festival attendees were easy to spot dressed in their neon colors and sparkly gear. Taking place on a major road in Chicago, the festival goers made for quite the sight for all the rush hour commuters. With four stages bumping at the same time you could feel the bass all the way to the street. The combination of the festival attendees, the bass, and the beautiful weather all lead to the overwhelming feeling that this was going to be an amazing weekend.

The first artist of Friday night that I really wanted to see was Lane 8. Lane 8 took the “Grid” stage at six thirty and played an amazing deep house set that carried the crowd into sunset. The “Grid” stage was one of my favorites of the weekend. It had the biggest sounding speakers and an even bigger laser, fire, and smoke production. Plus, it was an open air stage on the largest portion of the park. It gave festival goers enough to move around and dance. The artist that took the stage after Lane 8 was Boris Brejcha. Honestly, going into it Boris wasn’t one of the artists that I really wanted to see. In fact, I left his set when he came on to head over to the “Elrow” stage to see Chris Lake.

The “Elrow” stage was very similar to an Elrow party. Elrow parties are known for their elaborate stage setups, crazy antics, costumes, and most importantly hundreds of pounds of confetti. Think the Mad Hatters tea party mixed with a carnival and a rave… That combination will give you all that is Elrow. The Elrow stage was under a tent which was a prefect venue for an Elrow party. The only downside to this was that the tent became really crowded and hot. We decided to stand on the outside and where there was plenty of room and it was much cooler. Luckily they had speakers facing the outside as well and you could still see all the antics. Which meant that we really didn’t feel like we missed anything. After a few minutes of Chris Lake we decided to venture back over to the “Grid” stage to see how Boris’s set was going. Let me tell you it ended up being an amazing set and we stayed until the very end. After experiencing his infectious beats firsthand, I am now a devoted fan. I think the combination of the open air, lasers, lights, pyro technics and sound made for a perfect ending to the Friday night festivities.

Saturday came around and we decided to take it a little easier than the night before. We made the wise decision to not going until a little later in the day. After all these three and four day festivals are a marathon not a sprint and we still had another full day to go. We decided to head over at five thirty to check out local heroes Gene Farris and Mike Dunn who were doing a B2B set at the Elrow stage. At five thirty the Elrow stage was much more accessible than the night before and not nearly as hot. Gene and Mike threw down an amazing Chicago House style set that had the crowd moving and grooving. From there we went to see Carl Cox play over at the Grid stage. It was my first time getting to see Carl Cox and it was as great as I had anticipated. We stayed at the Grid stage for about an hour and then headed over to see Derrick Carter and Mark Farina do a B2B set at the “Expansion” stage.

The Expansion stage was a cool little stage setup in a lightly wooded area. It transported the attendee to a Narnia esque world of magic and wonder. There was a giant wooden statue guarding the entrance to the stage. It was a great place to find lost friends and to get a really cool photo. Derrick and Mark did exactly what they always do and totally crushed their set. Both coming up at the same time from the same Chicago scene back in the nineties Mark and Derrick gave the crowd exactly what they wanted to hear. What the crowd wanted was a dirty Chicago House set that only Mark and Derrick could produce. Directly following Derrick and Mark on the Expansion stage was Honey Dijon. Derrick Carter was at one time the mentor of Honey Dijon. Which meant that the music was basically like a circle… You couldn’t tell where one left off and where the other one started except for those subtle nuances. Dijon played a House set but it wasn’t exactly like the Chicago House set directly before. Dijon (who moved to New York after Chicago) incorporated some of that gritty New York House sound into. It’s that sound that whipped the crowd into a frenzy and closed out an amazing Saturday night.

Sunday quickly came around and this time I decided to head over to the fest early. I arrived at two in the afternoon to what appeared to be an entirely different venue than I had remembered from the nights before. Seeing a festival first thing as it opens and being one of the last ones out at night is literally night and day. I took this early arrival time to checkout local up and comer Azzecca. While fairly new on the scene Azzecca is known for her abilities to mix in techno and house music. I figured this is something that I had to see for myself. Azzecca, had an impressive turnout for an opening set on the last day of a festival. Typically, the crowds stay away until much later in the day on the last day of a fest. Yet, Azzecca had a crowd that was already vibing and grooving to her entire set. She did a phenomenal job of rocking out her hour long set.

From there I decided to actually explore the entire festival since a majority of the crowd had yet to show up. Also, it had started to rain a bit which meant the crowds would be kept at bay for a little while longer. I made my way over to the Elrow stage to catch Tini Gessler. There must’ve been some sort of reshuffling Sunday as Tini was supposed to play later in the day but when I arrived at the stage she was on. The Elrow stage was the least crowded that I had seen it the entire weekend. Don’t get me wrong there was still a decent amount of people in there but at this point I was able to actually make my way to the front and enjoy the show. I had to walk across a ton of confetti and streamers that created an abstract beautiful mosaic style floor to get to the front but it was absolutely worth it. Tini was moving and bopping around the stage with the most energy I think I saw the entire weekend. You could tell that she absolutely loved her job.

After leaving the Elrow stage I came across the “ARC car” stage. Somehow throughout all the madness from the two previous nights I had overlooked this stage entirely. It was tucked away slightly which could explain how I had missed it. Or it could be that fact that so much was happening all around us that we had just passed by and not noticed. Either way I’m glad I found it and stopped to check it out. It ended up being fun little stage with a crazy daytime dance party. After experiencing all that the dance party had to offer I figured it was time to get some food and relax. Luckily, ARC had a nice selection of food vendors that had pretty much everything anyone could want. From what I could tell all dietary restrictions were met throughout the vendors.

The rest of the night consisted of Gorgon City, Claptone, Fatboy Slim, and Ben Bohmer. Gorgon City as always played an amazing set on the Grid stage. Gorgon City has a very specific sound that always resonates with me. The fact that they were on the Grid stage was just the icing on the cake. After the Gorgon City set I made my way over to catch the end of Claptones set at the Elrow stage. This was by far the most packed I had seen that stage. That being said, I decided to push my way all the way to the very front of the stage. I figured it was my last night at the festival and I had to experience just exactly what it was like in the heart of that beast. Also, Fatboy Slim was right after Claptone so I figured I was getting a two for one! It was hot and humid in the very front of the stage. So much so that my camera lens would fog over anytime I tried to take a photo. Luckily for me there were some very friendly people in the crowd with hand fans. They would fan me and my lens down and allow me to get those perfect shots. Claptone was absolutely awesome and played a lot of old school songs that had the crowd going bonkers. At one point he played “Blood Rave” from the Blade soundtrack which had the crowd in a frenzy and completely fit this atmosphere.

At the end of Claptones set Fatboy Slim came out and started with his energetic antics. For being almost sixty years old Fatboy Slim showed absolutely no signs of slowing down. He was dancing and working the crowd up and within his first few songs he teased his classic “Praise You.” This came as a shocker as usually an artist saves a golden classic like that for last. It was a great way to match the energy of Claptone and hooked the crowd immediately. It was at this point that I realized it was time for me to wind down and I headed over to the fairytale like world of the Expansions stage. Ben Bohmer was playing and knowing his style I knew that it would be the most perfect festival wind down ever. Ben played his signature style of deep and progressive House Music. The music, the crowd, the stage, the fog, and the soft lights all flowed perfectly to the music. Towards the end of the set it started to sprinkle lightly. The light drops of rain were getting caught in the laser beams and seemed to hang there like diamonds. It really couldn’t have been a more perfect end to a magically fabulous weekend.


ARC Fest takes place every Labor Day Weekend in Chicago. To find out more visit the following link ARC Festival


Charles Yamabe
One day my love of music and passion for photography serendipitously collided. Since that day I have carried my camera around with me everywhere I go. You can find me on Instagram