WoOoW is all we can say! When we arrived on site, we did not know what to expect of Auris and their post pandemic production. They are a fairly new company that owns several Chicago bars, clubs and gaming facilities. So, we were a little skeptical. We have been in the industry for thirty years and have seen a lot of shows with both up and coming talent as well as global artists. We have attended events at little hole in the wall clubs, warehouses and major events like Movement Detroit, Ultra Miami and EZoo NY just to name a few. It was a much needed breath of fresh air to attend ARC Music Festival.
Upon entry, we went in through the staff door to collect ourselves. There was hardly any line at all, be it the GA, Icon VIP or Global VIP+ doors. That was impressive alone! Door staff was polite, had all the answers we needed and were very friendly even when things changed on the second night. This was because we had to get additional Auris Guest credentials on top of our Media Passes. There were Chicago Police officers with Kandi dancing to melodies, Waste Management staff that boogied collecting discarded bottles and Armored Guards that shimmied while saving staff from monetary overload. Bartenders that bro hammered while shaking, not stirring. Everywhere we looked, people were full of euphoria. For the price paid to gain entry to the Icon VIP and Global VIP+ areas, it was well worth it! There were top shelf drinks like Patron with Red Bull, cold bottled water, and other choices like White Claw available that never ran out. Both areas provided a Skydeck canopy that captured the sound, making for a sweet spot to have a seat for us old school Ravers and give a bit of shelter from the drizzle on day three. There was food to be had and charging stations for our iPhones, which made this assignment a dream. The Auris Guest area had an amazing view of the entire festival. Air conditioned bathrooms in the Auris Guest, Global VIP and Icon VIP+ areas needed a little attention on the first night but, Auris quickly adapted to make sure that was not the case the following two nights. We even witnessed security checking the porta-potty after closing to make sure no attendee was left behind. We have yet to see that at any other event.
Everything had purpose, even if it was to be repurposed. The art installations were spread throughout the festival with some having been to Burning Man in previous years. One of our favorites was ‘Rise‘ (pictured above), by Michael Benitsy. We could tell it was a crowd favorite also. This was demonstrated by the line of people waiting to snap photos as it glistened in the light, hit at every angle by various lasers. Chris Carnabuci’s ‘Mariposita‘ was more impressive in real life than any picture could prep us for. Being able to see how large it is, how it was constructed, the layering of lighting versus shadows, and the 360 angles all gave it a depth pics just did not. Toy Studio‘s ‘Circle of Light‘ made us pause, to watch as the light chased around the top of the installation and back again. There are just some things you have to see for yourself to fully understand how awe inspiring they truly are. ‘Lions of Steel‘ by Reared in Steel was strategically placed at one of the entrances, acting as a majestic greeting to all whom entered the gate. ‘Lions‘ also provided a bit of respite for dance weary festie souls headed out into the night and on to their next adventure in the Windy City.
Moving on to the talent and production, there is so much that blew our minds! There were massive screens, spotlights, lasers, smoke, pyrotechnics, fireworks, strobes and day one, Boris Brejcha brought the heat to close out the night strong. Day two, Carl Craig B2B Seth Troxler at Expansions brought all the feels, Ricardo Villalobos brought flair, and while we wanted to catch Honey Dijon . . . we could not pull ourselves away from the Grid stage after Joseph Capriati‘s siren song took hold. Paco Osuna at Elrow‘s stage did get a bit of our time, until we wandered back to the Grid for Carl Cox and we are so glad we did! That was the hardest we have seen Carl Cox play and the visual accompaniment had us on the edge for when Charlotte De Witte took over. The amount of dancing and lack of abundant phone usage was something circa early 2000’s and remarkable. While there was the occasional photo opp or video grab (seen below), people were just too enthralled in the camaraderie, sights, and sounds to be bothered with having technology glued to their hands.
Day three, we made certain to reserve steam for the best and last day. Coming in at Wax Motif, traveling over to catch Gioli & Assia sing while playing and shaking a tail with Elrow‘s fine feathered friend, landed us with Justin Martin and his uplifting soundscape. After a part of Claptone set, we ventured over to Gorgon City to not miss Adam Beyer B2B Cirez D. We wanted to plant ourselves in front of the massive row of bass bins to be among the Fake Family as DEEPFAKE rocked the night away. Upon hearing the bins come to life with DEEPFAKE and their avant-garde style of BassTech, we knew we were in the right place to have them melt our face. They put their hearts into the entire performance and it showed with a VIP version of ‘Off the Record,’ newly debuted ‘Technology,’ and some old classics like ‘Castles in the Sky.’ They are so much more than just a VJ/DJ duo. They are truly Artists, Composers and part science! What really stood out was the fact that they drove a lot of their gear down from Michigan, bringing the 313 Detroit flavor with them. They brought things like lights, lasers, projectors and their desire to expand the Fake Family. These underdogs invest more than time, money and effort into their shows making the Art Car more like a second headlining stage. That is because they gave a stupendous send off of fireworks, smoke and a meet and greet as they exited the bus and into the crowd. One could sense the appreciation the crowd had for what these gentlemen do. They really know how to put on a show and fit right in with the House | Techno | Chicago theme, bringing all that Detroit had to give!
To further touch on progression, on Day Two when it was brought to Auris attention how hot it had been at Elrow stage . . . another free hydration station was brought in with industrial fans to keep patrons cool. Day Three (when it looked like it may rain), there were tarps covering most of the production members like sound and lighting boards to keep the show going. Ziploc bags were used on mobile lighting to keep art installations aglow. There were on site vendors for ticketing upgrades for those who wanted to take advantage of the Skydeck shelter that the Global and Icon areas offered. Extra staff was brought in to keep the grounds clean. After speaking with entertainment staff, we learned that Auris promotes the concept of “support local.” By that, we mean a lot of the performance artists such as the large marionettes and stilt walkers are local to Chicago. Vendors like EVOL and the food in Icon VIP are from Chi as well, thereby pumping money back into their economy. Performers like Gene Farris, Derrick Carter, Hiroko Yamamura, Green Velvet and Honey Dijon all hail from Chicago. The only thing we did not see, was an onsite space for buying tickets to ARC After Dark events. Maybe we missed it but had we seen it, we definitely would have taken advantage of it. At the end of each night, the massive Grid stage screens had a scrolling “THANK YOU,” which made us feel warm, fuzzy and appreciated. Small things like these add up to memorable moments that stand out for a lifetime! When attendees pay the kind of money that these large scale production companies ask for, sometimes they want to know “where does it go and what do I get?” There is no doubt where it went and the value obtained by being here. For those that went in a little extra on the Icon VIP+, there was even swag that greeted them in the form of commemorative apparel on top of their experience.
All in all, we will be going back to ARC Music Festival again and presale tickets are already up for grabs! Other production companies better take notes form Auris, because they have something to teach the older production crowd. These people have made believers out of us and for it to be their second year, they came with the goods and then some. With the caliber of talent displayed, the amount of PLUR in the air and the sense of hospitality we felt . . . there is no doubt Auris and ARC Music Festival will be around for a while. Planning has already begun for 2023 and we eagerly await a phase one lineup. Until next time, Chicago. Thanks for the treasured memories and the new found friends.