Spring Awakening: Autumn Equinox Shines Bright On a Rainy Chicago Weekend

Taking place on a cloudy weekend in October, Spring Awakening 2021 still delivered a memorable festival experience.


Rain? Mud? Excision? Galantis? RL Grime? What will you think of when you look back at what might be the ONLY ever Spring Awakening: Autumn Equinox in Chicago?

The Windy City’s best EDM festival made its highly anticipated return on October 2-3 after over two years of COVID-related delays. Now taking place in the city after temporarily moving to the suburbs, Spring Awakening Music Festival 2021 was a memorable weekend despite the less than ideal Illinois weather.

Back in 2012, Spring Awakening made an immediate impact on the city’s music scene in its festival debut at Soldier Field. Quickly expanding from two to three days, SAMF spent four years at the iconic NFL stadium before moving to nearby Adams-Medill Park from 2016-2018. After a stop at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates in 2019, Spring Awakening announced a return to Adams-Medill for the 2021 Autumn Equinox edition.

My initial impression upon stepping inside Adams-Medill for the first time in several years was the increased size of the festival.

Formerly taking place in one big field with a stage in each corner, LiveXLive really stepped it up with the production at Spring Awakening this year. The two main stages, Solstice and Equinox, were converted to “Mega Structure” style stages with fully customizable light shows and stage design for headliners Martin Garrix and Excision. 

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The next two stages, The Hangar and The Function, allowed the festival to bring curated lineups from Diplo’s Higher Ground, AC Slater’s Night Bass, and React Presents’ Bass Kitchen. The Corona Electric Beach Stage hosted a variety of acts including MOGUAI and MUUS, while the Monaco Silent Disco hosted local talent like Lightyear and Ixto.

My second impression of Spring Awakening: Autumn Equinox was the unpredictable fall weather.

Just when most attendees were arriving on Saturday, the National Weather Service interrupted the show with a mandatory evacuation lasting over two hours. Being a two-day festival, this weather delay was extremely unfortunate, especially considering the sunny and 70 degree days that led up to the festival weekend.

The rain storm mostly passed over, and doors reopened around 6 PM to a huge crowd of SAMFers. While 2021 did have more space inside the festival, many attendees had to wait hours to get back in since there was only one entrance this year.

There was no mandatory evacuation the second day, but Sunday brought a similar rainy vibe.

There was some serious rain lasting over two hours, but apparently no lightning in the area. Most attendees danced through it, as there really wasn’t anywhere to hide from the downpour. Considering the amount of rain that came down, the festival grounds actually stayed in great shape.

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The rain stopped in time for Sunday night headliners like Shiba San, Sidepiece, and Dillon Francis. RL Grime b2b Baauer took over the Equinox Stage, bringing a legendary trvp back-to-back that was only seen once earlier this year at HARD Summer. And after canceling in 2019 due to an injury and being scheduled to play every year since, Martin Garrix made an amazing follow-up appearance to his 2017 headlining spot.

There were some difficulties along the way, but Spring Awakening: Autumn Equinox ended on a high note.

Overall, it felt like we just didn’t get enough Spring Awakening this year. The festival moved from summer to fall, went from three days to two days, and was interrupted by rain both days of the weekend.

But looking back, the quality of the music easily made up for it. Gordo, MK, and Diplo threw down some proper house sets on Saturday night, while Excision, Zomboy, and Kayzo dropped the bass at Solstice.

Following an epic Madeon set at Equinox on Saturday, Galantis took their shortened set time and decided to surprise the crowd with a set of electro and big room classics. Vicetone played a similarly nostalgic set on Sunday afternoon. It’s such a breath of fresh air to see mainstream acts shift from playing pop EDM back to the electro house and big room we all love. Seeing Galantis and Vicetone this weekend gave me hope for the next few years of mainstage EDM.

The vibes were really good for a city festival, especially considering the rain put a damper on the weekend.

Actually, I had the most fun meeting random people in the rain at Marauda, so maybe the rain was a good thing. If you can handle the cold temperature and the water in your eyes, there’s something special about dancing in the rain with hundreds of other people. I guess you could come prepared and bring a poncho, but where’s the fun in that?

With the 10th anniversary of the first SAMF coming next year, Spring Awakening 2022 will definitely be one to remember.

I’ve never missed a day of Spring Awakening, and next year will be no different. I would personally like to see the Solstice Stage return to a design similar to 2019, as that stage was truly something special. There was also some sound bleed at certain points throughout the park this year. However, just like Lost Lands the weekend before, that seems to be part of the deal if you want loud, high quality sound at every stage.

June 2022 is only eight months away, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival season.

EDC Las Vegas and EDC Orlando are coming up soon, but summer 2022 will easily be the best festival season we’ve seen in years. The music has never been higher quality, and many artists are tossing industry norms out the window to play whatever their audience wants to hear. COVID really flipped the music industry on its head, and I see electronic music as being a huge beneficiary of that.

With new ownership from LiveXLive and a revitalized location near downtown Chicago, Spring Awakening is poised to continue its reign as one of the area’s biggest EDM festivals. And with live streams, interviews, and more unique content, LiveXLive hopes to make a major impact on future of the music industry.

SAMF 2021 likely won’t go down as my favorite, but it was extremely special to attend one of my all-time favorite festivals again. Spring Awakening has potential to become an even better festival in the future, and LiveXLive and React Presents will definitely keep me coming back.

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