Heatwave Festival Establishes Itself as Chicago’s Newest EDM Festival

The debut of Heatwave Festival at Douglass Park in Chicago delivered on its expectations with headliners like RL Grime, Above & Beyond, Zeds Dead, and Tiesto.

Chicago is famous for its festivals during the summertime. Whether it be massive events like Lollapalooza or street festivals like Taste of Randolph, summer is truly festival season in The Windy City. The newest event on this year’s lineup was Heatwave Festival, a 2-day EDM festival in Douglass Park.

With Spring Awakening Music Festival all but extinct, Heatwave Festival had big shoes to fill as Chicago’s newest EDM event. SAMF had been a summer tradition since 2012 but was canceled in 2022 because of financial issues. Heatwave unofficially took its place, and Auris Presents threw a proper festival on the near south side in Douglass Park, Chicago.

Heatwave was billed as an immersive festival with art installations and unique experiences.

To that end, there wasn’t much décor or artwork added to the venue that would separate it from a typical regional festival like Ubbi Dubbi in Dallas. After walking into the festival on day one, there were a few decorations scattered around the venue, but the focus was mostly on the three stages: Reverie, Inevitable, and Radiance.

All three stages had impressive lighting and sound production. Despite the small size of the venue, there was very little sound bleed between the stages. The lighting and sound production at Heatwave was impressive, and the layout was comfortable and easy to navigate.

The Heatwave Chicago lineup featured a mix of EDM, house, trap, and dubstep.

The Radiance Stage near the entrance hosted house DJs like Dr. Fresch, Shiba San, Westend, and J. Worra. Some of the most memorable sets here came from Kasbo, Two Feet, and Goldfish, who brought their own unique styles and added some much-needed variety to the fest.

The Reverie Stage was the more bass-focused main stage. Day 1 at Reverie was mostly about trap music, with sets from Rome in Silver, Ekali, and Boombox Cartel. RL Grime played a powerful 90-minute headlining set to close the day and provided one of the best experiences of the weekend. Day 2 was more dubstep-centered, featuring artists like Dion Timmer, EPROM, and Blunts & Blondes before a headlining spot from Chicago regulars Zeds Dead.

On the other side of the festival – but still a short walk away – was the Inevitable Stage. While I was excited to see artists like Tiesto, Loud Luxury, Lost Kings, Galantis, and Audien, I didn’t end up spending too much time here. There were still memorable sets from Oliver Heldens, Above & Beyond, and others, but Chicago is more of a bass music town when it comes to festivals like this.

The vibes exceeded expectations at Heatwave Festival, and the crowd’s energy was what made the weekend truly memorable.

Although the weather was cloudy all weekend, Heatwave brought some worthwhile summertime vibes to Chicago. It’s easy for smaller festivals like this to be underwhelming in various ways, but that just wasn’t my impression of Heatwave. The crowd was into the music and the people were friendly. Given the size of the venue, it was easy to run into friends and find exactly who you needed to throughout the day.

Not only was Heatwave Festival in its first year, but it was also the only EDM festival to ever be held in Douglass Park. There were some bumps along the way, like long lines for media and VIP ticketholders and a power outage during Audien on Saturday, but the overall experience at Heatwave Festival delivered. I would recommend visiting Chicago for Heatwave if it returns in 2023, especially if it falls on the same weekend as Pitchfork Music Festival again.

With Lollapalooza, North Coast, and ARC Music Festival coming up next, festival season in Chicago is just getting started.

If 2022 was any indication, Heatwave is here to stay. The first-year festival successfully booked some of the scene’s biggest artists just two weeks before Lollapalooza. In fact, there’s been more hype for Heatwave than Lolla this year.

Maybe Auris Presents can build a strong festival brand that will match Perry’s as a new generation discovers EDM. What if both Lolla and Heatwave start competing with each other to book the deepest and most creative electronic music lineup every summer? It’s a scenario that presents massive potential for Chicago music and festival culture if things go well.

Heatwave Festival might be the most notable new event in the EDM scene over the last two years. Let’s hope the festival continues to build in 2023 to create a can’t-miss festival in one of the best cities in the world.

Photo Credit: DI Visuals

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