[REVIEW] ARC Music Festival returned to Chicago over Labor Day Weekend 2022, and the house and techno festival expanded significantly in its second year.
Exceeding expectations in your first year of putting on a house and techno festival in Chicago is no small feat. Pulling it off two years in a row and expanding to three days means ARC Music Festival and Auris Presents are here to stay in a big way.
There was tangible hype leading up to the festival to see how ARC Music Festival 2022 would respond after a successful debut in 2021. We can confidently say they delivered on their promises to become the home for house and techno in Chicago.
ARC Music Festival hasn’t been around long, but it’s already making waves and putting its mark on the festival circuit.
Detroit has Movement, San Diego has CRSSD, and now, the city that brought us house finally has a festival dedicated to electronic music to rival the nation’s most recognized and prolific events. Brought to life by Auris Presents, a fledgling promotion collective born out of the pandemic, ARC brings Chicago its first major festival dedicated purely to house and techno.
The festival takes place in Union Park on the outskirts of Chicago’s trendy West Loop neighborhood. The location makes it ideal for a mid-sized festival catering to a mature and discerning crowd, with an abundance of nearby hotel and restaurant options which significantly adds to the experience of the weekend. Having multiple solid public transportation options nearby such as the CTA Green Line are a great option for cheap and quick ways to get to the festival without the need to deal with parking or ride shares.
The festival itself encompasses four stages, each with its own unique ambiance and production.
The Grid, which is the mainstage, features an expansive area at the front of the park with multiple elevated sections for various VIP experiences. There is also Elrow, a stage dedicated entirely to the Spanish promoter’s world-renowned party vibe and whimsical production. Expansions, the third stage, is a small but inviting setup nestled into a wooded corner of the park. Finally, there is the ARC Car run by the Goodbus, where you can see some of Chicago’s best local DJs performing throughout the day.
Although it had smaller production and stage presence, Expansions brought the best experience of the festival for me the entire weekend.
With lesser-known names like DJ Tennis, Acid Pauli, and Sama Abdulhadi being featured alongside titans of the scene such as Richie Hawtin, ANNA, and Seth Troxler, the Expansions stage at ARC saw an incredible juxtaposition of both musical styles and personalities. The stage had an amazing crowd turnout all weekend yet also managed to feel the most intimate out of the four.
Adding to the experience was Expansions’ location within the park in a wooded alcove set off to a corner of the grounds. The stage itself echoed that theme and it felt right at home, putting the focus on the music and DJs rather than the lights and pyrotechnics. The icing on the cake at Expansions was the sound, with the music being punchy, crisp, and hard-hitting without being overbearing. It really all came together to create an awesome vibe set after set, especially with the sun setting over the trees each night.
What makes ARC unique is the variety of experiences and amenities you can get based on the level of pass you purchase.
The Global pass (standard VIP) gives you a dedicated viewing area, bars, and air-conditioned private bathrooms at every single stage. If you decide to go for the all-inclusive Icon pass, these come with their own separate areas at each stage as well. Being able to avoid long lines for drinks and bathrooms at all of the stages at a music festival is not something that is super common these days. Festival goers often debate whether or not it is worth it to upgrade to VIP at events, but the higher tier options are absolutely worth it at ARC Music Festival.
Regardless of which pass you choose, you will be able to take advantage of the awesome vendors and food options at ARC. Sometimes this part of the experience can feel like an afterthought, but not here in the Windy City. Chicago is known as one of the best cities for food in the nation, and that’s on display throughout the weekend with some of the best restaurants coming out to satisfy your festival cravings.
Chicago has a world-renowned dance music scene and finally has ARC Music Festival to solidify its place as a global attraction to lovers of house and techno.
As someone who has called this city home for years, it’s about time Chicagoans got a festival of this magnitude to call their own within the house and techno scene. It is a welcome addition to this incredible city where house was born and is sure to be a staple on the festival circuit for years to come. Tickets to ARC Music Festival 2023 are on sale now, and we can’t wait for next year.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of ARC Music Festival/KURSZA