In what was a surprise to most people in the scene – Chicago welcomed a new festival to its already vibrant festival scene. Would another festival be able to stand on its own two legs in a city that is already known for its packed Summer weekends?
After being there for the weekend, hanging out, and talking to fellow festival goers I think it’s a unanimous decision. When’s Heatwave 2023?
The festival took over Douglass Park for just two days. In a world packed with 3 and 4 day music festivals it is easy to try and go with the flow – but the great part about a two-day music festival? That means the entire day is packed with great music. There are no filler sets. No 4 hours of sets during the day that 30% of the festival crowd haven’t heard of. Just two really really solid days.
And there’s something to be said about a festival wanting 2 GREAT days of talent as opposed to 3 days of good talent. In a city as blessed with great music as Chicago, it’s something that more festivals should take into account.
The festival’s real estate wasn’t huge. It only held three stages – so there could be some sound bleed issues if you weren’t in an optimal spot but as you got closer to the stage it seemed to disappear. But even the smallest stage was jampacked with talent.
One of my highlights of the weekend was Dr. Fresch and his 90-minute set on the festival’s smallest stage The Radiance. Giving Dr. Fresch 60 minutes is a party. But what that man can do in an hour and a half should be illegal in 37 states. In his words he was about to take us on a “Journey.” And oh boy, did he deliver. He reminded everyone why he’s the king of G-house and did it with the biggest smile of anyone at Douglass Park all weekend. And with the extra time he even had time to throw in some Drum & Bass. What a treat.
But the true king of Saturday was RL Grime. To the surprise of no one kicked off his set with a bang and didn’t stop for damn near an hour and a half. For a man who excels in huge drops and ignorant trap music he really is the king of flow. He knows you can’t go 120 mph downhill the whole set. There has to be ebbs and flows. And throughout heaters like “Core” and songs from Chief Keef he was able to mix in the gorgeous vocals from Kanye & The Weeknd’ Hurricane and his more poppier songs like his song with Daya, “I Wanna Know.” RL Grime is the don – and there’s nothing you can do to stop him.
There are music festivals of all shapes and sizes all across the world. Heatwave lands in a perfect tier of music festivals. Accessible from the city and the suburbs, quick little two days. A low-stakes, high-fun, music festival.
Because in the end – that’s exactly what a lot of music festival goers want – FUN.
Sunday of Heatwave Music Festival definitely delivered pure fun. I went in without a plan and I’m so glad I did. 4:50 – 10 pm at Heatwave was one of the most fun 5-hour spans I’ve had at any music festival in a long time.
It kicked off with an absolutely funky and soulful set from Goldfish. They delivered an hour-long set on The Radiance packed with their signature live instrumentation and samplers. Saxophone? You got it. Live keys? In. Electric stand-up Bass? You know it. As the set started the crowd slowly got bigger they fed off the energy perfectly. The intimate stage gave way to lots of eye contact, greeting, and smiling throughout the whole set.
Then the b2b2b of Endless Summer (Sam Feldt b2b Jonas Blue), Loud Luxury, and Tiesto ended the night for me. A path I didn’t expect to take – but when you catch a vibe – you don’t ignore it.
Loud Luxury was another act that benefitted from a 90-minute festival set. Their set was loaded with some of the most fun mashups I heard all weekend. Vocals and drops from some of our favorite songs from the last 10 years were littered throughout the set. Did I expect to hear Deadmau5’s iconic “Strobe” on the main stage this weekend? Sure didn’t. Did we? We absolutely did.
Tiesto and Zeds Dead were tasked with closing out each of the mainstages at Heatwave and as the rolling bass from Zeds Dead took over The Reverie, Tiesto took to The Inevitable. As a man that has been at the top of the EDM scene for a very long time – he has always been one to grow and evolve with the scene. And in those years there have been some sets that were maybe more miss than hit. Can’t always be hitting home runs while consistently headlining festivals. But Summer of 2022’s iteration of Tiesto is absolutely it. The combination of his recent originals and where we are at in the cycle of music is the perfect marriage for Tiesto to absolutely thrive in. And if it the crowd reaction is any indication – I am in the majority opinion.
Overall Heatwave was a wonderful addition to Chicago’s vibrant festival scene – a great midsummer festival to make the final push into August. Hope to see you guys next year!
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[All Photos Courtesy of Heatwave Music Festival/Nany Huynh/Don Idio]