Replacing North Coast Music Festival's usual spot in Union Park, ARC Music Festival launched Sept. 4-5. North Coast was forced to move to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, that same weekend to a stadium that was initially called Toyota Park and is usually used for soccer games.
To compete with the other festival, ARC instead wisely focused on house music for its first year. Instead of spending money on big, expensive names, organizers picked eclectic artists with loyal followings. ARC was smoothly run, with first-aid stations strategically placed amid the vendor tents and security patrolling constantly. The VIP package had many perks such as faster entrances, air-conditioned bathrooms and elevated views of the stages. Vaccination cards and negative COVID tests were checked at the gates, and some wore masks during the entire experience. Even at capacity, there was still plenty of space to stay distant on the outskirts of the stages away from the crowds, if desired. The layout of the festival was well-planned out and -executed for a smooth premiere in the park.
There were several sculptures for photo opportunities around the park, including light-up lions as attendees entered the large Grid Stage area. Food vendors served up everything from tacos to cheese fries. For beverages, thirsty attendees sometimes needed patience with sporadic long lines, but watering stations provided refills after the initial purchase.
For those concerned with the environment, there was an ARC Car Stage that had a 10,000-watt speaker inside a full-length school bus called The GoodBus that was powered by resident bicycle riders.
The stage performers were curated from around the world to complete the vision for the immersive experience. English duo Eli & Fur, or Eliza Noble and Jennifer Skillman, seemed right at home at the Elrow Stage and announced for Pride month that they have explored relationships with women in the past. Elrow is known for throwing parties in Spain with a unique set design that brings all types of global entertainment together in colorful and imaginative ways.
Saturday night ended with electronic-music producer Zhu appearing in a cloud of smoke with a shadowy silhouette. He summoned a variety of musical styles paired with a brilliant light show but remained mysterious. He mentioned that this was the first festival he had ever played for. Before finishing his time slot, he squeezed in his catchy collaboration with Tinashe "Only."
For Sunday, The Grid Stage was the place to be thanks to dynamic artists like Meduza, Camelphat and Eric Prydz. Loyal fans had to break away from that stage to hear out and proud house music icon Derrick Carter at the Expansions Stage, a massive open-air tent.
After-parties continued the fun on both nights, promoted as ARC After Dark, at nearby dance venues that included Spybar, PRYSM Chicago, Radius, Concord Music Hall and Cermak Hall.
ARC Music Festival introduced itself to Chicago in all the right ways as it paid homage to a city with roots in house and dance music.
Visit ARCMusicFestival.com for future developments.