A new music fiesta called Suenos Chicago debuted in Grant Park on May 28 to a sizable turnout that grew even bigger the following day. The festival ran along Columbus Drive from Buckingham Fountain to Roosevelt Road.
The Spanish word "suenos" means "dreams" in English and reggaeton music fans lived out their dreams that weekend, thanks to a fantastic lineup of innovative Latin musicians. Reggaeton music was born in Panama in the late 1980s and then was elevated by Puerto Ricans in the 1990s. Eventually, a Colombian artist named J Balvin brought the style to mainstream radio and sold more than 35 million records worldwide. "The Prince of Reggaeton" rightfully headlined this Chicago concert collective and was a smart move for the team in charge of Suenos.
Austin, Texas, company C3 Presents brought this new outdoor affair to life after teaming up with the successful Baja Beach Fest creators Chris Den Uijl and Aaron Ampudia.
From noon to 10 p.m. over the course of two days, ticket holders had plenty of room to enjoy the music as well as explore the festival grounds in search of street food, celebratory drinks and vendor booth shopping options. A massive Ferris wheel gave a bird's eye view and several art installations were just some of the popular photo opportunities located inside the festival's fenced-in area.
Orange cups were everywhere as part of a TURN reusable cup program where drinkers could turn in the plastic at bins placed around the festival. Festival-goers were offered free t-shirts if enough recyclable cans were gathered similar to Lollapalooza every year.
No single-day tickets were sold at Suenos which forced patrons to pay big bucks and be patient to eventually see their favorite act. Several DJs kept the masses moving with a stream of recognizable Latin favorite tunes blasting from the past.
Fuerza Regida used regional Mexican banda beats for robust sound effects and Puerto Rican performer Jhay Cortez (or Jhayco) clearly knew how to hold a crowd's attention during his well-executed time slot.
Another Puerto Rican act Wisin & Yandel had longtime fans swooning and dancing in the field around the stage. Colombian crossover rapper J Balvin closed out the weekend with his usual flamboyant style and theatrics.
Although there was some toxic masculinity that comes paired with this genre of music and the fans who support it, there was also a small but powerful LGBTQ+ presence mixed throughout the crowd. Rainbow flags identified the many out and proud folks that attended Suenos over the two days to see their musical heroes play live in concert.
Dominican rapper La Gabi (Gabriela Guaba), who J Balvin signed as his first female artist in 2021, was given an early set on May 29 but the promoters of Suenos needed more female-presenting musicians on the roster.
Brazilian performer Anitta was possibly too busy gearing up for Pride festivals but where was Spanish singer Rosalia, who previously performed with J Balvin at 2019's Lollapalooza in Chicago.
There is still much to learn with the ever-changing landscape of Chicago-based music festivals and not just with the booking of the various male-dominated music acts. If only one stage is planned for next year then the people in charge could save time and money by using the permanently in place Petrillo Bandshell stage instead, similar to the upcoming Pride in the Park event. Overall, it was a time to come together as a community safely and enjoy live Latin music in Grant Park just before Memorial Day.
Ready for another Latin outdoor concert? Ruido Fest returns to Chicago in Union Park on Aug. 19-21, with tickets available at RuidoFest.com . Follow the future of Suenos at SuenosMusicFestival.com .