If you’re over 25, you probably think of Spring Awakening less as an EDM festival than as an unhinged weekend of debauchery. Thousands of teenagers pack themselves into a park with enough glitter, neon tank tops and yes, shh, drugs for a long weekend (or a lifetime).
But the dirty little secret is that, when it comes down to it, Spring Awakening is no wilder than any other music festival, and for those who care about dance music, there are some damn good acts hidden in a scene currently going through its hair metal phase. We discovered this past weekend that, if you take some tips from your friend who “can’t wait to get back to Berlin,” it’s even more rewarding than your average Pitchfork or Lollapalooza.
The biggest acts of Spring Awakening 2016 were chart-toppers The Chainsmokers and prog-house kingpin deadmau5, both of whom—along with trance trio Above and Beyond and other trap and electro mainstays—performed strong sets. Though punctuated with trap interludes that felt a bit aimless, there were undeniable highs for those who stuck around for their hits. The Chainsmokers’ “Roses” and deadmau5’s “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff,” landed almost exactly as they did on-record, reminding even the most skeptical listener of why these guys were headliners.
Other shows brought real, consistent vision and geeky passion to a music culture often pilloried for its unexamined bro-ishness. Gesaffelstein’s acid-house asides worked just as well in a crowded field as they might have on a darkened dance floor, and Madeon’s chiptune electro optimism easily shone through some of the more “heavy” moments of the festival. Classic DJ and BBC Essential Mix mastermind Pete Tong thickened the mix, bringing a dose of history to a scene that, thirty years into its existence, still gets dissed for being “just dumb dance music.”
That’s the core of Spring Awakening.