Festival Report Card

Festival Report Card: ARC Music Festival

Credit: JORDAN LANDWEHR - @landbear

Chicago is the birthplace of house music, so what better city to have a three-day house and techno music festival? ARC Music Festival took place this Labor Day weekend, and the dance floors were full of energy, smiling faces, and dark sunglasses. 

The festival took place in Union Park, in the Near West Side of Chicago. The lineup consisted of some of the best house and techno DJs from around the globe, and the “ARC After Dark” after-parties were also fully stacked with top talent.

Read below to hear about EDM Maniac’s experience:

Vibes: A-

The people attending ARC came strictly for two things: house and techno. Because these were the only two genres at the festival, there was a feeling of closeness in the crowd, drawn by the love of similar music taste. ARC had a sense of community that felt more united than you’d typically find at larger, multi-genre festivals. There was no one at ARC who WASN’T a house or techno music fan. Because of this similar passion for music, the vibes were immaculate. 

Speaking of love for music, attendees flew from all over the world to attend ARC. We spoke to people from Brazil, Canada, and the UK who came to Chicago to experience ARC. We noticed some people came in large groups but felt comfortable dancing around themselves and making new friends. The air had a sense of comfort, and the energy felt very safe.

House & techno events typically draw in a more mature crowd, which we saw represented at ARC. Although this was an 18+ event, there weren’t too many attendees under 21. This eliminated some of the “rowdiness” of an 18+ crowd. Some house & techno events, such as Dirtybird Campout, are even 21+ to try to ensure the best vibes possible. 

Whether it was because of the more mature crowd, the similarity in music taste, or something circulating in the air in Chicago, we saw no negative or bad interactions. Some festivals have fights, excessive drinking/sloppiness, and medic teams being constantly called to help attendees. We saw none of this at ARC. The medic sirens did go off a few times at night, but ARC’s venue space is relatively compact, so this was unavoidable.


Production: A-

ARC hosted ELROW’s only North American Festival Stage takeover, and the ELROW stage did not disappoint. The production was unique to ELROW’s style, with characters walking around on stilts and confetti blasting through the air. Colorful decorations lined the tent’s roof and on the stage, which elevated the space.

The main stage, The Grid, could hold a LOT of people. The stage was packed to the brim during main sets such as John Summit, but still not massively overcrowded. The production at The Grid had everything, including pyro, lasers, CO2, and fireworks. These elements provided a spectacular viewing experience, especially during nighttime sets such as Tale of Us. Eric Prydz also brought his Holo show to ARC, and his insane visuals left attendees wondering what reality they were in. 

We were happy to see ARC expand the art car stage/area from previous years, as it would have been massively overcrowded if it hadn’t. Last year, the art car was a bus with a “pop-up” art car vibe. This year, it was a fully built stage with a larger area for the dance floor.

Speaking of expanding things, the expansions stage could have… well.. been expanded. It was completely packed for most sets and was difficult to navigate because of the number of people and the trees surrounding the area.

Nonetheless, there was a stage to meet everyone’s energy, whether you were looking for hard-hitting techno or groovy house. If attendees wanted to take a break or wander, they could go into the trees and relax on a picnic table, grab a bite to eat, or explore the various art installations. ARC’s art installations have always been, and still are, a standout for production. The iconic holding hands, the woman in the woods, the silver surfer, circle LED arches, and other art around the venue were beautiful to look at and admire. Art pieces also provided great photo ops for attendees. 

Photo: Jordan Landwehr

Music: A

This year’s lineup featured some of the most prominent artists in the house and techno scene. Peggy Gou stole fans’ hearts with the performance of her new single “(It Goes Like) Nanana.” Tale of Us closed out the final night with beautiful melodies and the iconic visuals we’ve all seen on social media. There were also some insane back-to-back sets such as Fisher b2b Loco Dice b2b Nic Fanciulli, Hiroko Yamamura b2b Dj Minx, Cristoph b2b Franky Wah, Lee Foss b2b Gene Farris, and Moodymann b2b Carl Craig.

Seventeen artists on this year’s lineup, including The Blessed Madonna, Lee Foss, John Summit, and Derrick Carter are all Chicago natives. This was a beautiful homage to the city and its history with house music. 

The talent at ARC was undeniable, and others flew from around the world to be in Chicago. Some travel challenges arose for artists to make their sets, but they did their all to make it to ARC. Vintage Culture hiked two miles at Burning Man to make it ARC. Although he was late, he played a phenomenal set. Nina Kraviz also had some travel issues and unfortunately had to miss her main set, but later performed at the 909 stage for a nighttime surprise.

Although the lineup was heavily stacked with some of our favorite artists, it would be nice to see some bass house DJs on the lineup, such as Wax Motif, who performed last year.

Photo: Kursza

Venue: B

Union Park became well-known in the 1920s and 1950s for having social and cultural events, with many pronounced musicians performing. With its history, it makes sense ARC would be held at this venue. However, as house and techno music gain popularity and ARC continues to get bigger and better, it might be time to look into a larger venue.

The stages were all very close, making it easy and quick to get from stage to stage. This proved to be beneficial if there were multiple artists you wanted to see who were playing at the same time. However, with this condensed space, there was a bit of sound bleed between the main stage and the art car.

Although working with a smaller space, ARC made sure to have porta-potties near every stage. The VIP areas had air-conditioned bathrooms, which was nice for VIP and VIP+ ticket holders. Icon (VIP+) ticket holders had an all-inclusive bar with drinks and food. VIP+ also had a massage area, outside seating, and a tent overhead for shade. This is great for VIP+ ticket holders, but seeing more shade provided for GA attendees would have been nice.

It was 90+ degrees in Chicago, which provided outstanding weather for the park. The terrain was mostly grass or packed down dirt, and both were easy to walk on- even in platforms or heels.

Walking around was a breeze, but getting into the venue was rough. There was only one entrance to the festival, and many attendees were dropped off on opposite sides of the park. You had to walk around the park border to get to the entrance, and we spoke to many people who were confused about where to go. The wait at the box office was also long on the first day, with attendees saying they waited in line for an hour.

Overall: B+

The energy at ARC was contagious the entire weekend, and ARC After Dark kept the party going all over the city. ARC’s devotion to house and techno makes the festival unique, bringing in an incredible crowd with a fantastic vibe.

The foundation for this festival is STRONG, and as house and techno music continue to gain popularity, we suspect ARC may outgrow Union Park. We see a very bright and beautiful future ahead for ARC Music Festival.

Featured Photo: Jordan Landwher – @landbear

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