[Event Review] Freaky Deaky Pulled Out All The Stops In Chicago This Halloween
This year marked an exciting expansion of React Presents‘ massive Halloween event Freaky Deaky. Expanding to include 3 days of music, with over 75 artists all playing on 3 stages, Freaky Deaky looked to assert its dominance as the Midwest’s premier festival of the Fall season. Over the three days we spent on the outskirts of Chicago, we got down with an insane cast of characters both on stage and on the dance floor. React Presents put together a stellar festival from start to finish. Inclement weather and artists cancellations could not derail this freaky train, as the entire team worked seamlessly to keep the party running smoothly. Right now we are going to delve into the nitty gritty of what went down in the three insane tents over Halloween weekend, starting with a whole lot of bass on day 1!
On the first day of Freaky Deaky droves of fanciful bass fanatics poured into Toyota Park for what was surely going to be a star studded opening party. With a lineup packed with legends and current favorites, day one was looking to kick things off with a bang.
Tokimonsta got things started for me with her expert blend of dance music energy, infused with hip-hop angst. Deviant mixes of Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre’s “Like This and Like That” and Biggie’s “Hypnotize,” kept heads bopping in the crowd. Tokimonsta upped the ante with wild tracks like Keith Ape’s “Its G Ma,” proving she is one of the boldest bosses behind the decks.
After getting our feet wet in Tokimonsta’s sub-bassy pool we headed over to The Big Top where drum and bass pioneer Sub Focus was gearing up to hit the stage. However, before the righteous sounds of jungle and UK bass could take center stage, I stumbled into one of the most surprising sets of the weekend. Hailing from his hometown of Engels, Russia, Arty brought a massive amount of energy with him.
The Big Top came alive with pounding bass, infectious synths and wicked lasers, as confetti and streamers descended upon a jubilant crowd of costumed ravers. I’m usually not one to get down to big room house, but even I could’t help myself when Arty dropped some tasty tracks. It was right about this time, bouncing between Darth Vader and a pair of astronauts, that I realized that this was going to be a very interesting three days. Getting down to music I would usually never listen to, surrounded by a mob of fairy tale characters and former presidents, I began to understand the appeal that Freaky Deaky was looking to achieve.
After the dust settled and we had a chance to catch our breath, it was time for one of my all time favorite DJ/producers to bless us with his presence. Accompanied by MC I.D., Sub Focus took to the stage in front of a massive crowd. Comprised of a mix of eager D’n’B fanatics and a few curious ravers, stumbling upon a brand new world music, the audience was poised to explode. Without skipping a beat Sub Focus hit us hard with a wall of thunderous bass and percussion.
The pulse quickening effects of drum and bass sent the already lit tent into an all out frenzy. Old school jungle vibes had everyone in the spot on their baddest behavior. Bellows of glee erupted from the wild dance floor, as MC I.D. prompted the crowd to join in his call and response. “Sub,” he shouted. “Focus,” we happily replied. As the whole tent swelled and bounced in unison to Dimension’s “Love To Me,” hearts fluttered and the weekend truly kicked off.
Sub Focus transitioned his set from a wild ride of heavy bass into an emotional roller coaster. With uplifting songs like “Out Of The Blue,” “Turn Back Time” and “Tidal Wave,” the British bass maestro electrified the atmosphere. Arms raised and voices singing the words with gusto, the crowd was covered in another avalanche of blue and white confetti which created an absolutely picturesque scene. Before leaving the stage, Sub Focus unleashed a few new unreleased tracks that had our mouths watering for his next release.
Still riding the absolute high that Sub Focus left us with, we pranced our way over to The Shrine for the rest of the first night’s festivities. We knew things were going to continue on their upward trend, because up next was the smoothest man with a sax in his hand, GRiZ.
I’ve seen GRiZ probably around 7 times prior to the show last weekend, and I have to admit that this may have been my favorite to date. Coming out the blocks like a man on fire, GRiZ served up hit after hit for the hungry crowd of funk fiends. “Smash The Funk” received a raucous reception as everyone inside the massive tent began cutting copious amounts of rugs. Always one to infuse his sets with a healthy serving of hip hop, GRiZ laid down some wild remixes of “Wu-Tang Clan Aint Nuthing ta F wit” and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
The show’s crescendo was reached as GRiZ unleashed Jack U’s “To U“, followed by a massive confetti filled rendition of his own hit tune “Fine Way To Die.” Just before the end of his set GRiZ added a heaping dose of soul and funk as he showed off his pipes with Saint Motel’s “Just My Type” along with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which had the entire crowd two-stepping like they were at family cookout.
With only a few minutes left in his set GRiZ went right for the throat with a ludicrous trap interlude that was highlighted by Troyboi’s and Flosstradamus’ insidious collaboration “Soundclash.”
Finally the time had arrived for the final show of the day. GRiZ and Sub Focus threatened to steal the show but The Shrine’s final performer wouldn’t relinquish his throne that easily. With his trademark flowing locks and face painted black and white, Bassnectar was ready to lay waste to what was left of an already ravaged Freaky Deaky crowd.
Aptly opening up with “Ain’t No Other Freak Like Me,” Bassnectar quickly raised the temperature of the The Shrine to unconscionable levels. Next up Lorin chopped up his classic tune “Cozza Frenzy,” showing off his supreme DJ skills. Nectar completely caught the crowd of freaks by surprise when he threw down a massive hardstyle track that gave way to a ridiculous trap breakdown. Madness consumed the gargantuan tent as Nectar brought in a slowed down version of “Noise.” The tune’s iconic lyrics began to take hold of the audience, and as the massive track reached its normal tempo, everyone began singing “I do what I wanna do, I do what I like”. A tidal wave of earth shattering bass engulfed us all and then all bets were off.
Firing on all cylinders, Nectar continued to slay us with crowd favorites like “Lost In The Crowd” and “Speakerbox.” Intertwining a heavy dosage of drum and bass with a few heinous unreleased tracks, Nectar turned the front section of the gated area into a mosh-pit. Live show weapon “Zogdilla” is always one of Lorin’s most creatively mixed songs, and on this night in Chicago it absolutely went off. Before the family photo, Nectar’s remix of David Heartbreak’s “Rose Colored Bass” and his collaboration with ill.Gates, “Expanded,” brought the entire crowd to its summit.
With such a sick lineup of my favorite artists back to back, Freaky Deaky already felt like one of the best events I’ve attended in 2015.
On Saturday morning the sky opened up, and the entire Chicago area was pummeled with hours of heavy rainfall. For a while it looked like the the relentless downpour would spell disaster for the second day of Freaky Deaky. Fortunately we received some positive energy from mother nature, and the storms finally subsided. Although ravers had to find creative detours around water hazards, we entered Toyota Park with high spirits ready for another day of music.
We entered a soggy Big Top tent, where Australian duo Hermitude was laying down their brand of synth heavy, hip-hop influenced tunes. Pikachus, pumpkins and pandas pranced around puddles as Hermitude’s set came to hefty finale. The group’s melodic style and live instrumentation reminded me of Odesza, one of my favorite acts. Soon all the damp dancers could think about was Hermitude’s lush beats and we inevitably left all of our concerns at the festival gates.
Wearing his trademark blue commodore jacket, Bakermat guided his audience on smooth voyage full of funky tracks. The Dutch producer’s ability to move the crowd was impressive. As grounds crews worked swiftly to clear up obtrusive puddles, ravers were showered with soulful song selections. Remixes of Sam Feldt’s “Show Me Love” and Alex Adair’s “Make Me Feel Better” enraptured the Halloween horde and some serious shuffling ensued. Heartwarming sax filled the air of the Big Top, and the clouds of Saturday morning soon became a distant memory. Easily one of the best moments of the weekend was hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s vocals blanket the dance floor as Bakermat unleashed his hit single “One Day.”
After the housey vibrations of Bakermat, the day took a 180 when Pro Era head honcho Joey Badass took to the Big Top. The Brooklyn rapper’s machine gun flow was a jolting transition. Beseeching energy from the crowd, Joey whipped his dreads and lead Pro Era chants. Day-one fans reciprocated Joey’s passion and the rapper ran through his shortened set with enviable swagger.
The last two shows of the night symbolized the immense diversity that was prevalent throughout Freaky Deaky. First Borgore absolutely decimated The Shrine with a medley of outrageous tunes. With his infamous disregard for propriety, Borgore blew the lid off of day 2 with a barrage of heavy hitting bangers. One of my favorite things about Borgore is his ability not to take himself too seriously. He loves having a good time and that energy is infectious for his audience. Rifling through tracks old and new, Borgore dropped “Act Like A Hoe,” “Decisions” and crowd favorite “Forbes.” The highlight of his set came when the entire tent began to emulate the infamous chest beating chant from The Wolf Of Wall Street. It was definitely something that I’ve never seen a DJ attempt before, but Borgore’s renegade attitude allows him to find creativity in the strangest of places.
To close out the night we hit the Crypt to enjoy the devilish techno style of Gesaffelstein. Clad in his customary black suit, white shirt and Parisian nonchalance, Gesaffelstein went to work on a noticeably older crowd. A truly masterful puppeteer, Gesaffelstein was easily able to manipulate the audience with his mesmerizing track list. Before we knew it the gates were closing and we were yearning for more Halloween debauchery.
As grim as Saturday morning looked, Sunday was conversely as gorgeous. Clear skies and the highest temperatures of the weekend spelled a perfect ending to this year’s first 3-day Freaky Deaky festival. After two days of heavy partying, festival goers trickled in wearing their best excuse for a costume, but it was clear that comfort was beginning to win out. A rather small group gathered at Emancipator Ensemble, which was my first show of the day. Currently one of my favorite artists, Emancipator has an uncanny ability to speak to the soul. Rather than dance and go all out, most chose to sway and vibe to the down tempo tunes. Plucky mandolin and violin accents blossomed from the stage creating a meditative atmosphere. The ensemble highlighted this performance with big tunes off of their new album Seven Seas, including “Land and Sea” as well as the title track featuring Madelyn Grant. To close out their set, the Emancipator Ensemble played the two biggest tracks in their arsenal back to back, “Elephant Survival“and “Dusk To Dawn.”
Moving right along, it was time for one of my all-time favorite singers take the stage. For those who don’t know, or who may have been living under a rock, AlunaGeorge is a British electronic music duo comprised of vocalist Aluna Francis and producer George Reid. Their candid ballads of love and transformation have made them one of the most recognizable names in the electronic music scene today. Although George does not tour with the band currently, he is still a huge part of the group’s musical direction. Aluna, who is obviously the twosome’s frontwoman, has one of the most breathtakingly beautiful voices you will ever come across.
Accompanied by her immensely talented band mates, Aluna threw down a tremendous set showing the crowd her magnetic stage presence and astounding set of pipes. Dressed as Hugh Hefner, while her boys donned bunny outfits, Aluna charged through her many hits. “Best Be Believing“, “Kaleidoscopic Love” and “Your Drums Your Love” had couples slow dancing and strangers getting very friendly. Before leaving the stage Aluna treated the crowd to her seductive new track with the mysterious ZHU, as well as the group’s collaboration with Jack U, “To U.” After closing with a mix of the original version”Best Be Believing” as well as the DJ Snake remix, the threesome received a massive round of applause from the enchanted audience.
The juxtaposition that followed was nearly comical. After a sultry R&B songstress finished singing her heart out, a bass music warlord was getting ready to come on next. Firepower Records executive Datsik, took the Big Top tent by storm. Streamers, smoke and confetti flew into the air as Datsik ripped us to shreds. There was no time to stop and catch your breath as jaw rattling bass permeated from the speakers above. Unlike other artists who are worried about dressing up their performances with unnecessary bells and whistle to gain wider appeal, Datsik goes right for the throat every time. Antiserum and Mayhem’s “Bricksquad Anthem” along with Excision’s “Robo Kitty” absolutely demolished the dance floor. A VIP remix of Datsik’s “Swagga” along with Destroid’s “Bounce” had the Big Top in pandemonium. What I’m trying to say is, Datsik utterly killed it.
Before leaving the stage Datsik let us know that this would be his last show for three months and everyone in the crowd felt as if they had just witnessed something truly special. Before closing out his set with an infectious new track with Snoop Dogg entitled “Smoke Bomb,” Datsik captured the hearts and imagination of his audience with The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ classic tune “City Of Angels.”
After three nights of beautiful music and excellent company, I could think of no better way of ending it than with Pretty Lights closing it out. As Derek Vincent Smith brought The Shrine to life I began to reflect on the weekend. Amidst a sea of gorgeous lasers that seemed to mirror the beauty found in the audience’s hearts, I found myself feeling that oh so familiar love of summertime. We’ve come to accept the fact that festival season is reserved for the warmer months. However this year Freaky Deaky proved that we can spread love and have good times all year round. Easily one of the best festival I’ve attended this year; Chicago and the whole Midwest have a new Fall time favorite in Freaky Deaky.