When I think of New Year’s Eve warehouse parties, I like to imagine secret locations announced a mere 24 hours before, with little-known DJs spinning until the wee-hours of the morning. And while those are incredibly fun, React decided to take a new approach to the idea this year by bringing a full-fledged, two-day festival to a convention center just outside of Chicago. And between two huge stages, incredible lights, an arcade stage, and a skate park, they transformed the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center into a warehouse party that anyone could attend, and it worked out beautifully.
Reaction boasted later start times and much later end times than your standard city festivals, using its indoor location in the suburbs as a way around Chicago’s strict noise ordinances that force most of its festivals to end by 11pm. The music raged until 1:30am, and if that wasn’t enough for you, many clubs in the city kept going until 4 or 5. The main stage, aptly titled “The Warehouse”, had one of the best lighting setups I’ve seen in an indoor venue, which was used to perfection by the likes of Skrillex, DeadMau5, Robin Schulz, and many more.
I’m not going to lie, my memory of the event is a bit hazy. We pregamed A LOT at my friend’s apartment, a New Year’s Eve party, and even the train ride to the venue. I was also preoccupied with excitement for my impending adventure on Holy Ship, and flying to Miami mere hours after the festival ended. However, I do remember enough to pick out a few standout sets from this fantastic end to 2015.
Purity Ring’s stage presence is incredible, giving a purely live set that even the most dedicated electronic music fans can appreciate just as much as a great DJ set. Surrounded by strings of lights that synced to every change in the music, Megan James delivered an incredible vocal performance, dancing around stage, getting up close with the crowd, and singing her beautiful heart out. Running through all their hits, a few deep cuts, and some off-the-cuff covers, Purity Ring kept everyone captivated through their entire set. I’m normally one to bounce from set to set during a festival, but I didn’t move an inch off the fence during their set.
People can hate all they want about how Skrillex “is a garbage DJ” or “ruined electronic music” or “has stupid hair”, but there’s a reason he’s one of the best-selling artists in the genre and one of the biggest live acts across the globe, and it’s because he’s damn good at what he does. He draws the balance between playing what everyone wants to hear, and throwing in some surprises and huge drops to get everyone raging their face off, and honestly, what else do you want at an electronic music festival? His hour-and-a-half set was a non-stop dance party, from the sweaty pit in the middle of the crowd to the VIP fringes on the side. Throw in an incredible light show, and it was one hell of a way to bring in 2016.
Run The Jewels
All of the political energy and raw emotion that Run The Jewels puts into their music translates directly to the stage. They don’t hold back at all, jumping around stage with a fervor, ranting to the crowd, and most importantly, delivering their lyrics with a talent and purpose largely unmatched in the hip-hop world. Back in March, I was a young naïve kid drunk on boxed wine and rolling, and I missed most of their Buku set to dance like a fool at the overlapping sets by STS9 and Zomboy. This time, I made a point to catch almost their entire set, and I was rewarded with one of the best performances of the festival.
Overall, Reaction NYE was a wild success, especially for a first year festival. Despite the lengthy, freezing train ride to get to the venue, once we were warm and inside, everything was exactly how a New Year’s Eve rager should feel like. With hundreds of options to bring in the New Year, it’s always going to be a tough decision, but make sure to consider Reaction next year. You won’t regret it, regardless of whether you remember it.
Photos by Kyle Goldberg and Greg Rothstein, used with permission from React Presents