With the largest metropolitan area in the Midwest (which also happens to be the home of house music), Illinois and more specifically, Chicago, has played a large part in shaping the direction of contemporary dance music.
Due in part to that historic role, Illinois continues to reap the benefits of one of the most passionate dance music communities in the country. That community has spurred a demand for continued growth in electronic music-focused events and festivals, many of which are regarded among the best in the nation. Today we're highlighting some of the top festivals that proudly call the Windy City and Illinois at large their home.
Lollapalooza - C3 Presents
At the height of summer in Chicago, Lollapalooza sees over 90,000 daily attendees celebrating in Grant Park. Founded by Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction in 1991, the festival has a storied history. Today Lollapalooza hosts over 180 performances across four days.
For dance music fans specifically, Farrell's namesake stage Perry's Stage was ahead of its time. The dedicated electronic music stage has grown exponentially year over year, consistent with the dance music boom in the U.S. and especially in the last decade. Today it has the scale similar to that of the festival's main stages, making dance music's impact on the event stronger than ever.
North Coast Music Festival - Live Nation Presents
Labor Day weekend in Chicago is best celebrated at North Coast Music Festival. The festival has been around for a decade, but it's mixed curation that relies primarily on electronic and hip-hop talent continues to make it a unique experience for the region. For its tenth year of action, North Coast moved to its current home on Northerly Island. The peninsula and park space, which is home to an outdoor amphitheater for concerts, provides festivalgoers with the added flare of a skyline view and lakefront backdrop few venues could match.
Spring Awakening Music Festival - LiveXLive Media
For a pure play on what the electronic music scene in Illinois has to offer, Spring Awakening Music Festival offers an uncompromising lineup of the world's biggest producers. The festival came to the forefront in its very first year of action in 2012, when Skrillex and Afrojack headlined the two-day event at its original home of Soldier Field. The festival has since moved to Hoffman Estates where it's dramatically expanded its roster and now runs three days annually.
Mamby On The Beach - LiveXLive Media
There's a transformative event that happens during the summer on Chicago's Montrose Beach. While Illinois is not necessarily known for its beachfronts, Mamby On The Beach helps make the most of what the city's beaches have to offer. The music of Mamby tends to skew towards live electronic and uplifting pop. Mamby is a one-stop shop for all things summer including beach volleyball, water balloon fights, sand sculpting, and outdoor yoga. The contrast of having access to the city and the beachfront makes it an ideal event to visit.
Chicago House Music Conference & Festival - Entertain Near You Presents
Though its intent is to highlight the history of Chicago's pioneering contributions to house music, the Chicago House Music Conference & Festival is a relative newcomer compared to the rest of this list. In the last handful of years the event has been around it has attracted thousands to Chicago's Millennium Park to reminisce on the genre's roots and celebrate its broader impact on the international culture of dance music. In many ways this event came to fruition as a tribute to the legacy of Frankie Knuckles, who was a Chicago artist and is widely recognized as the godfather of house music. Knuckles passed away in 2014.
Pitchfork Music Festival - Pitchfork Media
In 2005, Pitchfork Media was sourced by a Chicago-based promoter to curate what was then called Intonation Music Festival. The festival's focus was to highlight cutting-edge entertainers of various styles. The following year Pitchfork Media took the primary organizational role in the event and thus Pitchfork Music Festival was born. Of course, that spirit of highlighting the best in new music has never left Pitchfork Music Festival, but the gathering has embraced increasingly bigger artists as its profile has grown throughout its 15 years of action.
Summer Camp Music Festival - Jay Goldberg Events
Over the last two decades, thousands have made an in-state getaway to Chillicothe, Illinois over Memorial Day weekend. Summer Camp Music Festival has been called a top summer festival by Rolling Stone and has grown since its humble beginnings in 2001. The inaugural event at Three Sisters Park attracted 1,000 visitors; it has since grown to host 20,000 attendees annually - quite a stir for a town with only 6,000 residents well removed from the urban hustle and bustle of America's third largest city. Fans of electronic jam bands such as Umphrey's Mcgee and STS9 will likely find a lot of appeal in Summer Camp's lineup.
The Pygmalion Festival - Nicodemus Agency
Central Illinois is home to the state's largest college, the University of Illinois. The Pygmalion Festival took hold in the University's home town of Champaign-Urbana with the intent of engaging the college community and its neighboring residents. In recent years Pygmalion has branded itself as a multidisciplinary event. The established gathering of fifteen years has expanded to highlight not just music, but also literature, comedy, podcasts and much more.
Chosen Few Picnic & Festival - Robbi The Promoter!
The Chosen Few Picnic & Festival is an annual event celebrating the history of house music in Chicago. The event is named after the Chosen Few DJs, a group of producers from the city who are widely recognized as some of the original architects of the house music genre. The group has organized this annual event since 1990, making it the longest-running house music event of its kind. The gathering began as a family and friends gathering behind the Museum of Science & Industry and has since grown to draw over 40,000 fans of house music to Chicago's Jackson Park every year.
Which Illinois-based music festivals top your bucket list? Let us know on social media.