The air was sticky and the sun was nothing short of relentless, and of all the things to do during the Fourth of July weekend, I ended up at what seemed like a dance party taking place in an alley. A gravel path overrun by deep house tunes playing from three different stages that were steps away from each other. It was none other than Riverwest Music Festival.
I\’ll say this right off the bat. Riverwest is not the kiddie pool. It\’s no place for amateurs. I discovered that fairly quickly. Being one of the very few underage festival goers, it was impossible not to notice that almost every attendee was above the age of twenty-one. There were many who seemed to be in their thirties. And I promise you this: there were definitely some individuals who could have been my parent\’s age. And every single one of them had a beer or an overpriced Lime-A-Rita in hand.
But what stuck out to me the most was that there were no rave cliches. I saw one pair of furry boots. Very few kandi. There were two festival goers that approached me inquiring about drugs. I don\’t think they ever found any. I saw a handful of confused faces when the bass never dropped.
It was deep house. True, all-consuming deep house music. Strip dance music of it\’s crazed scene and stigmas; it\’s just the music and the people that remain. That\’s what Riverwest seemed to be. I\’d turn around and see groups of people dancing together, breathing in the music.
The performers themselves were zoning in on the music. We had Bob Moses, who road-tripped from New York City after having cancelled flights. Sharam played a double set when Rusko fell ill and couldn\’t make it to the festival. We witnessed Vaski and J. Worra join the crowd to hang and pose for pictures with their fans. There was one-on-one dedication present that is rarely felt. I was taken by surprise.
But if you also attended, you\’re probably enraged that we haven\’t addressed your complaints. I\’ve read them. I too had a few of my own.
What was promoted as an all ages festival probably shouldn\’t have been. Three stages. Two nearly next to each other, the other only accessible if you were twenty-one. And even then, only if you were twenty-one and willing to wait hours in line to see Visionquest and Art Department on a limited-space terrace. That or buy a table for $1,500.
You had fifty people raging to one of the maybe three \”big-room house\” sets that took place on the gravel-road stages and everyone else writing angry tweets on their phones while waiting in line to get onto the terrace, which probably didn\’t happen.
There just could have been better execution. And there seems a bit of hesitation to criticism. Festival attendees quickly took to the review section of Riverwest\’s Facebook page to express their outrage in lengthy posts, which some are rumored to have been removed by Riverwest themselves. Smooth.
There\’s reason to complain, so go ahead. But here\’s the bottom line:
It was Riverwest\’s first year, and trust me, there is more than enough room for improvement. There will always be something to complain about. I\’m sure more than half of the festival goers will prove me right on that.
But if you found yourself enjoying the return of Deep Dish or that perfect performance by Adrian Lux with the Chicago skyline to your right and the sunset behind you, even once, then hold your complaints.