DangerWayne, Bentley Dean representing the home team at ARC Music Fest, North Coast this weekend
You can't venture around Chicago or the suburbs during the summer and not bump into some sort of music festival.
And for the second year, Labor Day weekend sees the area playing host to two major multiday electronic music festivals -- the long-running North Coast Music Festival and the sophomore outing for the ARC Music Festival. That paired with Spring Awakening's postponement to 2023 from earlier this summer left a void on the EDM scene the two fests are looking to fill for fans.
"Labor Day has become one of the biggest weekends of the year in Chicago because of the festivals. The city is just very much alive," said DangerWayne (aka Park Ridge native Eric Zingsheim). "And they're different enough to where it definitely works."
Zingsheim, who was fortunate enough to be on the lineup for last year's ARC debut, sees the fest expanding to three days this year.
"It's all house and techno and deep house, tech house, all forms of house, which is the reason why I started my DJ career, because I was in love with electronic dance music, specifically house," Zingsheim said. "And being that Chicago is where (house music) all started, it just feels really special. And just being there last year was probably the highlight of my summer."
The four stages of the ARC Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park provide a blend of global music with down-home house and dance faves, including Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Charlotte De Witte, Nora En Pure, Fatboy Slim, Gorgon City, Claptone and Chris Lake, as well as Chicago-area artists like Derrick Carter, the legendary Gene Farris, GoodSex, Dani Deahl and more.
Maine South grad Zingsheim said he got his start in earnest with house music when he and a friend were inspired by DJs who would sometimes play at birthday parties when they were 15. The duo started DJing as Dance Floor Massacre around area high schools. But well before that, he knew he loved dance music.
"I was just always a collector of music. Even when I was 9-10 years old, every dollar I made from my allowance I would be like, 'Dad, can we go to the record store? Can we go to Best Buy and pick out a CD?' I just collected music," he said.
He didn't always know the artists, he said, but he'd look for covers that looked like dance music or had "DJ mix" emblazoned across them. He listened religiously to B96's late-night dance sets and tapped into producers such as Paul Oakenfold and Tiesto. He eventually went away to college to study firefighting, but in his early 20s, he rediscovered dance music at the clubs.
"It made me fall in love with it again or even more," he said. "I saw the possibility. 'They're doing that as a job. Why couldn't I do that?' ... So that's when I set the goal that I want to start performing in bars and nightclubs."
Now 33, Zingsheim navigates a packed schedule of shows every weekend balanced with a real estate career, when he's not playing major festivals, that is.
"I don't even think I was planning on making a living out of it," he said. "I just knew that that's what I wanted. And I figured out a way to make it happen."
DangerWayne is playing a b2b set with KICE atop the GoodBus at the ARC Car Stage at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Those same days, the North Coast Music Festival stretches out across the SeatGeek Stadium grounds with kinetic art and a colorful blend of electronic genres, including Armin van Buuren, Porter Robinson, Downers Grove native Illenium, Fisher, Diplo, Kaytranada and the area's own Steve Gerard, Dogma and more. The fest's five stages each offer a unique vibe.
Alex Bentley Dean -- a Western suburbanite by way of Birmingham, England -- is playing his third set at North Coast Friday night, this time closing out the Fire Pit Stage, one of the fest's new additions for 2022.
The ever-evolving fest and its eclectic genres keep Bentley Dean coming back.
"I'd play North Coast every year," he said. "I like the variety of music that they have. There's house, dubstep, in my case electro house, progressive, trance and everything, too. It's such a wide variety of electronic sub genres, so it's always a pleasant crowd, if that makes sense. Because everyone's different, everyone likes different stuff, and they can go walk half a mile and see something completely different than what you just saw."
Bentley Dean, who moved to the United States when he was 11, said he first fell for electronic music when his mother would play dance music in the car. But when he began producing his own music, he found he had the freedom to tie in his other loves: rock and metal.
Now 32, Bentley Dean has honed a hallmark sound that drifts through the unlit corners of the genre as he infuses his music with inky melodies that conjure darker, more pensive atmospheres. He uses his mastery of dynamics to weave musical stories and a sound reminiscent of horror and thriller score composer Marco Beltrami, a testament to the complexity and variety of the fest's lineup.
"One of the greatest joys I've ever felt is putting on a performance where you're connecting with a mass of people and you're bonding with them through music," Zingsheim said. "There are some days where I'm like, 'I can't believe that they're paying me for this.'"
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ARC Music Festival
When: 2-10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Sept. 2-4
Where: Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St., Chicago, arcmusicfestival.com
Tickets: Single-day general admission starts at $149 per day, two-day passes are $249, three-day passes are $319; VIP and VIP-plus packages are also available. Fees are included in the list price.
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North Coast Music Festival
When: 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, Sept. 2-3, and 2-11 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4
Where: SeatGeek Stadium grounds, 7000 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview, northcoastfestival.com
Tickets: Single-day general admission passes are $88.57 for Friday and Sunday, $93.57 for Saturday; three-day GA passes are sold out; VIP packages are also available. Service and processing fees (listed on the site) added at time of purchase.