Local Spins’ Looking for the Perfect Beat columnist Todd Ernst previews the 3rd annual festival being held in the birthplace of house music with Eric Prydz, John Summit, Nina Kraviz, Tale of Us & more.
SCROLL DOWN FOR MUST-SEE ACTS, TRAVEL TIPS. SCHEDULE
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Returning for its third year over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1-3) at Chicago’s Union Park, ARC Music Festival has now cemented itself as one of the most anticipated festivals in North America.
The team from Auris Presents continues to build on previous successes by unveiling a diverse and massive electronic music lineup rarely experienced over a single weekend, all within a short drive from West Michigan.
As a bit of a refresher for those new to Looking for the Perfect Beat, ARC was established in 2021 as a metaphorical vessel of sorts, to bridge the global house and techno scene while bringing it all back home to Chicago. By leaning into the well-established legacy of the Windy City, Auris coalesced industry intellect in unprecedented ways.
ARC attendees will find noticeable changes and improvements to the stage set-up I first detailed for Local Spins in 2022.
New to the festival this year is the Area 909 Stage (replacing the ARC Car/Good Bus) as a tribute to the historic musical umbilical cord linking Detroit and Chicago, the two North American meccas of electronic music.
A single Roland TR-909 drum machine that passed from Detroit’s Juan Atkins (one of the Bellevue Three) to Frankie Knuckles (who is widely regarded as the founder of house music), became the rhythm foundation of house classics such as “Your Love” and “The Whistle Song.”
“Area 909 is a testament to the indelible interconnectivity of these two cities and the musical movements they spawned,” John Curley, co-founder of Auris Presents, told Local Spins. “So at a festival that celebrates a global sound returning home, we feel it only right that this stage celebrates the place it all began.”
CAN’T-MISS ARTISTS AT ARC 2023
With expectations of inbound travelers at an unprecedented level, perhaps the most anticipated performance this year is Eric Prydz presents HOLO, which is almost an unexplainable holographic and lighting show that really needs to be witnessed.
No question all eyes also will be trained on the homecoming of Chicago’s John Summit, as he is perhaps the most in demand DJ on tour right now, and I suspect he is coming in hot for an explosive two hours on Saturday night.
Closing out the main stage Sunday: Italy’s Tale Of Us, where their “Afterlife” performances was one of the most sought after sets at Coachella.
In the credit where credit is due column, intentionally celebrating the women of electronic music has been a hallmark of ARC from day one. This year is no exception with DJs and Producers at the top of their game like Nina Kraviz, Cassy, Anfisa Letyago, Sam Divine, Miss Monique, Hiroko Yamamura and Peggy Gou.
Demonstrating an ability to offer something for house and techno fans alike, Auris has booked favorites such as Boris Brejcha, James Hype, Eli Brown, Dombresky, Mochakk and Vintage Culture.
Couple that with techno and tech-house favorites Adam Beyer, Hot Since 82, Patrick Topping, Âme b2b Dixon and Kevin de Vries, and you now have a hard-hitting lineup rivaling most European festivals.
Another attention getting set: a b3b featuring Fisher, Loco Dice and one of my favorite DJs, Nic Fanciulli. Anyone who’s witnessed Fisher knows he is a bit of an F5 tornado when in the booth, so I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
You can see the entire lineup here (and scroll down for the complete schedule), so I won’t list every artist, but here are other sets you won’t want to miss. I’m confident they’ll leave a positive impression on your time in Chicago.
The Blessed Madonna (4:30 p.m. Saturday, Expansions) – Marea Stamper, aka The Blessed Madonna (fka The Black Madonna), is practically a Chicago institution herself. The longtime Smart Bar resident was named Mixmag’s DJ of the year in 2016 which catapulted her into global fame, and more recently she put her touch on Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” which also featured the other Madonna and Missy Elliott. You can always trust a DJ lost in the moment dancing as hard as the crowd itself, and I promise you she will give you a run for your money on the floor as the sun sets on Saturday evening.
DJ Minx (2 p.m. Friday, Expansions) – Detroit’s First Lady of Wax, Jennifer Witcher aka DJ Minx, has one of those most storied DJ careers coming out of Detroit going back to 1989. A few years later, she formed Women on Wax as a collective of sorts of female DJs from the Detroit area, “There was so much that I had to go through as a woman. We just didn’t get any respect, at least I didn’t.” In 2001, Minx started her own record label as a creative outlet for her own productions, aptly named Women On Wax Recordings. Minx will be joined by Chicago fave Hiroko Yamamura for an extended b2b set to launch the festival on Friday afternoon at Expansions.
Inphinity (2 p.m. Saturday, The Grid) – Auris’ ace in the hole if you will is Garrett Birch, aka Inphinity. Whether working on the lead design team for ARC and Auris, booking locals for ARC After Dark, there is no question Inphinity’s influence is regarded city wide. When the nightlife institution Spybar was voted one of the ten best venues in America by Rolling Stone, it’s hard not to imagine that Inphinity, as one of its longest running resident DJs, played a role in that coveted acclaim. Articulate, poised, this is your move to open the festival on Saturday afternoon.
Lee Foss b2b Gene Farris (7 p.m. Saturday, ELROW) – You’ve got two choices here. Make sure you’re at ELROW shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday, or wish you would have been there. If there’s a set poised to break ARC in half, this might be the one. Gene Farris‘ aptly named imprint Farris Wheel and the Repopulate Mars boss Lee Foss are old friends, but even so opportunities to play back-to-back like this don’t come along very often, and no question their chemistry is going to spill over into the craziness simply known as ELROW. Expect a lot of hands in the air, along with lots and lots of confetti.
ARC AFTER DARK AND SOME PRO-USER TIPS
If you haven’t already figured it out, Labor Day weekend in Chicago sets up as an endurance race if anything. The festival itself will take darn near everything out of you, but ARC After Dark is where it’s really at. While Chicago nightlife is already legendary when you consider well-known venues Concord Music Hall, Prysm, Radius/Cermak Hall and Spybar, along with newcomers to the ARC eco-system such as Metro/Smartbar, Primary and Smoke & Mirrors — booked with modern-day electronic music heroes alongside Chicago’s own house heroes — ARC has left no stone unturned in anchoring Chicago in its rightful place on a global level.
While success often introduces unintended snags, I can’t help but wonder if ARC might simply have outgrown Union Park (located within the Fulton Market district) as evidenced by many near sellouts in its ticket tiers as of this writing. I really hope this doesn’t happen as the whole vibe is so authentic to Chicago that the proper way to get to the festival is to take the famed L as it drops attendees off at the main gate.
Tickets/Passes: Three-day GA, three-day Global VIP passes and all Saturday passes are sold out; Friday VIP Plus passes are $499; Sunday general admission passes are $149, VIP Plus, $499. Get tickets online here.
Here are some user tips to help ARC attendees better enjoy their weekend.
The home of Frankie Knuckles: New in 2023 is the historic status of the industrial building that housed the famous Warehouse nightclub at 206 S. Jefferson St. within the West Loop. No trip to Chicago would be complete without a photo in front of the famed Warehouse’s former location, just a short walk to Union Park.
The ‘L’ and Union Park: Chicago’s CTA transit system (L is short for elevated) is the best way to travel within the city. Google Maps will show you options via the green and pink lines from the Loop area to Union Park, with a CTA stop literally right at the gates. By and large, transit in Chicago is safe at 10 p.m. when the festival lets out. Also, if you’re flying into O’Hare or Midway, the CTA will you get you to where you’re going cheaper and quicker than any other option.
Attire: It’s kind of interesting watching all of these online forums, but the one thing that comes up more often than most is a fairly basic question… “What should I wear?” The fashion at ARC is somewhere between Coachella and Movement with a few splashes of EDC for good measure, yet surprisingly relaxed and mature. Keep in mind Chicago’s famed nickname as “The Windy City,” situated right on Lake Michigan, so you’re best to have an extra layer with you when out late. The weather forecast as of Aug. 30 calls for sunny and hot conditions, with a high of 83 degrees Friday, 91 Saturday and 93 Sunday.
The Lakeshore and its neighbor The Loop: September in Chicago is fairly magical. Try to carve out an hour to walk along Lake Michigan and down by Grant Park (where Lollapalooza is held) which offers incredible views of the Chicago skyline. Union Park is only a few miles from the Loop and River North hotel districts, so if time and energy permits, the walk through the heart of the historic Loop district is like no other. Of course, there are amazing dining options along the way as well.
Traveling to Chicago: One of the best things about any excursion to Chicago is its relative near proximity to many cities in Michigan. When you factor in that Chicago’s nightlife revels until 5 a.m., it’s always been an easy decision for me, especially with the city’s architecture. If you’re not up for the drive or parking in Chicago, Amtrak has always been a popular and affordable option for travelers to the windy city.
From Grand Rapids: 179 miles (2 hours, 50 minutes)
From Kalamazoo: 146 miles (2 hours, 26 minutes)
From Lansing: 218 miles, (3 hours 26 minutes)
From Traverse City: 319 miles (4 hours, 55 minutes)
From Detroit (283 miles, 4 hours, 13 minutes)
Facebook Groups: This ARC Music Festival group will connect you with other ARC attendees, people traveling from overseas, and so on. There is another I have enjoyed moderating called ARC 35+ Music Festival 2023 that is designed for the more mature traveler. Acting as a bit of a concierge for people coming to Chicago for the first time always has been kind of my thing, as it’s kind of cool to see people so enthusiastic about traveling to a city I have enjoyed since a kid.
If you have any questions, feel free to ping me @toddernst on both Instagram or Twitter.
ARC 2023: THE SCHEDULE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Todd Ernst has been an electronic music DJ and promoter for 30+ years and is half of the DJ duo DiscoBrunch. While his days are spent as the owner of an indie real estate brokerage, he also owns EXSIGN which is a creative concept that designs and manages corporate, non-profit and nightlife events. Todd is also one of the founding team members for TEDxGrandRapids.
Copyright 2023, Spins on Music LLC