Last year’s inaugural Freak Deaky as a three-day fully fledged music festival kicked off with a bang, surprising us with a top notch festival experience that captured the combination of great stage production, exceptional lineup, and a holiday theme that kept the festival fresh and exciting in Chicago’s fairly saturated market. This year’s edition was no different: the same formula that made the festival a fantastic experience along with a diverse lineup and some improvements to the grounds’ lay-out, allowing for Freaky Deaky to impress yet again.
Location, Accessibility, Set-up
Freaky Deaky made its return to Toyota Park for the second year running. While not technically in Chicago, the venue is located in Bridgeview about 30-40 minutes out of the city. The stadium is home to the Chicago Fire, the city’s professional soccer team. It was an easy drive to get to and from the festival, and while parking was plentiful it was priced at $20 per day with the option of $45 for 3-day parking — an expensive price hike over the $15 per day or $30 for 3 days price for parking provided last year. Public transportation options included the CTA Orange “L” line to Midway Airport (25 min trip from the Loop downtown) and a shuttle to the fest. Overall most people seemed content with the trip and with Freaky Deaky’s new home at Toyota Park.
I arrived around 4:00pm each day and entry was fast for both the GA and VIP lines. Security did their jobs and the only time there was any slow down was for age bracelets signaling that someone was over the age of 21, an understandable and necessary slowdown that does not affect the speediness of entry on behalf of the festival itself.
The festival layout remained the same with React Presents opting to return with three stages in the large parking area outside the stadium. Festival organizers changed the angles of the two side stages slightly, which helped beautifully with increasing the sound quality resulting in virtually zero sound bleed between the stages despite the short walk between each. Attendees could jump on carnival rides in between sets and the bathrooms were plentiful throughout. The stages kept up with Halloween themes with the Shrine set up to in beautiful fashion to resemble a cathedral of some sort. I found myself at the Crypt stage for the majority of the festival, the center tent decorated with the darkest and most haunted theme of all three stages.
Overall, festival organizers did a terrific job with the level of production at each stage, security, the amount of food options, first-aid and water stations available, as well as with the attention to detail for sound bleed, overall providing an excellent experience for festival-goers.
Freaky Deaky was welcomed with typical Chicago weather throughout the weekend. Over the course of three days temperatures varied between 45 to 75 degrees. As long as you bundled up on Sunday the weekend had overall solid climate for a Midwest music festival at the end of October. On Saturday in particular the weather was perfect, between 70-75 degrees.
Crowd & Atmosphere
A stark opposite to React Present’s summer beach music festival, Mamby on the Beach, Freaky Deaky caters to a much younger crowd. While remaining diverse and generally well-behaved throughout, the sense was that, unlike at Mamby, the crowd at Freaky Deaky was less appreciative and passionate of the techno and house offerings at the Crypt stage. The other stages, hosting EDM and more popular acts were filled with the expected crowd
Part of the issue here may be with the depth of bookings. While the formula remained the same, there is no doubt that the quality of the techno and house acts did drop slightly from last year to this year.
On the day that catered to mind-throbbing bass, the Crypt stage hosted a lineup with the likes of Crizzly, Figure and Bro Safari. Considering this festival takes place on Halloween weekend I couldn’t think of a more fitting sequence of artists to play homage to a genre Chicago loves so much, each with its own signature style of bass music that separates them from the rest of the lineup. Figure in particular dominated the day with his horror-themed tracks and an overall set that truly engulfed the audience and their surroundings to create an atmosphere that was more captivating than that any other artist that day. At the Shrine stage British duo Disclosure closed out the night with many of their popular songs featured in their set but little else, seemingly choosing to play it safe with a cookie-cutter festival set rather than showcasing their true talents.
Day 2 brought a day filled with house and tech house. Dirtybird’s Kill Frenzy really kicked things off with an electrified European Juke (aka “booty house”) set that kept the audience dancing on their feet early on in the day. This theme kept up into Brodinski, who followed Gesaffelstein’s footsteps from last year with a similar performance that incorporated EMB, hip-hop, techno and electro to great results. It wasn’t until Dubfire took the stage that we saw true dominance in a single set. Following the sound issues and the general disappointing set he performed at last year’s Freaky Deaky, it seemed that Dubfire was finally ready to step things up a notch with his new Hybrid live set. The visual experience set the stage for the explosiveness of the techno we found ourselves enjoying to close out the night — a set I truly enjoyed from start to finish.
Sunday provided the most eclectic of lineups out of the three days. At the Crypt stage it was the turn of Lee Foss first and Guy Gerber after to set the mood with sets filled with powerful house music, melodic vocals and synth-heavy tunes before Paradise boss Jamie Jones closed out the night with a signature Hot Creations set filled with acid breaks, 4×4 techno basslines interspersed with catchy vocals. Elsewhere Boys Noize found himself performing a one-hour set in between D.R.A.M. and Jauz, an odd choice that worked for the German producer regardless of the unusual scheduling. Similarly, the Shrine was home of hardstyle, future house, hip-hop and EDM in the space of a few hours as Headhunters, Duke Dumont, Desiigner and Tiesto took over the tent in that order.
Music – 3.9 out of 5
While we stumbled upon stellar sets from various artists spread over all three stages, the only true disappointment was the shallowness of the lineup overall. A little depth at each stage and a stronger cast of headliners would have come a long way to push this festival over the top.
Experience – 4.75 out of 5
The true greatness of this festival comes from the experience. From the themed stages to the level of care the promoters put into taking care of the attendees, it is evident that React Presents put a strong effort into the experience of the festival as a whole. Constructively I think they could really double down on the spooky/haunted theme of the festival and turn this into an exciting horror style music festival the likes of which I have never seen.
Value – 4.0 out of 5
3 Day GA prices were pretty much the same as last year’s. Single day prices still ranged a bit too high at $95 plus fees, an amount not warranted considering the lineup provided. The true area where the value faltered was in the increased price of parking to attend a festival located in the suburbs. $20 a day or $45 for 3 days is absurd for a festival located at a remote location which already charges a high amount to even attend.
Overall – 4.2 out of 5
Regardless of the dip in lineup quality this year, Freaky Deaky remains a fantastic Halloween festival. React Presents continues to impress thanks to their work on improving their festivals and it showed once again at Freaky Deaky this year. I find myself heavily recommending this festival to anyone who asks about it, and that is with the consideration in mind that it still has great room to improve and grow into an even better overall experience.
Photos by: aLIVE Coverage, Tyler Allix, Rift Gardiner, and Kyle Goldberg via Freaky Deaky