Seven Things We Loved About the Chicago House Music Festival

Growing up in Chicago, there is no way around not hearing the melodic sounds of House music. Unlike Blues or Jazz music whose roots stem from the belly of the South with the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana region claiming its iconic figures–Chicago is the birthplace of House music. Since its early days when Chicago DJs blended Disco grooves with B-sides from Soul music artists–Chicago, urban youth found their voice like those who captured hip-hop in the heart of the Bronx. House music was a rallying cry for those seeking refuge in the clubs without racial, gender, sexual or cultural barriers. 

Legendary DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Larry Heard, Ron Hardy, Lil Louis, the Hot Mix 5 and many others were our heroes as they made us follow them across the town, taking us out of our neighborhoods and discovering more than the music but making life-long friends. 

Over the last four decades, we’ve witnessed the genre taking on many forms of sub-genres rising to international heights, creating a superstar platform for DJs and building a billion dollar industry. 

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has reintroduced their commitment in the last six years to recognize and celebrate House music with various programming throughout the year including Wired Fridays, Summerdance and expanding Chicago House Music Day to now, the Chicago House Music Festival and Summit. 

Check out why we loved this year’s Chicago House Music Festival: 

Millennium Park

7. The park is a shining gem within Grant Park’s sprawling 319 acres. Internationally known for it’s gleaming ‘Bean’ sculpture, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is an awesome area to either be in the theatre seating or lay on the spacious green lawns. It has become one of the city’s beautiful summer wonders to check out for tourists and residents. With the new security checkpoints, it’s an added layer of reassurance of safety as well as enjoying the beautiful features in the park. 


Free to the Public

6. Who doesn’t like a free event? Adding to the costs of parking, public transportation, a ride-sharing service and extra amenities–it’s reassuring to one’s pockets. But, many who love a good party or concert don’t mind paying the price of admission. In this case, over the last three years, the city of Chicago expanded beyond DJs and artist performances. Attendees got a chance to discover more of the park on a budget, enjoy the music and see why thousands of tourists descend on our beautiful parks every year. 

Vinyl Fair

5. It all started with the record. This year was the first time, the vinyl fair was added to the festival, and it was a great way for music lovers to cherry pick some great finds. Yes, people still collect vinyl and with the craze of vinyl swap gatherings–it has created a resurgence of the music buying experience. Vendors on hand such as Feel Trip Records, Shady Rest, Bric-A-Brac Records, Groove DIS were among the vinyl retailers. 

Family friendly

4. What a great way to reminisce about the club days of C.O.D.’s, Mendel, The Warehouse, Sauers, The Music Box without the burden of tracking down a babysitter. There were plenty of strollers, makeshift picnics of families enjoying the music and sharing it with the next generation of mini-househeads. With Maggie Daley park across the way, families were able to knock out two birds with one stone. 

Little Louie Vega and Elements of Life

3. Little Louie Vega and his live ensemble band, Elements of Life took the stage as this year’s headliner wrapping up the 8-hour long festival in the park. Vega, a Bronx native and co-creator of the production duo, Masters At Work credited for blending Latin influences with Deep Soul and Garage House which has catapulted him to international acclaim. His love for House music and a leading contributor to the movement has earned him a six Grammy nominations and one Grammy win for “Superfly’ in the Best Remixed Recording, the Non-Classical category in 2006. Joining him onstage included some of the more familiar voices in the business–Julie McKnight, Cindy Mizelle, Josh Milan and other incredible talents. Each vocalist brought to life hit after hit as the DJ/producer conducted and curated the set. By far, the best live House performances to blaze the Jay Pritzker Pavilion breathing life throughout the park. 

 Honoring Jamie Principle

2. Jamie Principle is a House music icon with earlier collaborations with the legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles producing dance club hits, “Jamie Wants to Ride” and “Your Love” honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Not one for many words, Principle graciously accepted the award. Although the recognition seemed rushed, we were pleased to see his hard work and contribution to growing the culture celebrated. 

Chicago DJs

1. No matter what, Chicago House DJs are the best in the world. Their style of fluently segueing music is an art form and if you ask any one of them, they will tell you this is the secret of a skilled DJ. The main stage brought out heavy hitters such as Mike Dunn, Bozark, Craig Loftis, Joe Smooth and others, the energy throughout the day was at the Chicago House Music Stage. This year, a third stage was added on the South end of the park. In 90 degree weather, nearly 1000+ people gathered around the small stage where Chi-town’s finest beat the box. DJ Celeste Alexander led the charge, Zernell, followed by Ron Carroll; DJ Deeon and Paul Johnson who killed it–closing out one of the best sets at the festival. The past couple of years, the festival added DJ rooster to the inside tent where more people could enjoy more of their favorite DJs. Each DJ spun for an hour and the crowd while the crowd danced. 


Long-lines was a significant hindrance between the restrooms and the beverage stands–it was a headache between filling your bladder and emptying one. This year’s new rule by the city banned outside alcohol, but unfortunately, it didn’t seem to accommodate the heightened demand of consumers. 

Secondly, the lack of female DJs playing at this year’s festival was noticeably missing compared to last year’s program. The diversity of House music is what makes the event special because it brings people from all walks of life together, but hopefully, the organizers will recognize the importance of Ghetto House a.k.a. Juke music which has become an international phenomenon. Like traditional House music, it was created in Chicago and has built a major following by the younger fanbase.

Overall, it was an AMAZING start to the Memorial Day weekend and will no doubt be a part of the traditional Chicago summer festival line-up for years to come! 

Check out photo highlights. Photo credit: Mary L. Datcher


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