When React Presents rolled out the lineup and plans for a newly-expanded Freaky Deaky festival, it was hard to fault their ambition. The pitch was a three-day event the size and scope of west coast Halloween festival HARD Day Of The Dead—but in the heart of the midwest, predominantly at night, right when the temperatures start to dip for the season. There’s so much in that brief that could have disrupted a lesser-prepared festival. However, React’s inaugural Halloween festival wasn’t just a successful trial run—it managed to outshine all of its summer festival productions.
The first night at Toyota Park brought serious heat, with TOKiMONSTA and Sub Focus acting as early show-stealers, before Flying Lotus rocked a set of his absolute weirdest and heaviest to a relatively sparse, but fully-engrossed crowd. FlyLo aside, there was no dethroning Bassnectar as the go-to turn-up king, as his impressively versatile set wove through bass music of all tempos and drew the largest crowd of the entire event (next to Datsik on night three). Bass heads sometimes get a bad rep from other electronic music fans, but there were no issues to be seen here. It was easily the friendliest crowd this side of Red Rocks in quite a while.
Night two was dominated by a few folks: Mr. Carmack, Benny Benassi, Borgore, Hannah Wants, and Shiba San all had lauded sets, but no one crushed it harder than Gesaffelstein. With classic acid house and ’90s-era rave woven into his own material, followed by tributes to French house (Homework-era Daft Punk, anyone?), Gesaffelstein set the bass to “punish,” laying down the set of the festival without cracking more than a momentary smile or saying a single word.
Closing out the festival, React put together one of their strongest single-day lineups I’ve seen in years. I found myself running from The Magician, to Justin Martin, AlunaGeorge, A-Trak, Datsik, Joris Voorn, Pete Tong, Oliver Heldens, Mac Miller, Dubfire, Pretty Lights, and Richie Hawtin, from 5pm straight through to the 11pm curfew. While each set delivered different thrills, Joris Voorn’s seamless mixing and techno sensibilities made a strong statement for why more folks in the states oughta know his name.
Seemingly heeding some of the minor criticism from Mamby On The Beach, React Presents had a tightly run ship start-to-finish. With each stage encased in heated tents, the elements didn’t trouble attendees. Meanwhile, sound bleed was impressively a non-issue, with each stage well distanced without sacrificing ease of navigation. Concessions and merch booths were bountiful, and there were nearly no lines to get a drink at any time.
Above all, the attitude of the crowd was one of childlike playfulness, with just enough responsibility to keep it on the rails. The lineup might’ve been what got us to Toyota Park, but it’s those positive vibes—from the event staff to the security and even the wildest partiers—that will keep Freaky Deaky’s converts coming back.