Girls in booty shorts and guys in tank tops stood wrapped around the side of Aragon Ballroom on December 27th, showing their dedication to dance by forgoing their coats. But, when acts like Midnight Conspiracy, Autograf, Milk N Cookies, Grandtheft, Dyro, Madeon, and Zeds Dead are playing, you can be certain that you’ll be grooving all night. Many attendees were decked out in their finest Zeds Dead gear, ready for a night filled with incredible music. As I entered the Aragon Ballroom, I could tell it was going to be a very special show. Midnight Conspiracy kicked things off on Friday night with their signature sounds of heavy bass, bumping tracks like Dillon Francis‘s remix of “Night Is On My Mind” as excited concertgoers funneled into Aragon Ballroom. The guys did double duty as Autograf that evening, playing a groovy selection of funky deep house and futuristic bass music, as heard in their “Grapevine” remix. It was great to hear some deep house tunes being played in a rave environment, and see how the deep house movement has started to appeal to more mainstream audiences!
Chicago twin duo Milk N Cookies took the stage next, amplifying the mood of the crowd with a mix of hard-hitting electro house, which set the high-energy tone for the night. After a enthusiastic, fist-pump-filled set by Milk N Cookies, Mad Decent artist Grandtheft switched it up and blasted a plethora of trap, hip-hop, house, jersey club, and more. I can honestly say that Grandtheft’s performance was one of the best I’ve seen in a while – his ability to judge the mood of the crowd was spot-on, and he kept everyone (especially me) dancing for the entirety of his 45-minute set. Grandtheft closed out his set with his Diplo-collaborated remix of “Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris, then let Dyro surprise the audience by suddenly appearing out of nowhere to take control of the decks. The Amsterdam artist played a medley of stirring electro-house anthems, utilizing his fantastic mixing and dramatic lighting choices to further build the anticipation that was bubbling within the crowd at the Aragon Ballroom.
Finally, after a stunning collection of opening acts, French wunderkind Madeon took the stage, and the crowd went wild. Bouncing from genre to genre, Madeon surprised me with his musical prowess, technical skill, performance persona, and overall talent. Madeon’s hour-long set flew by, and he did an excellent job of keeping the crowd engaged with his tunes, playing edits of universal favorites like “Mr. Brightside” and “We Are Your Friends”. With chest-rattling bass, unexpected tempo-changing, and beautiful song selection, Madeon left a lasting impression on Chicago concertgoers that night.
As we hopped into a cab en route to Zeds Dead’s second night at the Aragon Ballroom, expectations were high and excitement was palpable. Hoping to take my mind off the fact that we had caught every red light so far, I struck up an anxious conversation with our cab driver: “How’s the night been? Busy?” “I just started,” responded our chauffeur. “Only two rides so far, both to the Aragon. Pretty girls. No clothes.”
The scene outside of the Aragon was unlike anything I had ever seen. An endless maze of bodies hugged the Aragon’s façade, spilled into the street, and extended back for what seemed like miles. This delayed gratification only intensified the eager crowds anticipation. Enthusiastic high-fives and familiar shouts of joy echoed throughout the venue’s tunnel-like entrance, once dubious Craigslist tickets had actually scanned and security pat-downs had concluded with a simple, “you’re good.” The Altered States Tour was concluding it’s two-night stop in Chicago, and it would do so with a bang.
Keys N Krates’ undeniable talent and frantic stage presence leaves them immune to anything less than a thrilling performance. The Canadian trio couldn’t have engineered a better opening set on this particular night. There is something inherently satisfying about witnessing a live set. Keys N Krates recognize this truth and practice it each time they take the stage. The groups heralded tracks “Treat Me Right” and “Dum Dee Dum” took on a new character as drummer Adam Tuned relentlessly wailed on his drum set flocked by keyboardist David Matisse and turntablist extraordinaire, Jr. Flo. Keys N Krates had set the perfect mood.
RL Grime was quick to take the stage and feed off the energy Keys N Krates had fostered. The room went black, LED displays flashed “Are you afraid of the Dark?” and without warning Rustie’s, “Slasherr” exploded from every speaker. The transfixed crowd simply went berserk. It was an undoubtedly unique moment, the perfect opening song selection, and somehow RL Grime managed to keep this frenzied pace throughout his hour-long set. A masterfully selected and diverse track-list included Flumes remix of “You and Me,” Dillon Francis’ “Masta Blasta,” and RL’s latest work “Because of You” and his collaborative track with Baauer “Infinite Daps.” It was unfair that any artist, even headliners Zeds Dead, had to follow RL Grime.
Zeds Dead greeted the sold out Aragon Ballroom for the second time that weekend, and they did so in original fashion. The duo out of Toronto (anyone else noticing a strong Canadian presence?) played signature tracks such as old school favorites “Rude Boy,” “White Satin,” and their remix of Blue Foundation’s “Eyes on Fire.” Halfway through their boisterous performance, Zeds Dead brought out special guest Omar LinX to rap over several original works. As their melodic compositions built to overwhelming drops, the sweaty crowd pulsated and swayed. Zeds Dead’s DC and Hooks thanked Chicago one last time with a three-song encore, including the consummate favorite “Coffee Break.”
Once again, the bar has been set.