Gig Review: Reaction NYE in Chicago

For those based in Chicago, 2015 was closed out with a bang thanks to React Presents’ newest festival addition, Reaction NYE. The two-day festival was held in Rosemont at the Donald E. Stephans Convention Center, a warehouse-esque space that housed three separate stages and a skate park, adding to the event’s cool, grunge-y rave vibe. The lineup was pretty incredible too – Canadian superstar Deadmau5 lead us into the final day of 2015, while Skrillex counted us down right into the new year. Other acts, such as fellow Chicagoans Chance the Rapper and Green Velvet (playing as Get Real), threw down high-energy hometown performances for Reaction NYE’s attendees. 

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PressPlay checked out both days of Reaction NYE, and brought along EDM festival newbie Elizabeth Carlson to recap the experience. Read her review below.

I was asked to cover Reaction NYE because I had never attended any event remotely like it before. I’d never been to a rave. I’d only been to one big music festival, and it was a punk one. I’d been to Harry Potter conventions – those were my big parties in college. And they prepared me for a festival like Reaction better than you might think. For starters, I’d been to  convention centers before. And I’d seen the same wide-eyed expressions on security staff who seemed to be cosmically perplexed at how they ended up doing this for a job. I’d never been in a room with so many people whose clothes lit up, but the excitement and sense of community I saw everywhere I looked felt very familiar. And, at the end of the night, walking into Run the Jewels’ set while they were in the middle of hosting a massive “We Are the Champions” sing-a-long felt like a flashback to the last night of a convention – nerds love sing-a-longs.


This isn’t to say that I felt right at home – far from it. I felt the way I imagine someone who’s never even seen the movies would feel at a Harry Potter con. I knew electronic music existed, and I knew a lot of people liked it, and that some people liked it a whole lot. I was pretty sure bright lights and drugs were involved – that was it. Whatever vague expectations I had going in were definitely met, and greeted with an enthusiastic high five (I got at least a dozen of those from strangers over the course of the night). The venue was huge, the lighting was insane, and everyone in attendance clearly knew how to party. Most of the night, I was paying a lot more attention to the people in the crowd around me (the outfits! the dance moves! the variety of sneaky smoking techniques!)  than I was to whoever was on stage. Mostly, I wanted to steal everyone’s shoes – everyone had good shoes. We watched Jamie Jones, and I felt sleepy in a cranky way. We watched CHVRCHES, and I felt sleepy in a dreamy way. Walking up to the Reaction mainstage at midnight felt like boldly confronting the spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The lights were so bright and the sounds were so big that for a moment all I could feel was pure, humble awe, until I reminded myself that it was just some guy up there. Not aliens. Well, I mean…it was Deadmau5. I don’t know if Deadmau5 played a good set or not – I have no standard by which to judge. I know I’d never heard anything like it, I know I had a great time, and it seemed like everyone around me did too. And I know that all I want to do now is throw a Harry Potter themed rave in my basement – and if you were at Reaction NYE, you’re invited. I liked you guys.


Coverage by Elizabeth Carlson, Josh Messer, Caroline Sharples, and Staley Sharples.

All photos from Reaction NYE’s Facebook page. 

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