If you’ve ever been to Chicago in the summertime, you know our streets and calendars get stacked with an endless array of neighborhood street fests that combine local shopping, food and of course, live music. You’ll find West Fest in the second week of July between Wood and Damen on Chicago Avenue. Like most street fests, you’ll have to pay your $5 suggested donation that benefits the West Town Chamber of Commerce and roll through past the barricades to get your hand marked.
Once inside, you’re free to roam to the rock stage on one end or the DJ staged on the other. In between, you’ll find food vendors, boutiques, and even a few bar patios on the way east. An endless stream of people with dogs, kids, and friends inevitably means you will run into people (whether you want to or not). Most years I try to check out both stages and some of the vendors but this year I got to West Fest and the music was slammin’ so I just had to rush past all the vendors and check out @djjohnsimmons at the turntables.
I first heard John “Break It Down” Simmons at a Halloween party a few years back. I was sleepy and ready to go home but at about 3am, I heard the music kick it up three notches and had to get my dance on. I looked over and saw the wizard at work spinning the hot tracks and keeping people on their feet. The hardest working man in Chicago, you’ll find him spinning his craft all over the city on any given night.
West Fest transcends your local neighborhood street fest, it is an experience and it is the city’s best street festival of the year. Why is West best so spectacular? Just like going to a great party, you know you’ll run into friends you hadn’t planned on seeing. Every year I run into friends I haven’t seen in ages and this year was no different. Another trend I’ve noticed the past few years at West Fest is that if my friends get too tired and all go home, all I have to do is walk twenty feet and I’ll run into another friend I didn’t expect to see! That’s when you know you and everybody else is in the right place and the right time.
There’s a simple rule with West Fest – when the sun goes down the crowds roll in and everyone is dancing! Some friends of mine booked early (ahem ahem @haterface @allaboutkelli @cassidycody @funnybunnytoes) and missed out on the best part of West Fest. As the crowds start gathering up, you best lock yourself a spot to either sit back and relax or get up and get your dance on. Luckily, I ran into some old friends and had a seat on the patio of Tecalitan.
With Chicago legend Derrick Carter bringing the people off the curb and onto the street to dance, I had to get off of the patio and make my way to the front. Using light taps to get my way through, I found the quickest path curbside wading through an endless sea of people and empty bottles of water. Pushing through, eventually I made it all the way to the front speaker at full blast. Knowing full well the price of getting to the front was going to be eating some decibels, I slicked my way across and got all the way to the front to see and hear one of Chicago’s world class DJ’s giving it all to the hometown faithful. Nothing says Chicago more than house music outdoors at the best street fest all year. Take it from @blucu: