Weighing The Do’s and Do Not’s of Do Division Festival in Wicker Park

aptbs8Do Division Fest, the donation-based music/food/marketplace/whatever fest held annually in Wicker Park, is heavy on big sounds and single folks roaming the wilds. But the $5 suggested on entry goes to good causes—local non-profit organizations and three surrounding elementary schools. According to one of the staff, about 21% of the donations go to funding the local schools such as Pritzker Elementary. For an event meant to preserve the neighborhood, an awful lot of debris cluttered the street—spilt booze and half-eaten corn dogs—but such is the case with almost any street fest.

The stretch down Division Avenue, a mere two city blocks, is packed to the gills with festivities each year, and this year was no exception.
It is an event that people either love or they hate, and this objective does not discriminate based on age, gender or social stature. All are welcome, eclectics and eccentrics and hippies weaved through the rows of vendors, with drink in hand.

“The DDF offered nothing that you would want from a festival; it is so packed and hot you can hardly even move, and the tents are just giants ads for bull shit businesses, or local shops that sell vegan soaps or gaudy overpriced jewelry,” says Ross Winston, 25, of Chicago, Ill. He had hoped this year might be comparable to the year prior, with the diverse line up of musical acts that would play through out the three-day festivities.

A Place to Bury Strangers, the noise rock band from New York City, headlined at last year’s festival.

Ollie Ackermann of A Place to Bury Strangers, 31, says, I remember when I used to go to shows and they were so bizarre, maybe it was just me being on acid, but it was so loud and so dark that the music envelops you completely to where you are like ‘Where did my friends go? How am I going to get home? Where am I?’ We want our shows to be experimental- like student art films, or even like old movies from the 70’s with those three minutes of awkward silence. We like that it builds tension and creates something esoteric. Sometimes they are perceived as scary; we just move things around the room to sort of transform the environment and space.”

The music this year was less high energy yet more assorted than year’s prior. Besnard Lakes, an indie psych-folk band, headlined Saturday night with a sparse crowd losing steam after a day of drinking in the hot sun.

The upside to Do Division is the diverse line up of local and national bands that perform on both stages throughout the entirety of the festival.

One stage at either end may have added more traffic, but this is the set up that the Chamber of Commerce insists on every year. So if any one wanted to try and make for an easier commute from one stage to another, they would have to take it up with the city council, who by this point has much more on their plate than complaints about the crowd. Over capacity is not in their vocabulary, which is why ticket sales are so successful but also the reason why the attendees arrive and leave so quickly. Year after year the annual festival experiments with more eclecticism, and next year will be no exception.

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