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Lincoln Park Zoo's New Concert Twist: Electronic Dance Music

By Paul Biasco | June 9, 2014 8:48am | Updated on June 9, 2014 9:40am
 Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence make up Disclosure.
Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence make up Disclosure.
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LINCOLN PARK— For more 20 years, Lincoln Park Zoo has presented a modest, two- to three-show annual summer concert series, called Jammin' at the Zoo, mostly offering softer pop or classic rock. This week, the zoo takes a different turn, tapping into the growing electronic dance music scene in an event that will be larger than usual and attract a younger crowd.

"We are always entertaining new ideas, just trying to keep it fresh depending what's out there," said Dana Jussaume, events manager for the zoo. "We've got to take things very carefully to make sure it's the right fit with the zoo [but] we are always looking at new opportunities."

Wednesday's event is being headlined by Guy and Howard Lawrence, two U.K. brothers who perform as Disclosure as well as Brooklyn-based hip hop artist Joey Bada$$, Chicago house producer Green Velvet, also known as Cajmere, and rising U.K.-based house producer George FitzGerald.

 Disclosure is playing Lincoln Park Zoo.
Disclosure is playing Lincoln Park Zoo.
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Paul Biasco details Wednesday's event and how the zoo plans to handle the atypical crowd:

Tickets, which sold for $36 for general admission plus $11 service charges, sold out almost immediately after going on sale in February. Tickets were selling for nearly triple their face value on the secondary market last week and fans were preparing to come in from around the country.

Some 6,800 tickets were sold for the five-hour concert, dubbed "Wild Life." A typical zoo concert draws about 3,500, a zoo spokeswoman said. There were no plans to arrange more parking options, officials said last week.

Disclosure, known for hit singles "Latch" and "White Noise," chose the zoo as one of two U.S. stops for its "Wild Life" series, the other being Berkeley, California.

Chicago-based React Presents is behind the Chicago edition of "Wild Life" and has a history of promoting EDM. Three years ago, it staged a three-day EDM fest, Awakening, at Soldier Field.

The temporary stage for the zoo show will be on the zoo's main mall, near the Kovler Sea Lion Pool.

React Presents is essentially renting out the zoo for the event. 

It was an act that the zoo would not likely have been able to afford for its Jammin' at the Zoo concert series.

"We've heard good things," Jussaume said of React Presents. "We did our research, and we heard good things about them."

React Presents officials declined interview requests to discuss the zoo concert.

For the zoo, one of the last major free zoos in the country, "Wild Life" is another opportunity to raise money.

Concert money was part of $1.87 million in events revenue the zoo took in for the fiscal year ending in March 2013. It earned $1.02 million from facility rentals for that time period.

The revenue "Wild Life" will bring the zoo was not disclosed, although Jussaume said it "absolutely helps" with the operating budget.

Production staff will install the stage, lighting setup and speakers for a day or two before the show. The zoo will close at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and reopen to concert ticket holders at 5:30 p.m.

As for the impact on animals who will be within an earshot of the electronic jams and hip-hop, zoo officials said studies have shown the animals are not bothered by the music. Jussaume said the animals are used to children making noise during the day during zoo visits "so it's not different for them." 

Past acts for Jammin' at the Zoo have included the Plain White T's, One Republic and Blues Traveler. This year's Jammin' series will feature Kristian Bush of Sugarland with Jana Kramer. The hours for the Jammin' series and Wild Life are about the same.

Fans are excited.

Mateusz Obstoj, 19, of Arlington Heights, said a concert at the  zoo "is like the most exotic thing." 

"I didn't care about what the price was," he said. "I had to go."

Stephanie Pardo, 19, a former Chicago resident who now lives in Manhattan, said she is going because she loves Disclosure and "the fact that it's in the zoo is going to be a cool experience."

"I don't know how the crowd is going to react being in the zoo. That's why I'm so excited for it. I want to see everyone's reaction to it," she said.

Longtime Chicago house music staple Green Velvet, whose real name is Curtis Jones, said he remembers going to the zoo as a kid.

"I think everybody in Chicago has that type of memory, so to actually be playing there is wild," he said. "I think it will bring out the party animal in all of us."