Three weeks after the Windy City’s final festival hoorah and we’ve still got North Coast Music Festival on our minds. Check out Erica Treais’s review of the festival and Rad Photos awesome photo gallery below.
Hundreds of young raving teens showed up at Union Park to test out their dance moves at the three-day, Labor Day weekend party. The festivals primary musical focus was electronic dance music, though there were quiet a few brass, jam and rock bands in the line-up. We all seemed to luck out with three days of sunshine and nothing more then a bit of drizzle, unlike last years weekend of downpour.
Papadosio, a group that spent a hefty amount of time in the festival circuit this summer, graced our presence on Friday night. Their sounds combine funky melodies with lyrical euphoria to create a combination of mental and physical tranquillity. The quintet trailed off into a jam contrasting the sounds of Knife Party and Paul Oakenfold on competing stages Friday night. Saturday at NCMF was filled with a strange profusion of hip hop, dubstep, electronica and jam. People Under The Stairs, an “old school” hip hop duo from the late 1990’s showed that some things get better with time. The goofy twosome remixed classics like “Acid Raindrops” and “Self Destruction” as fans in the crowd giggled and bobbed to their rhythms. The entire day Sunday seemed to revolve around the buildup for headliner Pretty Lights. The man attracts a bigger following than Opera at this day in age, though his high energy and mass amounts of lasers don’t do his work justice.
The GroupOn stage took “silent discos” to another level with competing DJ’s spinning simultaneously throughout the entire weekend. While the stage never seemed to overflow, it became a nice spot to beat the heat and check out local Chicago producers like Milk N Cookies and DJ Solo. Each participant was allotted a pair of noise-canceling headphones and as two DJ’s played on separate channels, festi people would dance to whatever caught their fancy more. The concept was pretty mind-blowing, especially when I took the opportunity to turn off my headset and guess what artist people were enjoying more.
The entire weekend my photographer and I attempted to seek out the unknown; we were looking for diversity in a lineup heavy in electronic music and we found a refreshing twist on electronica in a band that’s beliefs evolve from experimentation. Yacht uses lyrics as a way of self expression and communication, building upon their lyrics with quirky instrumentals and a excess amount of swear words. The duo create pop-synth sounds that are more likely to show up at festivals like Lollapalooza, though they seemed to be a big hit with the crowd.
Another curve-ball that I can assure was a crowd favorite was Dan Deacon’s interactive performance. The Baltimore producer, who typically runs solo, was accompanied by a few other musicians that helped lead him into his riot. Deacon’s euphoric sounds and chiming refrains weren’t the only reason for whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The man forced the crowd into a group circle and what started with one girl frolicking around, turned into a mob of people running with their heads cut off as Dan led them into chaos. I’m sure it was almost overwhelming for bystanders to witness, as the entire crowd at the main stage circled into oblivion and then into a body banging dance off.
Friday afternoon I was overly delighted to see that Michael Travis and Jason Hann of EOTO would be playing to a sunset. They were stacked with enough equipment for a band of eight, playing live instrumentals while looping everything from vocals to bass and percussion’s. Their hour long set wasn’t competing with anyone “major” and it was good to see such a large fan base show up to such a matchless performance. The electronic duo of The String Cheese Incident have proven that jam bands can produce electronic beats with a little patience and a lot of instruments, creating intricate yet soulful psychedelic sounds.
Sound Tribe Sector 9 closed out the first night at Union Park with a bang. Front row Tribe spectators ranged from Where is Waldo to Merlin the Wizard. This was STS9’s second year at NCMF; their funky instrumentals blended with organic techno-jazz beats have allowed the quintet to create an exploratory experience for attendees. While they didn’t bring their The Great Cycle Spectacles Tour lighting production, they still brought the same intensity that they always do, with crowd-pleaser “When The Dust Settles” and some throwback favorites like “Rent” and “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist.”
I don’t know that the younger generation was very intrigued by some of the other artists that I had put on my “Must See” list once the lineup was released. Big Boi, of OutKast, has been a personal favorite since before I had my license (think pre-Speakerboxx); my friends and I were the obnoxious fans, wailing out the lyrics to “B.o.B.” and pretending that we were rap super stars. Although Big Boi had competing set times with one of EDM’s most notorious party animals, Steve Aoki, his crowd of hip-hop enthusiast was a refreshing change of pace compared to all the pre-teens hoping not to peak before Steve Angello hit the stage.
I was absent for Umphrey’s Mcgee’s set on Saturday night due to an excruciating move down to the west side of Chicago, though friends informed me of the 10 minute “Puppet Strings” to The Who cover “Eminence Front” back to “Puppet Strings” encore the band closed out with. I’ve only seen Umphrey’s about a half dozen times (such a miniscule amount compared to true UM fans) but I have learned by now that not a single show is the same as the last. I heard “Miami Virtue” transitioned from a Kris Myer’s drum solo, into a synthy strobe party and just as the boys built it up, they brought the crowd back down with some “Mantis Ghett,” and this all happened within the first four songs of their set! Being from the Midwest, the “hometown” boys paid their dues not only at NCMF but also at Wrigley Field for the 7th inning stretch of the Cubs game earlier in the week (UM at Wrigley) and at The Congress on Sunday night. While the weekends festivities lacked rock throughout the lineup, Umphrey’s made sure to fill in the holes where they could.
EDM fans weren’t the only ones stoked to see Pretty Lights; a fine number of jam band lovers rallied through the sea of people in hopes of being as close as possible to the electronic producer, Derek Vincent Smith. It’s hard not to love the ever-evolving artist with his electro hip-hop beats and free downloadable tracks at Pretty Lights Music (PLM). He’s become such a symbol to the electronic community, taking visual and musical talents such as Break Science, Michal Menert, and Gramatik under PLM and supporting his artists through and through. His Sunday night rager closed out the festival with nothing less than a heavy light show, a lot of trip-hop and the largest crowd gathering that NCMF saw all weekend. For ten good seconds, Derek lowered the volume to “Finally Moving” and almost every single swaying body in the crowd screamed “I get a good feelingggg” – very off key – and moments later bodies thrust themselves in every direction as rage-sticks bobbed firmly in the air. During “Total Fascination” Derek screamed, “Chicago, where the f*uck ya’ll at?” and while most of them may not have even known the name of the park they inhabited, they did know that Pretty Lights had done it again, with a North Coast closing act to remember!
Shout out to all of the festival goers that attempted to keep Union Park fresh! In an effort to reduce Union Park’s footprint, North Coast granted festival goers an opportunity to score free tickets to next years festival. Attendees who filled a zip-loc bag with cigarette butts and water bottle caps would receive a single day pass to NCMF 2013. While the word was not spread soon enough, a few mindful people played a large role in keeping the park a little bit cleaner. We hope to see a larger commitment to the greening project in the future; it’s only fair to keep the land fresh as it also plays host to Pitchfork Music Festival and a whole lot of vegabonds.
Overall most participants seemed pleased with the wide variety of rage-sticks, fanny pack parties and EDM. While I would have considered the festival one based around electronic, I was able to discover a lot of new talent at Union Park that weekend. Hopefully the younger generation has also found a place in their hearts for the likes of Umphrey’s, Soul Rebel Brass Band and other instrumentally structured talents. I am hoping for more Dan Deacon-esque performances in next years lineup and maybe equal parts rock and electronic music.