North Coast Music Festival Review


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North Coast’s lineup is always top of the game and they always offer some of the most-wanted headliners in electronic, hip-hop and jam scenes.  North Coast was the only recent Midwest event to headline popular jamtronic East coast band, the Disco Biscuits. They also are the only recent Midwest event that has brought together all members of Wutang.

The cityscape decorates the background of the main stage area. The Dos Equis stage offers a rare sight in the concrete paradise of Chicago, green grass. The trees are ornamented with art installations that reflect the stage lights.

There was a slight overlap of noise between the stages, but festival designers filled these areas with vendors and enough port-a-potties that you didn’t have to wait in line more than 10 minutes.

Friday was shut down early then resumed at 8 p.m. with a revised schedule. I caught some of Paper Diamond, then explored the festival and watched part of Mac Miller, whose live performance was better than I had expected. The Disco Biscuits headlined the Last Stand stage with a psychedelic laser show that beamed shapes into the fog above the crowd and through the trees.

Saturday, I wandered vendors and ate a deluxe grilled cheese loaded with mac and cheese, smothered in garlic and delicious enough to make me crave another right now. I liked the vendor selection; I even met a hula-hoop vendor fairy who trimmed rough edges from the carelessly made hoop I had purchased online.

I stayed at the North and Coast stages all day watching Future Rock to Gramatik to Nas and finally Big Gigantic. Gramatik and Big Gigantic are the two main reasons I wanted to go to North Coast and being two of my favorite DJs, Saturday was my most anticipated day.

Sunday’s schedule allowed me to sleep in. Starting at 4:30 p.m., I was kept busy running between stages. I went from a heavy-trance set by Emancipator, crunchy dubstep by Datsik, a dance party by A-trak, and reggae rock by Rebelution.

The first time all weekend that I went to the Dos Equis Stage for my one of my favorite up-and-coming electronic pop bands, Cherub. This was the third time I had seen them all summer and their North Coast set was more DJ-mixer style, adding new sounds, rather than just the same songs from their one album.

Then I got to see Purity Ring live for my first time and into Wutang. I watched Wutang rally the crowd for a while then walked to the Last Stang Stage to see Lotus, only to be interrupted by an announcement of evacuation of the venue. Strong winds swept leaves through the streets of the city, but nothing stronger than a few minutes of sprinkles ever dropped from the sky.

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Sunday night was packed with after-party options and I was grateful one of those was Future Rock and Lotus at Concord Music Hall. Even though it was a sold out show, my friends without tickets were able to find extras and we were able to get close to the stage with enough elbowroom to dance.

The venue felt like a sauna but Lotus’s set was my favorite act all weekend. Their rhythms spell my mind with bliss, forgetting the heat, arms in the air with a wide smile on my face. Their music evokes emotions but allows you to make your own interpretation without lyrics.

The new Concord Music Hall seems to be the new Congress Theater, which was shut down earlier this summer due to building violations. They don’t have strict rules for light up gloves and hula-hoops, but it doesn’t hold as many people. If you can get a balcony spot, you can watch over the entire show with an easily accessed bar behind you.

Saturday at the Concord, I watched over Disco Biscuit’s picturesque lasers from the balcony. But Sunday for Lotus, I had to be in the lights, and watching Lotus I felt like they saved the best for last to close out North Coast weekend.

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Comparing North Coast to the other Chicago music festivals, I was reminded why North Coast is my favorite one. There are a lot of people, but it isn’t overcrowded. You can actually dance around with your friends, hula-hoop, spin poi, nap on a blanket, trade kandi bracelets and whatever else the festie kids do. It’s a melting pot of rave kids wearing their neon and heady kids with pins on their hats.