North Coast Music Festival: Summer’s Last Stand in the Windy City

review by Derek Bogseth 

photo from NCMF Facebook page 

North Coast Music Festival returned to Union Park this past Labor Day weekend for its eighth year Nicknamed “Summer’s Last Stand” coasties of all ages flocked to North Coast for one last party. It appeared to have shrunk in size from previous years, but the lineup consisting of hip-hop, jam bands, and electronic dance music was sure to bring out the masses. With Headliners including EDM juggernauts Deadmau5 & Eric Prydz, reggae legend Damian Marley, Chicago house legend Derrick Carter, hip hop acts Big Boi and Gucci Mane, bands including Ween, STS9, and Primus.

The layout this year was slightly different, with a total of five stages. It was the first year of the House, Bass, and Beats stage, which had a theme each day showcasing some of Chicago’s best local talent. The park itself isn’t entirely too big so it was super accessible and never took more than five minutes to bounce between stages. This has its positives and negatives, on the negative side on the outskirts of stages you had issues of sound bleeding. Positive aspects of the close quarters was that it was easy to catch half sets and get to see everyone you wanted even if it was only for twenty-five minutes.

One of the best parts about North Coast is the crowd it brings. Chicago is home to many various festivals including Lollapalooza and Spring Awakening, which has crowds that can be less desirable. The attendees of Coast are usually a bit older, more respectful, and much more tolerable. All of these reasons add to the chill atmosphere that everyone has come to love about Chicago’s hidden gem of a festival.

Fridays musical highlights started  out with catching Chicago’s own Autograf. They are no strangers to Chicago’s festival market as they attracted a rather large crowd for one of the earlier sets on the first day. Dropping massive tunes “Metaphysical” and “Dream” thousands of people were grooving to their house beats. Next up was Lettuce, a seven piece act hailing from Boston, Massachusetts. Talk about getting the funk down, Lettuce had one of the best acts for a band all weekend. Lil Dicky was up next and did not disappoint. Known to be more on the comedic side of hip hop, Dicky was not only hilarious in his jokes on stage but also super articulate in his delivery. Gaining a pretty large following over the past year, it became a giant sing along in the crowd during his set, especially during “Pillow Talk.” Probably the largest billing on the lineup was up next ready to close out the first night. Deadmau5 b2b Eric Prydz took the stage to what seemed to be the largest crowd of the weekend. Hard pounding techno basslines mixed with melodic progressive goodness rang through peoples souls as their insane production lit up the nighttime skies. It was such a technically beautiful set, they are truly masters of their craft.

Saturday started off with a duo from South Africa by the name of Goldfish.  A jazzy group mixed with some electro swing with some pretty badass sax solos was just what the doctor ordered to start the day.  Following Goldfish was The Russ Liquid Test , a relatively new quartet formed to bring soulful yet jazzy  New Orleans sounds. The coast stage was straight on fire for hours it seemed as I didn’t leave for 3 sets. Whethan followed Russ Liquid Test, an 18 year old that has been making waves in not only the local music scene, but his name has been recognized on a national level as well. Chicago is truly blessed with Local talent, Manic Focus was up next with his live band.  Guitars, Vocalist, Brass instruments, and 8,000 smiling faces filled the North stage as the chill funky dubstep-ish tunes made peoples bodies move. The first of many surprise guests for the weekend popped out and began to rap, none other than Derek Smith aka Pretty Lights.  The weather decided to stop being perfect and brought some pretty torrential downpour on 15,000 people. Everyone ran for shelter under the House, Bass, and Beats stage, trees, or vendor booths.

It’s always sad going into the last day of a festival, knowing that a weekend of new friends, previously undiscovered tunes, and memories is about it end. Sunday was gorgeous, there wasn’t too much mud left over from the rain Saturday night.  Minus Deadmau5 b2b Prydz, Sunday had some of the artists I looked forward to most. Starting off the day with Kasbo, who I’ve been waiting to see since Decadence NYE, brought the kind of uplifting tunes needed to set the tone for what was truly the last stand of summer.  Playing numerous remixes like “The Little Things” by Big Gigantic and his own smash tune on Odesza’s Foreign Family Collective “World Away,” the Swedish artist surely set the tone for the day. Used some free time to walk around and check out some art installments, and one stood out above the rest. There as this really cool Chicago flag themed structure with swirls designed by John Schroeder and Keithstone Smith that tended to also be a meetup spot for many coasties looking for their friends. The next big surprise was none other than Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper.I ran into him earlier in the artist lounge area but he wouldn’t say who he was making appearance with. He came out with The Cool Kids  and performed “All Night” as everyone pulled out their phones to snap a pic of the Unoffical Mayor of Chicago Lil Chano.  Destructo was up next aka the Hard Father, who brought his ghetto house and tech house basslines to the coast stage. Bob Moses was at the same time so I had to bounce stages since he was one of the other artists I was looking forward too. He was also at Decadence NYE and I needed another dose of their chill electronica. Tipper was next on the plate to lift everyone off into outer space with Johnathon Singer stepping in and taking care of his visuals. Tipper did not disappoint as the closing act one bit as the coast stage was more packed than I’ve seen all weekend.  Bringing his trip hop mixed with ambient style breaky beats, the crowd was dancing like jellyfish it seemed. Tipper’s Visuals are top notch in the production game, and should be experienced by everyone in the festy realm at least once.

Another North Coast in the books, I highly recommend more people to make the trip to Chicago and check out this little known gem. Great food, easy accessibility, such and eclectic mix of tunes, and a fantastic crowd to go along with it. Perfect way to end the summer.

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