CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - North Coast Music Festival is an event that leads patrons, or “Coasties,” to the initiated, on three days full of discovery. Whether it’s stumbling upon your new favorite rapper at one of the locally curated stages, nestled in between a graffiti art silent disco and a vendor booth handing out a new flavor of snack, or it’s grooving your way to the front of a crowd, up to the guard rail, and being totally immersed in the artist you’ve been dying to see live, there is a little something for each of the wide variety of attendees. Always staying fresh, North Coast’s lineup has historically been a mix of international talent spanning over electronic, hip hop, jam band, rap, indie rock, and funk. Frequently, acts span multiple genres and nestle themselves somewhere in between. This year was no different with headliners like Dutch DJ duo, Yellow Claw, British jazz-funk ensemble, Jamiroquai, and American trap producer, RL Grime.
On a bright and humid day one, Union Park opened its gates to festival goers to enjoy 5 stages, live interactive art and installations, and performers with a message of safety. To warm up the crowd for the day on the Coast stage began the little-known producer veteran, Barclay Crenshaw, using a “gotcha” alias and performing under his birth name. To most, he is known as world famous Dirtybird DJ, Claude VonStroke. As Barclay Crenshaw, the beats turn from bumping house to shaking hips as a mix of Wu-Tang throwbacks is combined with space station sounds of alien interactions from a different galaxy. No strangers to strange sounds, Too Many Zooz and their self-identified genre “brass house” could be heard from all corners of the park as saxophone wails and trumpet calls layered with the ever present high energy drum beat. Originally a busking group from New York City, this band is the perfect example of the unique category of artists North Coast brings together on its lineups for maximum entertainment and increasing chance of wild dance parties. Before the evening was cut short by imminent storming in the area Chicago-local DJ King Marie was holding down for the ladies, dropping grimy tracks that made both the crowd, and her stage dancers get low on the Monaco stage, situated in the back of the park on the tennis courts. With lighting present, the festival was evacuated for the remainder of the evening for safety reasons to keep patrons, artists, and workers as safe as possible.
After some delay of doors after morning storms, North Coast was ready for day two, and patrons were ready to get down. Opening up with acts like Yheti and Robert Delong, the middle day lineup held a strong electronic music presence into the evening. To brighten the afternoon, neon-clad Polish Ambassador & Diplomatic Scandal played a set that combined jazzy beats and dreamlike undertones to provide a euphoric art experience for listeners. With a new album out previously this year, RL Grime was a must-see artist for many on Saturday, and did not disappoint. Throwing down heavy drops and keeping the crowd engaged and moving, there was a clear increase in the crowd at the stage from earlier in the day, everyone having made sure to arrive with time to see their favorite. From one stage to the next, the alternating set up of the North and Coast main stages meant that there was no break in between main acts, as RL Grime ended and Cashmere Cat began. With the unfortunate day one repeat of more lighting in the area, the festival closed early once again for the night, and the headlining acts were canceled.
With a high of 92 degrees and the rain kicked out of town, day three brought out a heat wave and a crowd of single day pass-holders from Friday and Saturday, allowed into the venue as compensation to the previous day’s weather cancellations. Clearly the largest crowd, all excited to dance the night away on their final festival day, there was energy in the air and in the feet of thousands of patrons. Chicago natives Porn & Chicken along with their newest collaborator 2FAC3D brought the largest crowd of the weekend into the Monaco stage for dirty trap beats, rowdy dancing, and a sparks flying grinder performer, as just the beginning of their wild stage party. Meanwhile, jazz synth notes swayed under the trees of the Attendee.com stage during Gramatik, and pop vocals graced the ears of Mura Masa fans at the main stage grounds. Finally with clear skies and the feeling of pushing towards the end brought on headlining acts as the evening grew dark. British group Jamiroquai lit up the stage with lead-singer Jay Kay’s LED headdress, a well-known and ever changing symbol of the band. Having been over 10 years since the groups last rounds around the United States, the rare performance left fans on a positive. People from all different walks of life; Chicago natives to tourists in for the weekend, people looking for a Labor Day event, and festival addicts in full costume could be seen grooving to the sweet sounds as the band played from their rich music library into the close of the evening.
Despite the looming weather evacuations from the first two days, Coasties keep their attitudes up and their spirits high. Positive attitudes as patrons danced and made new friends could be seen all across Union Park for another round of Summer’s Last Stand. Ask the Saftey Crew – a group of performers and stilt walkers dressed in all yellow and orange neon, reminding people to drink water, distributing high fives, and posing for photographs – and they’ll tell you how North Coast is a special gathering that seems to bring out a sense of community from the crowd. As fall peaks out from the horizon, North Coast serves as the reminder that summer is not yet over, and there is always a good time left to find.
Written By: Laura Sowers