North Coast Music Festival 2013 (Review)


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Chicago has to be one of the most lively cities in the world. The music scene in the Chi though, literally speaks volumes as to why it is separated from the other major cities in the U.S. during the summer. Countless festivals such as Lollapalooza, Spring Awakening, Wavefront, Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, Pitchfork, Riot Fest, I could keep going… but it doesn’t matter. Big or small, they take place all over the Windy City each and every year, and let me not forget the never ending list of shows each and every day/night at some of the most famous venues in the Midwest. I was lucky enough to get to a few shows and festivals this summer, but “Summer’s Last Stand” aka North Coast Music Festival wins the “best experience of my summer” award. Even though Friday (Passion Pit) and Sunday’s (Wu Tang Clan) headlining acts were either cut short or totally discombobulated due to Chicago’s biggest negative attribute, weather inconsistency, this was still the best music festival experience of my summer. If you missed it this year, don’t next year, because it’s all about the experience and this festival takes the cake.

Chicago’s gigantic collegiate demographic made North Coast’s location of Union Park (normally a small yet spacious park with trees, baseball fields and benches throughout) seem like a large quad if you will. A quad that instead of consisting of statues, famous buildings and the like, consisted of five stages with some of the biggest names in electronic/hip-hop/indie/dance/jam music catering to thousands of not just students, but festival attendees and music enthusiasts from Chicago, other states in the U.S. and yes, even the rest of the world.

After reading that last sentence you may think 1) holy run on… lol 2) that the most difficult part of the fest was trying to navigate through thousands and thousands of people like most festivals, but with North Coast, this is never the case. Making up your mind on who to see gave me the most stress because the line-up was beyond incredible this year as it has been since its induction in 2010. If you are looking for a perfect size music festival to easily maneuver through with a BIG STRONG LINEUP of both new and distinguished names and acts I highly suggest heading to the React Presents event in North Coast Music Festival.

Oh yeah, what sets North Coast apart from other fests: they actually allow rage signs/poles of all types, flags, balloons, hula hoops and anything else you wanna lug around all day. The chillest of chill.

Keep reading for my full music festival experience, videos from my favorite performances and video recaps of each day!

Videos of RL Grime, Laidback Luke, Afrojack and Datsik

Friday, August 30 (Day One)

Out of all three days over the Labor Day Weekend festival, this was the day I was most excited about. And even though a two-hour rain delay forced everyone to leave the festival grounds, it was still probably my favorite of the three days (Sunday was a super close second).

1) ILLtek – A local DJ duo & 2013 North Coast “Toast Of The Coast” winners. They were the first act of the day on the “Last Stand” stage, which payed homage to some of the biggest names in EDM all weekend. Most of you may not know this… Buttttt I am a huge fan of trap and these guys started my festival experience with a baller trap set that really got the crowd ready for the rest of the opening day. Here is a taste of what they offered.

2) The Heard – Another Chicago-based band this time venerated for their deep pocket, authentic grooves and reverence for legendary funk. These guys jammed and it was a nice set to chill and have a couple beers to. Let your eardrums have a taste. What was after this set though, was what I was really excited for.

3) Capital Cities – So I was super bummed… Cause they got through like 3 songs then got booted off the stage due to “weather concerns.” If you don’t own their album In A Tidal Wave of Mystery reach into the piggy bank and cop it. It’s great. Storming the stage in matching white jackets, all too similar to the infamous pink crew jackets from the flick Grease, I was instantly hooked. They opened with Chartreuse (my fave song on the album) then went right into Kangaroo Court (my second fave). I was like god damn this is gonna be a stellar set! They cranked out Farrah Faucet’s Hair, also an instant classic), then were told to leave the stage due to a storm approaching. After leaving for a minute or two they unleashed their inner rock stars taking to the stage with their trumpet player playing that riff from that one song that has been taking over the radio waves all summer. Safe and Sound lasted about a chorus and two verses then the sound booth crew pulled the plug. Total let down.

After hitting up a local watering hole to properly hydrate myself with beer for the remainder of the day… THIS IS WHAT WENT DOWN!

4) RL Grime – THE BEST SET OF NORTH COAST HANDS DOWN!!!!!!!!!! Maybe the best set of all-time in the electronic realm of things that I have ever witnessed. I wish I could go back in time and relive that hour because it was nothing short of immaculate. The multi-personality DJ/producer dropped some of the hottest tracks in the world of trap msuic, meandered in like 5 Kanye songs, some Kendrick, played his overwhelmingly amazing remix to Benassi’s Satisfaction and then since we were in Chicago, closed his set with his traptastic remix to Chief Keef’s Love Sosa. I want to get hands on that set SO FUCKING BAD. Or at least see the set list. He later went on to play as Clockwork for an afterparty, but god damn if time machines were real… I would go back to that set and record that shit. All of it. Too perfect.

5) Laidback Luke – It was a toss up… Paper Diamond has been making a helluva name for himself the past few months, but Luke is a legend and I just experienced one of the greatest trap centralized sets my ears could have ever encountered. I made the right choice. Some of you may not know, but Gramm3r and I hail from the Windy City and after watching Luke’s Ultra set together on an iPhone back in March, it’s been a big joke of ours to do “The Luke” robot dance. He put together a great set and was a lot of fun to watch. Between mixing in huge drops and acapellas and getting the crowd to acknowledge his every move, I was thoroughly impressed and I can now say that I have seen Laidback!

6) Mac Miller – Ok… So maybe Mac isn’t the best sounding live performer (in my opinion) but he has A LOT of stage presence. And I have to commend him on his choice of material to perform. He did a good job making sure to incorporate tracks from K.I.D.S., Best Day Ever, Macadelic, and his albums in Blue Slide Park and Watching Movies With The Sound Off. He even rapped over Lil B’s “I’m God.” I had been waiting for a couple years to see Mac and although I was a tad bit let down, he did what he could with only an hour on stage. Watch Mac perform Best Day Ever (my fave Mac song) during his set below.

7) Passion Pit – Biggest. Let. Down. Ever. So remember that monsoon I was speaking of that rolled through Chicago and soaked Union Park and the rest of the city? Well it happened to destroy about 75% of Passion Pit’s gear. As the clock struck approximately 10:15, 15 minutes later than their original start time, Michael Angelakos said they would be performing a DJ set. I did what anyone else in their right mind should have done. I left. Took an earlier train. I don’t know why I didn’t go try and catch the 2nd half of Just Blaze’s set, which I should have, I think I was just super let down about the whole situation. I feel bad for all the people who bought a Friday ticket just to see Passion Pit. They were the biggest name there to attend the festival in my opinion.

Day One Recap Video:

Saturday, August 31 (Day Two)

I read the train schedule wrong and got to the grounds a tad late. I wanted to endulge in the filthy grimy amazing set that would’ve been put on by HeRobust, but I naturally screwed that up. That would’ve put a damper on the day for most, but it’s a marathon and not a sprint at festivals. Plus I had the entire rest of the evening to indulge in live music.

1) Aloe Blacc – Most of you may have heard Aloe Blacc for the first time around April when his track with Avicii (Wake Me Up) first saw the light of day in Avicii’s promo mix. Or when his tune “I Need A Dolla” took over the airwaves last year. Well I am here to tell you the man has some pipes. What does John C. Reily say in Step Brothers? Like a combination of Fergie and Jesus? I think Aloe Blacc was blessed with vocal chords that could put that comibination to shame. The fact that he was a showman and engaged the crowd more than anyone I saw perform all weekend really helped his cause. He parted the middle of the crowd straight down the middle and had people come from the back all the way up to the front dancing however the hell they pleased. It was hilarious! Then for the next song he taught everyone his unique dance. So much fun! Turning “I Need A Dolla” into an 8 minute jam was fatastic, but closing with a tremendous acoustic version of Wake Me Up was my favorite. View it below! Oh at the beginning… Watch the guitar player. Totally steps on his chord, and that’s why there is fuzz. Had to plug back in. Lol.

2) Future Rock – Decided to go outside of my comfort zone a bit for this set. Normally, the blogger in me would’ve gone to see the DVBBS duo, but being from the Chi I wanted to pay my city fellas some respect and let me tell you, the Future Rock trio jammed!!! Heavy synth, heavy bass, electro jams for a full hour that was just too good to pass up on with a live drummer. I heard DVBBS threw down though so I was kinda upset, but it’s all good. Those festival choices we all have to make lol, but new experiences are what it’s all about.

3) Seven Lions/Gramatik – This was by far the toughest decision of the entire festival. I had yet to see Seven Lions, but boy am I glad I did. He fulfilled everything and more that I wanted to hear and see. Mixing everything live to perfection with a perfect flow of electro/house/dub drops and builds. The Knocks I had seen previously and they stiffed me on an interview, so I had to pay my respects to Gramatik, who I absolutely love. His live guitarist was there again by his side, and a surprise at the end of the set was fantastic to me! He brought Cherub out to perform a tune to close his set! I love Cherub and this was a great set ending for me. A great 50/50 split here in my opinion. I played it right.

4) NAS – TBH… Hip-hop has been dying on me over the past 2 years or so. I chose to see NAS over Skream though because… NAS is a legend. And he truly showed why. The crowd was so into his set! When he would pause amidst verses, you could hear the roar of the crowd reciting back word by word to finish off the verse. The man sounded like he was in the zone the entire time moving across the stage with such ease and getting the crowd to not only rap along, but mimic his every move. A true showman who showed that real hip-hop will never die. That performance brought a little faith back into the empty hole for hip-hop in my heart right now.

5) Afrojack – So the headline battle was between Afrojack, who I saw, or Big G, who a lot more people went to go see. I believe I picked a winner here though. My only regret, was leaving early. I had to catch a train home and missed the last 20ish minutes of Afrojack’s set. I really wanted to hear that new ID he had with Matthew Koma, but unfortunately missed it. However, Afrojack filled in his entire set with the biggest anthems in the progressive house world and drops that shook my insides and the ground I was jumping around on. Luke and Afrojack were the two big names I wanted to see for the first time and North Coast made it happen for me!

Day Two Recap Video:

Sunday, September 1 (Day Three)

I started my day laying in bed and cruising Twitter to hear the tragic news about the cancellation of the third and final day of EZOO. I guess North Coast cranked up their security Sunday too cause I saw about 10 people get arrested and/or tackled to the ground by security on Sunday alone. What a great day to close out the festival though. Here’s how it went down!

1) Ojo de Buey – A band from Panama. Reggae funk kinda stuff. Despite the singing in Spanish, wasn’t terrible and it was fun to see a foreign band make a presence at the festival. North Coast putting bands like this on display show how truly diverse they can make a lineup, although that diversity has gone down the past two years and lineups have been predominantly electronic.

2) The Coop – I used to know a couple members in this group that went to my high school. They no longer play in the band, but I wanted to see them and how they performed. They were great and the one awesome part I remember was hearing an amazing rendition of Requiem For A Dream with a drummer, guitarist, bassist, and a few electronic loops. They put on a performance that was really unique and kept the crowd interested. There’s something about watching a group of musicians jamming on stage playing scales and chords in perfect harmony that hits home for me.

3) Dirty Dozen Brass Band – This group of older gentleman and a few young guys from New Orleans got the party going for me. Trumpets, Trombones, Saxes, a piano player and a drummer. No bass and no guitar. Playing that bluesy, jazzy type stuff that is famous down in New Orleans. Their lead singer even said a couple times “I know we are in Chicago, but were gonna take you down to New Orleans for a while and show you how we do it.” They definitely did so. Best part: One of the lead guys had to be like 65… To see him bring 3 younger ladies on stage (all rather attractive) to shake their asses and dance all over him and then get low and grind on them… Funniest shit that happened during the festival bar none. Their musicianship was also highly respected. But they were a riot.

4) Danny Brown – Kinda watched/heard from a distance… Not the worlds biggest Danny Brown fan, but his sound guy must’ve found the bass knob and twisted that shit all the way up cause my insides were rattling and I was no where near the stage. Might’ve lost my hearing if I was anywhere near the stage for the entirety of that set.

5) Emancipator – A duo who really fly under the radar. Very old school and have been around. Check out their music when you get the chance. Very chill, slow, smoking set material. A DJ accompanied by a live violinist. Pretty unique. Knew nothing about them. But was impressed. The guy I was next to on the train down to the fest was going specifically for them and told me all about them. I enjoyed what I saw though.

6) Datsik – 2ND BEST SET OF NORTH COAST!!!!!!! If you haven’t seen this bass god I highly suggest doing so! I stopped dancing for about 2 minutes during this hour set to take a vid and that was very early on. If you were there and saw a dance party of about 50 people towards the middle/rightish side of the stage you can thank and high five me later cause my girl and I started that shit. The sun came out just in time for this set and it was perfect. Like the sky opened up and let heaven shine down on Datsik as he shook the crowd and layed down some of the grimiest dubstep I have heard in a while. Dropped his new remix to Pretty Lights’ new single and then also played an entire Notorious B.I.G. song paying homage to one of his idols. This set was a party and exactly what I needed and wanted for my last day of the fest.

7) Rebelution – Reggae rockers who played all of their fan favorites and put on a tremendous show. Everyone and their mother was toking up for this set. I saw a security guard walk right by this group of 5 guys passing around fatty blunts and he was like “No smoking… I’m just kidding!” I was shocked, but also laughed my ass off. I sat down for this one though to catch my breath and not pass out cause I went so hard for Datsik. Also met up with Stefan of TSS towards the tail end of this set, awesome dude.

8) Madeon – The kid looks so young up close. Like 11 years old young. He’s definitely like 19 now and this set was everything and more I hoped it would be. Witnessing Technicolor live for the first time was great. Finale, was even better. Heard everything I wanted to and also saw the kid mix live. Very talented young prodigy for the EDM world. Youngin’s like this seem to be popping up more and more in the realm of EDM.

9) Cherub – ONE OF MY FAVE GROUPS OF ALL TIME! I recorded Heartbreaker (which you can watch below) and they wrapped up their set with Doses and Mimosas, like they had a choice, lol. Big fan of Jason Huber’s skills with the midi-controller and effects. They have grown tremendously over the past year or so as they have performed more and more in front of larger and larger crowds. Plus Jordan Kelley’s funky guitar arrangements have always been top notch, especially when he gets his vocal wah tube goin. Pair his amazing musicianship with an incredibly unique voice and thats a knockout punch duo as an entertainer. The two spent their performance dough on champagne and proceeded to waste it all spraying and giving facials to the crowd. I just wanna party with these guys for an entire tour. Imma make that happen before I die.

10) Lotus/Wu Tang Clan – These were the two headlining acts, that I chose not to stay for, cause a storm was coming and I had to catch a train home again. The weekend train schedule in Chicago is not very friendly sometimes. Unfortunately, Wu Tang’s performance was cut short due to weather and a lotttttttt of attendees were outraged. I have never seen so many damn Wu Tang shirts in my life. So their fans get the most decorated and most disappointed award for sure.

Day Three Recap Video:

Can’t wait for NCMF 2014. Fist In The Air will be there again. Will you?

Thanks for sharing fam! Stay in touch!