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North Coast Music Festival Sun Sep 04 2011
Oh, North Coast. A stoner's oasis. An epileptic's worst nightmare. While Day One started off slow and steady, Saturday seemed to go from zero to sixty in a matter of minutes. Union Park remained almost eerily barren through the first couple rounds of acts Saturday afternoon--too much raging on Friday night, I suppose--but once the rain started around 2:30pm, festheads started pouring into the park like moths to a flame.
What followed was a bit of sensory overload. Bass thumping from three stages simultaneously at almost all times; strobes, lasers and glowsticks everywhere you looked; the overwhelming scent of a certain, ahem, herb in the air; and a day and night-long battle between waves of sweat and rain made for quite the experience on Saturday. I'm honestly amazed at the relentless energy Coasters were still able to produce though despite the natural and chemical elements that, in the end, helped turned Saturday into the ten-hour party that it was. -Katie Karpowicz
My Saturday at North Coast involved a lot of soggy kids tripping on a variety of things, yelling at a kid who almost tipped over a toilet while dancing on it, yelling at some other kids who almost toppled over a girl in a wheelchair, and watching a bunch of kids buy nitrous balloons from some sketchy guys on a corner. Needless to say Saturday got a little rude and sloppy, but it didn't stop the artists from giving it their all to the more than entertaining crowd. -Lisa White
If you weren't one of the fifty (rough estimate) or so folks that made it to Union Park by noon, then frankly, you missed out. I was thrilled to finally catch a live set from The Right Now. One reason these Chicago natives are so smart and have so much promise as an emerging act on our local scene is the brains behind their music. If you're going to repopularize a sound like the old-timey R&B and soul, especially in a city like Chicago, then don't follow the mold set by thousands of performers over many years before you. That seems to be The Right Now's game plan. Their songs are dynamic, complex, hip and just downright fun.
Sultry frontlady Stefanie Berecz sounded truly excellent for the entirety of the hour, belting out cuts from the band's debut Carry Me Home and their newest release, which is expected out later this month. Mix Berecz's pipes with some groovy basslines, funky guitar melodies and a three-piece horn section and you've got the blast from the past with a modern twist to it that is The Right Now. -Katie Karpowicz
Just minutes before New Mastersounds took the stage, ominous lightning bolts erupted from the sky and I immediately began having flashbacks to the mucky, muddy free-for-all that Sunday at Lollapalooza 2011 quickly became once the downpours started. Once I suppressed my fears that I would once again be spending my afternoon trekking through six inches of mud and constructing makeshift ponchos out of garbage bags (I guess I really should invest in a real one), I turned my attention to the funky four-piece that was hitting the mainstage.
A bit of a small lineup for a funk group, NM's guitar, bass, drum and keyboard sounds still brought the funk in a big way. It was a definite step away from the club beats that dominated the rest of the fest, but it was incredibly refreshing to hear sounds that lacked electronic alterations. The crowd seemed receptive as well despite the rain and took danced their way through the midday set. -Katie Karpowicz
I was extremely excited to see Big Gigantic play on Saturday, but little did I know how many other folks were just as excited. Saturday's crowd for the drummer and DJ/saxophonist duo was an even farther cry than I imagined from the one that half-filled The Abbey when I first saw these guys in '09. The impressive turnout was quite all right with me though as it made for one of the most energetic sets of the day.
It's not hard to imagine Big Gigantic blowing up in the same way that North Coast alum Pretty Lights did. In some ways, it seems like they already have, scoring this year's NYE show at The Vic just as PL did two years ago. It's well deserved though. Big G's sound spans the electronica spectrum from light and airy synth noises to heavier dubstep beats and the live instrumentation from members Dominic Lalli (sax) and Jeremy Salken give their live performance an organic edge over a lot of the electronic acts out there. -Katie Karpowicz
I highly doubt Major Lazer will ever top their Pitchfork set from 2010, when the full group (not just random people) took to the stage while girls juked on ladders and Chinese dragon dancers swirled around the stage. A year later upon their return to Union Park, Major Lazer really should have just been billed as Diplo dj-ing, and I would have been a bit more enthusiastic about their set. Switch was nowhere to be seen, and I'm pretty sure the hype man that was front and center was not the usual Skerrit Bwoy. Not to say that Major Lazer light wasn't a bad act. Diplo mixed in well known hooks (Blur's "Song 2") that got the crowd jumping along, and it never hurts to have a girl booty bouncing in front of the DJ. But relying on silly gimmicks like bringing ladies up to dance on stage just seemed a bit weak. Overall it was a fun set, but I craved the palpable energy from their Pitchfork set or even Switch's solos show. -Lisa White
As expected, Common turned out one of the loudest, proudest crowds of the night. Chicago pride was certainly in the air when the rapper took the stage to the unmistakable bass line that kicks off his 2005 release Be. He continued to weigh heavily on hits off that album throughout the set, spitting rhymes from tracks like "Faithful" and "Go." After much praise for his city, its people and life in general Common closed his night out with the futuristic sounds of "Universal Mind Control" and left no doubt that Chicago produces some damn good hip hop artists. -Katie Karpowicz
Night Two wound down with ninety minutes of STS9's blend of jam, rock and electronic meshes. Sober or not, you'd be crazy if you didn't enjoy this set. I've had a growing fear in past years that STS9's live performances have been moving away from live instrumentation and more towards electronic production, but last night proved me wrong. Guitarist Hunter Brown and bassist David Murphy weren't reluctant to break away from their midi keys and take to the strings and, as always, drummer Zach Velmer blasted through the set with a tenacity and endurance that could make a marathon runner tired just from watching. The band busted out hits like "Aimlessly" and "Moon Socket" while both applause and glowsticks erupted from the crowd and into the night air.
"Make some noise if you love your life right now, Chicago," Murphy summoned towards the end of the night. The sound of thousands of sweaty, screaming festival attendees that answered made me think. Sure, I could complain about the weather, the potential heart arrhythmia I might have developed from hours spent standing in front of overworked subwoofers and the scores of passed out bodies I spent the day stepping over (My friend best described the late afternoon scene at Union Park as a "teenage wasteland."), but why not embrace and enjoy it instead? Truth be told, I'd endure much worse for a weekend filled with incredible music, friends and fun. -Katie Karpowicz
Norman Cook really loves his job. It's evident from the dorky enthusiastic fist bumps and shakes to the intense concentration on his face that blooms into a giant smile when he drops the beat. There is no denying that this man has the ultimate job satisfaction.
With a career spanning decades and his work pushing electronic music into the mainstream arena, it's refreshing seeing a DJ of his caliber who is still humble and so enamored by his music and crowd. During his massive hit "Praise You" he actually came out from behind the decks and bowed down to his fans, a simple gesture of respect and thanks to his captivated audience for the night. With a soundscape all over the place (sampling everything from The Supremes to Prodigy to The Rolling Stones), the crowd enjoyed his chop shopped beats, his live production a true testament to his success. His playful video selection behind him also showed a side that didn't take himself too serious, something so many wildly successful DJs end up doing. From a talking zebra repeating "we are all on drugs" to blacked out nude 70s disco aerobics, everything ended up working perfectly together.
The only flaw of the night was the lack of security during his set, something the artist clearly had no say or fault in. We saw multiple kids climbing a tree in front of the Red Bull stage, and finally last night someone fell onto the crowd below, dropping at least 10 ft, if not more. The "security gate" surrounding a VIP area next to the sound booth had no actual security, as scores of kids started pushing the gates sideways to get in, many deciding to hop over the fence right next to me. Never once did we see anyone from security try to control or stop the obvious situation at hand. When a kid dancing on-top of the gate I was leaning on started jumping so violently he was tipping the gate and toilet next to it, I took matters into my own hands. He wasn't a fan of me yelling and dragging him down, but I wasn't about to stand in literal shit from a turned over toilet or be trampled if the gate fell over from his "dancing." A few security guards would have made a world of a difference, and hopefully these are lessons are a younger festival will learn as time goes on. Despite all of the sloppiness this Saturday, Fatboy Slim still ruled the night, and left my ears ringing with an amazing mix of "The Rockafeller Skank" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." -Lisa White