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North Coast Music Festival Sun Sep 02 2012
If you learn one thing at North Coast festival, it's that people love to put things on giant sticks at dance festivals. Everything from handmade signs to stuffed animals to blowup dolls, if it's weird and covered in glitter, it probably has a stick shoved up it. The difference between North Coast and Lollapalooza (and really Pitchfork at this point) is that North Coast is still very much a niche festival. That's why you'll see the crazy club outfits, the odd things on sticks, and for better or for worse, the large amount of people selling club drugs right outside the gate. To the outsider it's a surreal culture shock if one happens to stumble into the body glitter and fur boot crowd around Union Park this weekend. - Lisa White
There's something weird in the air at North Coast this year. I can't quite tell what it is. When describing this festival I expected to be using words like "raging" and "wild." Instead, so far the words that are coming to mind are "mellow" and "uneventful."
Excision's set at 4:45pm was the first of the day that I anticipated. The Canadian DJ's beat-making is almost mechanic, both in its metallic, glitchy sound and its formulaic composition of swoops, drops and flows. Technically, this had all the makings of a wildly insane dance party. Except the energy never seemed to live up to what I expected. Excision was great however, save for a steady wave of arms bumping to the beat, there was little crowd reaction to match that performance. Maybe it was the overcast backdrop. Maybe it had something to do with a certain herbal scent that constantly hung in the air. Or maybe, quite simply, it was just too darn packed to cut loose.
Despite the quality, the quantity of the crowd that showed up was stunning. At several points so far I've found myself trying to recall last year's festival, whether or not it was as crowded as this one. Even the mid-day sets have seemed overly packed. I'm also trying to remember last year's set overlaps. As I recall, both of the main stages had acts performing on them simultaneously--not the case this year. However, my memory could be failing me. Either way, it feels as though there is less music going on at the same time to help disperse the crowd.
Following Excision, I made my way over to the Red Bull stage to check out Tommy Trash before Alesso went on at the same stage. Pleasant surprises are the best at festivals and this was definitely one of those cases. Tommy's set was a cool blend of everything from the dirtiest of dubstep to middle eastern melodies and the crowd ate it up. Interestingly enough I wound up enjoying his set more than Alesso's, who seemed to be using a little too much low-end rumbling to warrant anything more than some aggressive head bobbing. - Katie Karpowicz
One of the bands I was looking forward to seeing this weekend was The Rapture, the disco channeling dance act that I've seen a handful of times at other festivals. They usually always bring an energetic set that gets the crowd moving, but the band found difficulty in doing that Saturday night. They started off with the slow burner track "In the Grace of Your Love," but the band couldn't get their pace up. During the usual upbeat "Get Myself Into It," the song dragged along, feeling a few beats slower than usual. They finally got the crowd going during their poppy single "Whoo! Alright, Yeah...Uh Huh" which was a relief since it's an incredibly uptempo song. If they couldn't get the crowd moving at least on that track, the set would have been a total flop. They kept the momentum going with their standout hit "House of Jealous Lovers," with a prelude of the signature cowbell dance that I've come to know and love during The Rapture's live show. Even after all these years the song still sounds sleek, electrifying, and fresh, one of the best songs in their catalog. But the energy died back down again as they showcased some newer material with a more chilled out sound. Ending on a high note with "How Deep is Your Love?" the band gave a good effort but overall the set paled in comparison to the other times I've seen them live. Then again North Coast doesn't seem like their typical fan base, so I wouldn't be surprised if the band were phoning it in a bit. Still a good show, but I know it's not the best they've got. - Lisa White
The Minneapolis duo Atmosphere didn't waste any time as they threw out a heavy hit and kicked off their set with the visceral and honest "Trying to Find a Balance," letting the crowd know right away that this set was going to be full of intensity and big thought. Overall Atmosphere is known for deeply personal, raw, and thoughtful wordplay, as evident in the lyrics of their second song of the night "Bird Sings Why the Caged I Know." They lighten up the heaviness by immediately launching into the throbbing bass beat of "Shoulda Known" a track that is sultry in sound and begs for hips to dip and grind along with each verse. If anything, Atmosphere is incredibly consistent and professional live. Every time I've seen them live the setup and delivery is similar, staying true to the adage that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Atmosphere is one of the best examples of the thriving hip hop scene in Minneapolis, a thoughtful collective of artists and labels that are creating some of the most raw and honest works of art right now in the rap game. - Lisa White
The only thing that I will add to Lisa's wrap up of Atmosphere's set is that (spoken in a Chris Traeger from Parks and Recreation voice) this was literally the most enjoyable Atmosphere set I've seen in recent years. Since the addition of their live band, the hip hop duo's performance's have weighed heavily on the poppy, more recent tracks. Not the case last night when they stretched as far back as the Lucy Ford EPs with an absolutely awesome rendition of "The Woman with the Tattooed Hands." - Katie Karpowicz
Since the inception of Girl Talk, the mashup DJ has mixed together fan favorites, throwing the type of chaotic party that every high school kid dreams of hosting when their parents are out of town. It's always sweaty, always messy, and if you aren't dancing, then you don't really belong. Not much has changed in formula of a Girl Talk show. Greg still takes the stage and jumps on his table to welcome the crowd. As he launched into "Play Your Part (Pt. 1)" from Feed the Animals, the typical throng of young fans rush onto the stage, crowding around and starting one of the hardest workouts of their life, as they must dance the remainder of his high energy show. Crew launch toilet paper guns streaming above the audience, confetti guns will eventually be set off, and balloons will float out over the mass of people moving as one. He's added LED screens to his stage show, which instruct you to "jump" and help you sing along "Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" when he samples The Ramones. The set was largely familiar samples of his recorded work with some reworking in sound for his live set. He did add some new tracks into the mix including the repetitive chorus of Nicki Minaj chanting "Ass Ass Ass Ass" from Big Sean's "Dance (Ass)" and the crowd favorite sample of M83's "Midnight City." Even after all these years of Girl Talk, the crowd couldn't get enough of his set, chanting along to all the nostalgic tracks Gillis samples, sweat pouring off the crowd and heat rising as everyone jumped and danced along. It was the best and most fun workout I've had in a long time, and his headlining set solidified the fact that Greg Gillis is the master of throwing one helluva party. - Lisa White
Check back tomorrow for our wrap up of the final day of North Coast Music Festival 2012.