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North Coast Music Festival Sun Sep 01 2013
Since the music was cut short on Friday, the second day of North Coast Music Festival came with fairly high expectations. Everyone was praying for blue skies and smooth sailing to make up for the torrential storm that momentarily shut down the party the night before. - Brianna Kelly
Entering the festival grounds at Union Park in the afternoon really brought a lot of things to light that weren't so easily noticeable in the dark and muddy chaos that was Friday evening at NCMF. I walked through the media entrance, ready to take on a full day of music, and immediately saw a teenage girl being lifted onto a stretcher by the festival's emergency medical team. Her half-naked friends looked on, no doubt worried that the sick girl's parents would contact their parents. Oh, and most importantly, this was at 3:30pm. Come on, kids, don't you think that's a little early to get that messed up? Little did I know, that was only the first of many people that I would witness throwing up or getting carried out of the crowd during one of the performances throughout the day.
I couldn't help but continue to be shocked by all the baby faces I saw in the crowd of festival-goers. What added even more to their infantile vibes was the pacifiers and plastic bracelets, called "kandi," they were sucking on. I also saw a girl who couldn't have been more than sixteen years old wearing a cut up belly-shirt that said, "I'm horny" and tall socks with marijuana print on them. Nearly all of the inappropriately dressed friends that accompanied her still had braces on their teeth. I even noticed this boy, who getting quite handsy with his girlfriend, was wearing a backpack that said, "Class of 2017."
Though I am only 22-years-old, these young and clearly inexperienced teenagers made me feel old. I understand their desire to attend a music festival like North Coast, but it made me wonder, where are the parents in this situation? Do they know their daughters are wearing bedazzled bras and high-waisted shorts that show off their butt cheeks? For crying out loud, I wasn't even able to go to a music festival until I was 18 and out of high school. And you bet your ass I didn't wear clothes that were too revealing or suck on a damn pacifier.
But, the good news was, after I got over the shock of all of the unsupervised children in attendance, I was in the perfect spot to see the first act on my docket for the day, Conspirator. The four-piece band, which is comprised of two members of The Disco Biscuits, rightfully chose to play an extremely danceable electronic-heavy set to appeal to they many EDM lovers in the crowd. I couldn't help but groove a little harder after seeing the keyboardist, Aron Magner, bust out his typical dance moves while performing and notice the shit-eating grin on bassist Marc Brownstein's face. They announced it was only the second performance with their new drummer, Torch, but he seemed to hold his own with the rest of the band. To close out the energetic set, Conspirator whipped out a fun, new song called "Gridlock."
The stand out performance of the day, in my opinion, was Aloe Blacc. Before his set, the only song I was familiar with was his hit, "I Need a Dollar," which was sampled by Big Gigantic. I was pleasantly surprised by how dynamic Aloe Blacc and his band's sound was. I'm fairly positive they can play just about any genre with that smooth, sexy voice of his and the talented musicians to back it up. The band's horn section was especially impressive. They started off with a soulful, funky sound to get the crowd dancing. Aloe Blacc commanded the crowd to split down the middle and dance down the gap, one by one, Soul Train style. They also made a nod to reggae, with mash-up of covers of "No Woman No Cry" and "Walking on the Moon." Then Aloe Blacc used his mic for some words of wisdom and declared, "music is a universal language!"
Though I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of rap music, it was pretty cool to see Nas back at North Coast this year. I also enjoyed the fact that he chose to perform several songs off of "Illmatic," including many of his most well-known songs "N.Y. State of Mind," "Life's a Bitch" and "The World is Yours." After watching about half of the performance, I decided it was time to grab some food before the final performances of the evening.
After polishing off a Chicago-style hot dog (of course, it's only fitting, right?), I made my way to the North Stage to see Big Gigantic. I waited with mixed emotions until they took the stage. I absolutely loved these guys a few years ago before they blew up. But, I started to get a little sick of the same tired old material I heard time after time, festival after festival. However, once they graced the stage and busted out a bunch of songs I'd never heard them play before, including several new tunes, they slowly started to win me back. They chose to sample a plethora of older songs from my youth, when many kids in the audience were still in diapers, mind you. I was more than pleased that they incorporated Jay Z's "Can I Get A," and more importantly, Justin Timberlake's "Senorita," into their original songs. It also seemed that Big Gigantic made a special song in honor of Chicago, which included samples of Kanye West's "Jesus Walks." To top it all off, there was a killer light show, with multiple LED panels, flashing vibrant images behind the band, and at one point, giant balloons and inflatable cubes floated amongst the crowd.
Though all of the music I listened to throughout the day was great, I still had a bad taste in my mouth after witnessing all of the misbehaving youths go buck wild with their full day of freedom at a music festival. It really got me thinking. If North Coast wants to have greater success and less hassle in the future, I would highly suggest enforcing an age requirement. Let the kiddies play at Lollapalooza, and leave this one for the adults. -Brianna Kelly
I walked into Union Park Saturday and was greeted by a DJ at the small stage near the entrance playing Mr. Finger's "Can You Feel It?" and I thought to myself, "Yes, these are my people." I walked a bit further into the park and ran into a white male teenager who was wearing a Native American headdress and screaming out "Geronimo!" to the pulse of bass drops and was slightly enraged by his nonchalant racism. I've noticed that a lot of kids are using this festival to explore their inner weirdness. This is totally fine but there is a fundamental difference between being amusing, unconventional, and idiosyncratic and being a racist asshole. This dichotomy encapsulates my experiences with North Coast so far; a warm and welcoming sense of community followed by embarrassing people doing idiotic things.
I found myself hanging out at the Last Chance Stage stage and caught a little of Bondax who played a set of smooth hip-hop instrumentals and house remixes of Prince and Luther Vandross, all of which the crowd seemed to very much appreciate. Next up were The Knocks. The Knocks are producers from NYC's Lower East Side who played a set of Disclosure inspired UK garage and pop. They were really fun and I quickly found myself dancing in the crowd with reckless abandonment. This was great and may have been a surprise highlight of the weekend.
Nas came on stage and opened with the heavy hitting "The Don," to the somewhat confusion of the crowd. Many in the audience are rap fans, but weren't quite familiar with Nas' brand of hip-hop. This is ok, because Nas put on a clinic for them which showed off his breadth of work. He covered everything, from street hustler anthems of his youth such as "The World is Yours" from his classic debut Illmatic to modern day examinations of father-daughter relationships from his newest album, Life is Good. I personally found this exhilarating, so it was unfortunate that it seemed lost on much of the crowd.
I closed out the second night of North Coast with Afrojack. For some reason, he was booked at the small Last Stand stage. This quickly became problematic because his fan base is so large, they overwhelmed the area surrounding the stage. The area quickly filled to capacity and people found themselves with nowhere to go but to hang out around the perimeter, spilling over into the beverage lines. His visuals came onto the screen with a three minute countdown which consisted of a piece of music growing progressively more intense as the countdown reached zero and intermixed teases of some of his more well known singles. By the time the timer said zero and Afrojack appeared on stage, the crowd was completely under his control. This was fitting because he soon dropped his most famous single "Take Over Control," to the crowd's captivation and delight. The style was indulgent bordering on the line of parody at times, but the crowd didn't seem to mind as Afrojack served up exactly what the audience wanted; a beat to drop. - Justin Freeman