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North Coast Music Festival Mon Sep 02 2013

North Coast Music Festival (Day 3)

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Crowd at North Coast by Steve Stearns

Sunday was the final day of this year's North Coast festival and certainly one of the most anticipated. Crowds at the fronts gates swelled into the hundreds as people waited to get inside Union Park for a last day of music and dancing. Helping to bring this anticipation to it's crescendo were the headliners of the entire festival, the iconic Wu-Tang Clan. A palpable energy filled the air as questions were asked; are they actually going to show up? If so, how many of them? What are they going to do about ODB's verses since, you know, he died a few years ago? Will the rumored hologram ODB make an appearance?! (They are seriously trying to get an ODB hologram to "perform" at the Rock the Bells festival next month.) But these questions would have to wait a few hours as myself and the crowd walked into the gates one last time. - Justin Freeman

I started my afternoon off with A-Trak. The first thing I noticed is that he, like Afrojack, was booked for the small side stage and he, like Afrojack, has a fan base that is so large it overwhelmed the area. My friends and I were lucky enough to find a place in the shade, but generally that wasn't the case for most people who found themselves struggling to find a place to watch the show.

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A-Trak by Steve Stearns

A-Trak took the stage and immediately differentiated himself from the onslaught of dubstep purveyors by showcasing his mastery of turntablism that earned him the DMC World DJ Championship at the age of 15. His set was a mixing pot of samples ranging from French Montana's "Aint Worried About Nothin," and Missy Elliot's "Work It," before shouting out Chicago as the birthplace of house music before fading in Maurice's, "This is Acid," into the mix. He took a quick break from DJing to dance on stage in front of the crowd as a remix of a Phoenix song played. He ended his set with an slow burn of his remix of Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Heads Will Roll." The thing that I enjoyed the most about his set was the lack of needless aggression and the sense of organic joy in the crowd instead. It was a nice reprieve from the standard dubstep the festival generally adheres to.

Madeon took over the stage right after A-Trak. Madeon is a French DJ who finds himself opening for bands such as Yelle and recording with Ellie Goulding as he builds a reputation for himself. He opened with his single, "Icarus," which finds the DJ paying homage to his influences. The first few songs were a promising start and seemingly had a common thread; they all had subtle pop influences of his French contemporaries such Daft Punk, Phoenix, Onra, and Air, while displaying a sense of urgency heard in composers such as Skrillex. Unfortunately, his set turned into generic dubstep which the crowd seemed to really appreciate, but I personally found wanting. This reached a boiling point for me when Madeon took Disclosure's "When A Fire Starts To Burn," and warped it from a simplistic mixture of house and Steve Reich inspired minimalism to a needlessly aggressive generic dubstep creation. When writing this, I listened to some of his recorded works on Soundcloud and I enjoyed what I heard. It's a shame that the experience didn't translate to a live setting.

I grabbed a bite to eat and sought out a spot for Purity Ring. In the process, I caught a large chunk of Gary Clark Jr. and was thoroughly impressed. Gary Clark Jr. is a bluesman, an unapologetic disciple of guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Muddy Waters. It was a set of sludgy and heavy blues that reminded me of my grandfather and his collection of blues albums. It was the perfect way to watch the sky change from sunset to night. I found it odd and ultimately kinda brave they not only booked someone so out of left field for a mainstream electronic music festival, but also gave him a prime spot at sunset on the main stage essentially opening for Purity Ring and Wu-Tang.

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Purity Ring by Steve Stearns

Purity Ring have a wonderful sense of design. They have an elaborate lighting and stage setup or paper lanterns that fluctuate between deep, warm, subtle hues of blue, purple, red, and white depending on the beat at the time. Producer, Corin Roddick, also has a setup which consists of a xylophone inspired instrument of lights that illuminate in a subtle hue of white upon being stricken along with a traditional assortment of sound manipulators which alter the pitch of the instrumentals and singer, Megan James', voice. Crowd favorites like "Belispeak" took on slightly new forms as Roddick modulated the sound live. Megan Jones held a small, grilled construction light with a harsh yellow light over her face in contrast with the soft lighting around her as she sinisterly pranced around stage, violently struck a drum, and sung with her beautifully haunting voice. Purity Ring were the calm before the storm, both physically and metaphorically. It started to rain halfway through their set and the excitement and electricity around them grew until they closed their set with the single, "Fineshrine." I remember seeing them as their first incarnation as Born Gold (then Gobble Gobble) at a house party a few years ago. They've grown so much since then.

Finally was the moment most of the people had come for, the Wu-Tang Clan. The weather was growing increasingly ominous as the remaining members of the Wu appeared. With only a brief introduction, they launched into hip-hop classics such as "Bring da Ruckus" "C.R.E.A.M." and "Protect Ya Neck." The crowd was really into it and absorbed every rhyme, but overall it felt...weird. It was rushed, but that's because weather reports were saying that a storm may be striking the festival at any moment. That said, without the kinetic energy of ODB, it felt somewhat like a soulless cash grab. For every place where ODB would have rapped were he were still alive, various members of the Wu and the audience would rap in his place. The lack of ODB was abundantly clear as Wu-Tang covered ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." The entire performance was meant to be a celebration of their iconic debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), but it felt odd and anormal to me. They quickly stopped performing songs from that album and played songs such as "Gravel Pit," and "Triumph," before being taken off stage early due to weather concerns.

So North Coast started with a storm and ended with a storm, which seems poetic and appropriate. Weather concerns and few bad apples aside, I enjoyed most of what I saw and look forward to next year. - Justin Freeman

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Emancipator by Steve Stearns

I arrived at Union Park a little later than I had anticipated, after getting a little mixed up on the 'L' on the way over. Then, much to my chagrin, I was not allowed to enter through the media entrance, as I had done the rest of the weekend. But, they were still letting people who were on the guest list through there. It frankly didn't make any sense to me and I, of course, received no explanation. I was forced to wait in the long line like everybody else. It took more than 30 minutes to enter the gate. Because of this, I missed Emancipator's set entirely. Let's just say I was not a happy camper. More like a salty peanut.

While I was in line I couldn't help but overhear some of the conversations my fellow "coasties" were having. After listening to a lot of mindless ramblings about kandi (those stupid plastic bracelets made infamous by ravers), I heard one girl tell her boyfriend that neither of them could take any molly that night. She was obviously shaken by the news of two people overdosing on the drug at Electric Zoo in New York. It seemed like a lot of people were. But, probably not nearly as worried as the North Coast organizers were.

This weekend, Union Park essentially turned into a playground for all these little kiddies to run around wildly and experiment by putting things in their mouth. Unfortunately, most of them are extremely inexperienced and naïve. And a lot of people did make themselves sick by taking God knows what. The entire weekend, I saw people throwing up, falling over themselves and passing out. It was viable that something of a catastrophic nature could have occurred. Thankfully, it didn't. But, for future music festivals, not solely for North Coast, people need to be more careful and take responsibility of themselves. Drink more water and don't be afraid to say no to the sketchy drug dealer, especially if his shirt says, "Molly is my homegirl," or any douchey equivalent. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to be worried about people selling fatal concoctions of drugs and we could count on other people to help us if something goes terribly wrong, but that's sadly not how it is.

Bad life decisions cannot be blamed on a specific genre of music or the atmosphere of a music festival. There are plenty of people who can enjoy these things sober. What it all boils down to is using common sense to ensure your own safety. Take care of yourself. Take care of your friends.

With that being said, I will now get back to the music...

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Danny Brown by Steve Stearns

For some reason the schedule was all messed up. A lot of acts were shuffled around or played on a different stage then the schedule said they were supposed to perform on. It was quite confusing.

I walked up to the Last Stand Stage just as A-Trak began his DJ set, though it was originally Claude Von Stroke's time slot. My boyfriend assured me that I would like it because he spins everything live. This might be a little more impressive to me if you could actually see what DJs are doing with their equipment. But, as far as the actual music went, I wasn't blown away at all. He used a sample of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' song "Heads Will Roll" a few times throughout the performance, which was kind of cool. He also sampled Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." No surprise there. That was the second time I heard a DJ sample it all weekend, but I'm fairly positive it happened many more times than that. I stayed longer at A-Trak than I wanted to, I'm not even sure why, but I eventually gave up and decided to check out the tail-end of Rebelution, which is where I really should've been the whole time.

After wandering around the festival grounds a little bit, checking out the art installations and meeting up with friends, it was time for Gary Clark, Jr. I heard that this was going to be a cool set, but I had no idea just how awesome it would be. He is a blues God! I stayed put for the entire performance, eating up every guitar riff and raspy bellow. After it was over, I grabbed another over-priced beer, in anticipation of the final performances of the weekend.

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Wu-Tang Clan by Steve Stearns

Though I'm not a huge fan of rap music, I knew I couldn't miss Wu-Tang Clan's set, especially since they were performing 36 Chambers. I stayed for a few songs and enjoyed watching the crowd go apeshit. I then decided to support one of my favorite bands, since they played at the same time as the hip-hop legends.

I was planning on going to the Lotus late night, but it sold out and I didn't have a ticket. So, I knew I needed to see some of their set since they always put on a good show. When I got to the Last Stand Stage I immediately started jumping up and down because they were playing one of my favorite songs, "Tip of the Tongue." After that they played another heavy-hitter "Golden Ghost." I'm pretty sure these guys realized they needed to whip out all of their best material since they were up against Wu-Tang Clan. They certainly didn't disappoint. But, the weather did. I decided to run to the port-a-potty since it was right there and when I got out, the music was being shut down. North Coast decided to shut the party down early because there was yet another storm brewing. I understand the safety concerns, but man, that was a pretty lame note to end the weekend on. - Brianna Kelly

 
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