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North Coast Music Festival Sun Aug 31 2014
I started the second day of North Coast with Future Islands, who I soon discovered are kinda captivating. I really didn't know much about them. I knew the name, I've heard a few random singles that I've enjoyed, and was about it. It was that in mind that I went to see them not quite knowing what to expect.
Placed on the smallest of the three main stages and deep in the shade under the trees, vocalist Samuel T. Herring charmed the audience with his theatrics. Herring looks somewhat unassuming. He's a middle aged man with deep blue eyes and a receding hairline. Dressed in all black, he visually seems to take inspiration from frontmen such as Morrissey and Henry Rollins as he pranced around stage, taking breaks to punch the air and his chest for emphasis. The rest of the band was equally as impressive, playing somber post-punk in contrast of Herring's overflowing charisma. At some point during their set, they played "Seasons (Waiting on You)," which is their current single. During the chorus of the song, Herring seemingly becomes possessed and starts dancing like Tom Jones with reckless abandon. It was great.
Little Dragon are Swedish a neo soul band who created a dense wall of reverb and impeccable style. The groove of crisp, clean, and thunderous bass filled the air with smooth and minimalist electronics. Seemingly taking inspiration from singers such as Erykah Badu, vocalist Yukimi Nagano created a quiet storm with her voice as the audience danced in an enraptured state in front of them.
I left Little Dragon a little early to try and check out a favorite of mine, Zebo. A fixture of the party scene, Zebo is a local DJ whose been around for awhile now. I tried to catch a chunk of his set, but quickly that became problematic as the stage he was booked on was packed due to the large crowd he attracted and became a bottleneck of traffic as people tried to navigate the area. Being too popular for the stage you're on isn't a bad problem to have. So after a few moments, I left feeling happy for his continued success. I recommend checking out his recent mix of all footwork in tribute of DJ Rashad. That can be found here.
I walked in on Cashmere Cat as played the lead single, "With Me," from his recent EP, Wedding Bells. A recent Norwegian transplant living in NYC, Cashmere Cat is a producer known for his remixes of rappers such as Drake as well as R&B crooners such as Jeremih. His beats are dynamic and chill instead of aggressive bass for the sake of aggressive bass. He finished his set with an extended version of his remix of Miguel's "Do You..." Arpeggio piano chords glittered as Miguel repeatedly asked in his devious falsetto "Do you like drugs?" The bass dropped and Miguel started hypnotically chanting "Drugs" as synths swirled around his vocals. It seemed to be heavily inspired by UK producers such as Mount Kimbie, Julio Bashmore, and James Blake. What I enjoy is that he's taken the arena ready EDM scale and flipped it so that sounds joyful and frankly, fun.
Adventure Club followed immediately and for better and for worse, I felt like I was was pretending to be in Ibiza for awhile. Nothing is wrong with that. Every song they played was a potential EDM anthem aiming to be in the Top 40. Everything sounded like a clone of Zedd's "Clarity." Mainstream EDM is big business worth millions and millions of dollars and has become finely tuned in the process. Adventure Club clearly are masters of this process. 1) The vocals of a pop singer are heard singing a verse of a top 40 single which is currently being remixed. 2) Pop singer starts to sing the chorus. 3) DJ yells "TURN UP" or whatever to get the crowd excited. 4) The bass drops. Suddenly we see lasers and/or billows of smoke as the crowd goes crazy. 5) Repeat. Or as those t-shirts so eloquently say, "Eat, sleep, rave, repeat." Once again, nothing is wrong with any of this. I personally find it uninteresting, but i get it. I took a few minutes to marvel at and respect the spectacle before heading out to grab a good spot for Kid Cudi.
Backed by a full band, Kid Cudi's vocals seemed hollow and full of dissonance which fit the crooning of his dark thoughts rather well. He opened his set with "Soundtrack 2 My Life" and stuck mainly to the hits. "Day N Nite," "Erase Me," and "Pursuit of Happiness" turned the park into a manic emo rap dance party as Cudi asked us to tell him what we know about night terrors. The set ended as a series of weirdly placed, and probably coincidental, fireworks lit the night sky.
That wrapped day two of North Coast and I left feeling very much like this guy.
All photos by Steve Stearns.