Whether it’s the abundance of co-eds, its claim as house music originator, bitter cold winters, ample brew houses, or some incendiary combination, Chicago loves to party during its limited summer months. The chaos of 2012 alone brought the early cancellation of two block parties (West Fest then The Mad Decent Block Party), plus the ban of Chicago production duo Flosstradamus from any more street level Windy City performances. For the third consecutive year, North Coast Music Festival (NCMF) marks the culmination of this season long exuberance, a hedonistic bookend for thousands of college-aged, and younger, revelers set to “YOLO” before returning their attention back to the books. For the sake of us all, let’s hope that sweaty dude with his eyes rolling into the back of his head isn’t planning a career in cardiothoracic surgery.
Since 2010, NCMF has brought together unique slices of the music spectrum, catering to fans of hype bass, European electro-house, jam-tronica, hip-hop, and select indie rock outfits. But as the Chicago club sound as shifted toward bass music, especially on bills produced by NCMF co-founders REACT, the mid-level and lower talent has become stacked with re-occurring producers. For the festival devout, NCMF 2012 offered very little that Midwesterners couldn’t have seen between festivals already held in Chicago, Michigan, and Wisconsin (Movement, Electric Forest, Spring Awakening, and Summer Set). Although the festival lacked seldom-seen talent or one-off reunions, the park still filled up quicker than a high school cafeteria – abundant in stereotypes from the rave princess to new hippies and lensless eyeglass devotees.
The majority of the festival ponders to hype, but it does so with a keen eye towards production. Main stage sets never overlap, the Red Bull Stage is custom designed and delivers an intimate experience for some of the biggest names in international dance, and the Dos Equis Stage has become a focal point for the festival’s riskier, up-and-coming talent. For those with enough energy, two silent discos enable the park to hold six total stages of continuous beats.
The Consequence of Sound team has covered a broad assortment of festival talent for our readers during this festival season, so instead of over-exposing big names, the following is an attempt to identify what is new, bold, and is set to move up the ranks by sticking closely to our festival rules of engagement. Don’t worry; we also captured massive amounts of pictures for the biggest names. Read, and then comment below about “what’s next” from your music library.
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, August 31st – Dos Equis Stage – 7:30 p.m.
This Asheville five-piece outfit is the future of jam-tronica, but due to lengthy technical issues Papadosio took the stage for a mere 30 minutes. In jam band terms, that is approximately three songs. Like festival headliners STS9, Dosio enveloped the crowd in intergalactic group instrumentals. With their new album T.E.T.I.O.S. (To End the Illusion of Separation) on the horizon, the penultimate track was a vocal driven post-rock anthem in the vein of Umphrey’s McGee. Lacking a powerful vocalist, the set hit its peak during the psychedelic interludes between multi-instrumentalist Anthony Thogmartin, keyboardist Billy Brouse, and drummer Mike Healy.
Friday, August 31st – Dos Equis Stage – 3:45 p.m
Steve Vaynshtok has only played a few lives shows under his electronic moniker AbdeCaf, but the former lead-guitarist hypes the crowd like a festival veteran. With only a few spectators to begin the set, Vaynshtok cued up the dub-influenced “Feed Your Brain” and demanded the fans pool themselves together for one united crowd. As Vaynshtok shuffled through “Old Flame”, “Fit for a King” and his new #MAGICALPOWERS tracks, the audience swelled beyond the young producers initial expectations. As a reward, he shared the news that Andrew W.K. may make an appearance on a future AbdeCaf EP, as long as Andrew W.K.’s manager quits being a dick. As AbdeCaf continues to grow into his live set, which features a keyboard and drum pad, he must streamline his backing tracks to keep the audience grooving throughout the show.
Sunday, September 2nd – Dos Equis Stage – 4:45 p.m.
The stage may have been small, but Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) filled the Dos Equis stage with a complete backing band for his six-string bass stylings. Accompanied by a fellow six-string bassist, keyboardist, and drummer, the set filled the vendor walkway with thunderous jazz-fusion. Known for his renowned bass abilities, Bruner also has a soulful baritone voice, exemplified on “Seasons” off of 2011’s The Golden Age of Apocalypse. In-line with the CoS tip to cover a track, Thundercat attacked the Flying Lotus co-penned “Mmmhmm”, which tested the group’s ability to stay on time during the track’s constantly shifting rhythms.
Sunday, September 2nd – Dos Equis Stage – 3:30 p.m.
First trained under the tutelage of the Cypress Hill/SOUL ASSASSINS crew, DJ Solo (aka Dave Abrams) is capable of spinning and mashing up just about any song title one could suggest. During Sunday’s set, Abrams added drumstep drops to The Doors and a trap twist to DJ Darude’s “Sandstorm”, aptly-titled “Trapstorm”. Abrams also acted as him own emcee, dropping some rave-rap verses over blistering dubstep. With such an expansive track selection, Abrams hit upon songs that kept passersby turning their heads and joining the overflowing crowd.
Sunday, September 1st – Coast Stage – 2:30 p.m.
After spending my nights at early morning afterparties, Com Truise‘s mid-tempo synthwave was the perfect primer for a busy North Coast Sunday. Moving between a bright yellow Mopho analogue synthesizer, laptop, and MIDI controller, Truise was able to live edit popular backing tracks from In Decay and Galactic Melt. Satiating the collective desire of nostalgia, the 80’s synth sounds were updated with a sustained bass line to keep the set from creeping into antiquated New Wave.
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire
Saturday, September 1st – Dos Equis Stage – 5:45 p.m.
The show was meant to highlight up-and-coming rapper Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, but DJ SicksentZ and hype man Goldie Glo stole the show. eXquire spent only about 20 minutes on the stage, enough time to deliver hit single “Huzzah!”, then allowed SicksentZ to spin for the rest of the hour long set. Leaving the stage should have welcomed a few boos, but the Transformer-helmet-wearing DJ hit the audience with Project Pat’s “We Ain’t Scared Hoe” and kept the audience silent and attentive with a series of hip-hop remixes and dark trap instrumentals.
Friday, August 31st – Red Bull Stage – 7:00 p.m.
Born in Talinn, Estonia, Mord Fustang has put a revolutionary twist on hype bass music. Even competing against Knife Party, Beatport’s Breakthrough Artist of the Year drew a massive crowd to the Red Bull Stage with his mixture of deadmau5-esque progressive house textures, mechanized bass wobble, and a dab of disco funk. Preferring to play his own material, the surprise of the set hit with a remix of Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out” mixed into Fustang’s own “We Are Now Connected”. As a classically trained pianist, Fustang’s builds hold their own even after the most pummeling of drops.
Sunday, September 2nd – Red Bull Stage – 5:45 p.m.
If you already miss Pendulum, enjoy basking in the bass of acts like Excision and Datsik, or jump up to the electro-punk of The Bloody Beetroots, then UK’s Modestep are a can’t miss quartet. A sign of respect to their live electronica forefathers, the band covered Prodigy’s “Out of Space” Sunday afternoon before turning to the vocally-drive original “To The Stars”. Even during the most aggressive tracks, the outfit contour their instrumentation to the unexpected range of lead vocalist Josh Friend. Although heavy with personal material, they chose to cover Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You”, Chase and Status’ “Lights”, and even Darude’s “Sandstrom” during the set.
Maya Jane Coles
Sunday, September 2nd – Dos Equis Stage – 7:30 p.m.
A last minute change in stage caused for some minor confusion, but luckily smart phone technology pointed fans in the right direction for Maya Jane Cole‘s later-than-expected set. MJC nearly made our list for best sets at Detroit’s Movement, and now after beefing the bottom end on her booty-tech, the orange-haired British producer/DJ executed the most progressive set of the festival. Equipped with a massive CD case, MJC flipped through her selections, cueing up the perfect tracks to keep the audience moving like a sea of marionettes.
MJC produces with a bouncing mid-tempo bassline, but lacks the mega drops that Stratus (the DJ originally set to perform on the stage) plugs into his sets. Even with the differentiation, not a single spectator could be seen walking away from the stage. Unlike laptop DJs, MJC was a surgeon behind the decks, seamlessly switching out CDs, sliding faders, manipulating the tempo knobs, and continuously looking up through the audience to make sure the party was still churning. Colorful fluorescent lights kept MJC brightly lit, turning the recent DJ Kicks contributor into an angelic funky disco diva.
Saturday, September 1st – Red Bull Stage – 4:45 p.m.
To be totally transparent, I have never successfully made it through a YACHT album in one sitting. Something about the recorded sound just always seemed annoying and abrasively charming. Approaching the Red Bull Stage, I expected more of that same overwhelming happiness. However, in the live setting and with tight scheduling, a natural equilibrium exists between the raw energy of the band’s electropop and the effervescent personalities of Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt. Live, the duo were joined by Bobby Birdman and Jeffrey Jerusalem, but Bechtolt still insisted on playing each and every instrument throughout the performance.
Evans serves exclusively as vocalist, but her stage aerobics kept eyes planted on her long sinewy frame as she continually maneuvered across the stage during the new wave synth fills and Bechtolt’s guitar solos. The set was heavy in new material, with spot on performances of “Utopia” and “I Walked Alone”, and featured a Bobby Birdman track. If LCD Soundsystem never reunite and The Talking Heads are permanently separated, YACHT now go down as the ultimate post-punk band for late-night indie dance parties.
Photographer: Lilian Cai, Derek Staples