This past Labor Day weekend, North Coast Music Festival descended upon Chicago’s Union Park for a fifth time with a lineup largely comprised of past performers. Regardless, the festival didn’t disappoint as festivalgoers, willing to take “summer’s last stand,” were treated to three days of incredible music, a lively atmosphere, and beautiful weather. Seriously, they couldn’t have had better luck after every weatherman in a 20-mile radius said it would rain.
By some divine intervention, North Coast’s fifth anniversary prevailed over any soggy forecasts and continued to establish the festival as one of the most diverse and entertaining in the city. Unfortunately, our coverage team was too busy checking out shows to party ’til we fainted with Kid Cudi, but we were still lucky enough to experience 10 moments that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Best Non-EDM Drop
Photo by Jonathan Earley
It’s a daunting task to open a festival, but one that hip-hop jazz trio BadBadNotGood tackled with the amount of humility you’d expect from a band in an early slot only with none of the restraint that goes along with that humility. Picking through tracks off each of their three self-titled LPs, the three Toronto natives entertained maybe 200 people at the start, a number that nearly tripled by the end. This was, in all likelihood, due to the group closing with undoubtedly their biggest hit, the Tyler, the Creator/Gucci Mane mash-up and jazz interpretation, “Bastard/Lemonade”, which they stretched from its original seven-minute runtime into 10 minutes of buildup, punctuated by many thanks and a request to be smoked down if spotted around the fest. It was nice to start off the fest experiencing a drop that wasn’t drenched in bass. –Pat Levy
Most Likely to Convert EDM Fanatics
Photo by Derek Staples
Maybe it’s all the criticism, but the EDM community has fiercely insulated itself from the pop realms. While Spring Awakening and Perry’s Stage during Lollapalooza allow for continued isolation, there’s little choice but to explore the larger musical world when wandering around North Coast. Following the booty-bass exploits of J.Phlip and live electro of Future Rock, bodies began to gather around the synthpop of Sweden’s Little Dragon.
Performing ahead of Grandtheft and Adventure Club, the slower jams off Nabuma Rubberband offered a respite before the nightly intensity. Swaying to the neo-soul delivery of Yukimi Nagano, it’s the exposed low end during a track like “Killing Me” that enabled the momentary metamorphosis from basshead to dream pop aficionado. With Fredrik Källgren Wallin’s bass riffs rattling the sound system, Nagano’s charming onstage antics peaked at a new intensity.
When the turn down finally comes, Coasties now have a new mix for the repertoire. –Derek Staples
Best Use of a ’90s Sample
Ookay’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Photo by Derek Staples
During NCMF, this was a highly competitive category. A title that could also have been won by Norwegian future-bass specialist Cashmere Cat for the use of the Spice Girl’s “Wannabe” had Ookay not had such a deep array of nostalgia. Ripping through this angst-driven single near the beginning of his set, the San Diego-based DJ also rinsed some Red Hot Chili Peppers deeper into the performance. More about keeping the floor moving than debuting the freshest cuts, these alt-rock singles were disbursed through a selection of garage (Disclosure), Dutch House, Lil Jon rips, trap, a joke about Dillon Francis’s recent run in with an RC can, and a child’s tune about ratchets (“If your ratchet and you know it clap your hands!!”). The sound of hands clapping was also deafening. –Derek Staples
Worst Show to Turn Up At/Best Show to Escape
Photo by Lilian Cai
Washed Out’s drowsy chillwave separated the crowd at Union Park right down the middle. There were the diehards eager to hear more of Ernest Greene’s easygoing synthpop, and then there were those wearing Kandi bracelets who evacuated immediately. Altogether, it was the most uneventful set of the weekend; so laid-back, in fact, that it barely felt like a festival gig. But that’s a compliment, as the afternoon daydream offered a brilliant respite from the glut of Molly-gumming teenagers chugging rum from a water bottle they stuffed in their pants. In hindsight, I don’t think I saw more people drinking wine all weekend. Who am I? –Pat Levy