Music festivals are a great way to spend a holiday weekend. North Coast Music Festival took place this past weekend in Union Park in Chicago.
I’ll say straight off the bat, I had not heard of this festival before, but knowing Chicago has quickly become one of the hotspots for musical events (Lollapalooza, Riot Fest, and Chicago Blues Festival for starters) I figured it would be a great treat to check it out.
I left the twin cities and headed to Chicago with the hopes of at least catching Miguel or Axwell & Ingrosso (2/3rd of Swedish House Mafia). However, after Juice Wrld (Chicago native) took the stage, North Coast blasted social media, stating they were evacuating the park due to severe weather.
Headliners canceled. Nothing to see here folks. Onto day 2!
As I woke up Saturday, I got an alert on my phone that said the park would open at 3 pm due to cleaning efforts needed after the weather. This gave me plenty of time to see more of the city!
Entering Union Park, I was surprised that the crowd was not that large. It was clear a storm had hit the place. It was a little muddy, but getting around was pretty easy since there weren’t many people in the area. This was probably because the weather forecast was not good, yet again.
The park was broken up into four stages. The North and Coast stages were set up for more of the EDM artists and headliners, whereas the Attendee.com stage was set up for more rock bands (Strumbellas, Vulfpeck, and the Revivalists).
I wandered over to the Coast Stage to catch the end of RL Grimes set. They didn’t let photographers into the pit as there was a lot of fire used in his set. A large crowd gathered and he didn’t disappoint the fans.
I decided to wander some more, I walked through Cashmere Cat starting playing “Waves” by Kanye West in its entirety to catch the end of Vulfpeck’s set, which was pretty awesome. A definite highlight for me. The great funky energy brought on by Theo jumping off the stage in front of me and getting the crowd amped up for their final string of songs was very memorable.
The biggest bonus of being in VIP is that you get unlimited water. It was very humid so needless to say I was downing a lot of water. Though if you wanted to blend it and drink a PBR tallboy or something else, it will set you back $10. As will a jumbo slice of pizza.
I was settling down with the above, and chatting with some locals about the festival and how it compares to other ones when they announced over the loudspeaker that they were evacuating the park again!
Granted I could see lightning, have to play it safe. No turning up with DJ Snake.
Despite the first two days of setbacks with the weather, the final day showcased some great music and fortunately, a beautiful day. Here’s the kicker, because they had evacuated the last two days, they were letting everyone that had a Friday and Saturday ticket in to help smooth things over.
I mean, how can you turn down the opportunity to catch Jamiroquai. It should be noted that he hasn’t played in Chicago in nearly twenty years. The fans were very excited.
I had my own list of acts I wanted to see, including Mura Masa, Porn and Chicken, Yellow Claw, and of course Jamiroquai. I got into the festival as Moon Taxi was halfway through their set. I was lucky enough to catch them on their last tour (that they did with TOO MANY ZOOZ who were also playing the festival).
There was a great crowd all over. I decided to slip into the silent disco to start the day. Robby Mata and Lady D were duking it out. If you haven’t been to a “VS” silent disco, it’s simple, everyone entering the area is given a headset, and they are tuned to either BLUE (Lady D) or RED (Robby Mata) and you can switch to either one. It was a lot of fun; I didn’t even notice that Porn and Chicken had started their set right next to me.
Porn and Chicken was an awesome set. They were on the Monaco stage, which was on a basketball court near the main entrance. Ammunition was out in front of the crowd sending physical sparks with a custom-made belt of steel sheet metal and rubber tarmac. It was nuts.
A nice aspect of the Monaco stage was that it featured predominantly Chicago based artists and gave them a stage to promote. Each day was sponsored differently with different artists and I have to give the festival props for doing that.
I bumped into a group of people on stilts giving “very high fives”, saw some of the artwork, installation pieces, and shops that were open around the park.
I got back to see Mura Masa getting started. They put on one hell of a show. Keep in mind that this kid is 22 and was already nominated for a Grammy for best dance/ electronic album this year. His MC Nao took the stage with explosive charisma. I was blown away.
Gramatik and Yellow Claw played over at the attendee.com stage and did a great job. I covered Gramatik earlier this year when he came through town for the super bowl. His set up is always fantastic.
Yellow Claw had an outrageously high table that was “unshootable” in my opinion. They serve up a more headbanging EDM for a younger crowd. My only point of concern here was the young adults in the front of the crowd asking for water looked overheated, which is a medical concern that should be addressed better for next years tenth NCMF.
Leaving Yellow Claw, nothing could have prepared me for the awesomeness that was Jamiroquai, their frontman Jay Kay, his color changing, from-the-future looking, spiked helmet, and their famous electro-funk.
Jay started out saying he had a lot of catching up to do so he really ran through a lot of the classics, whether it was his more romantic songs (“Cosmic Girl” or “Alright”) or his more upbeat, dance songs (“Canned Heat”), and even their earlier work (“The Kids”) still really hit home with the crowd even decades later.
Overall, I would say if the rest of the festival was anything like Sunday, it’s a definite hit. The food was nothing special, the acts were solid, and headliners canceling aside, the festival was fun. If you’re a casual festivalgoer like me, you can definitely break up exploring Chicago (which has so much to offer) and the festival. I’m looking forward to what they offer next year.