North Coast Music Festival | Review | Pics

Words by: Amy Ravit Korin | Images by: Chad Smith & Dave Vann

North Coast Music Festival :: 09.03.10-09.05.10 :: Union Park :: Chicago, IL

To see Dave Vann's massive gallery pop over here.

To see Chad Smith's massive gallery pop over here.

Pretty Lights by Dave Vann
Hippies, hipsters and hip-hop fans united in Chicago's aptly named Union Park to celebrate Summer's Last Stand over Labor Day weekend, making the inaugural North Coast Music Festival one of the most celebrated festivals of the summer.

Independently produced, the North Coast Music Festival featured an eclectic lineup of local and international talent, including hip-hop headliners De La Soul, Lupe Fiasco and distant relatives Nas & Damian Jr. Gong Marley, electronic artists The Chemical Brothers, Paul Van Dyk and Laidback Luke in addition to hometown jam bands Umphrey's McGee and Philadelphia-based Disco Biscuits. The Red Bull Stage featured up and coming Chicago bands, while bigger Chicago comers like Future Rock, Van Ghost, Loyal Divide and Prob Cause also earned spots on the main stages.

From their use of social media to promote and execute the event, to the on-site live graffiti gallery and art installations, and the iClips live stream, North Coast Music Festival organizers plugged into music lovers' hearts and minds and managed to find the sweet spot where hip-hop, electronica and jam bands overlap - both on and off line.

With options for every set of star-struck eyes, you'll hear about different North Coast Festival highlights from every person you ask, but there is no denying that notable collaborations occurred around every corner. You can't get much better than a Chicago skyline view, three sunny September days and spontaneous songs. But it did! Jay Electronica invited 50+ fans onto the North Stage during his set, dancing and dropping rhymes with them. On the Groupon Stage, De La Soul broke out hits "Me, Myself and I" and "Buddy" and then invited their hip-hop rapper buddy Dres from Black Sheep onstage for a guest performance of "The Choice Is Yours." And to top Sunday off, Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey's McGee joined The Disco Biscuits to close out the festival on the Coast Stage.

Behind the scenes, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Damian Marley held a Peace Summit, and finally the Sunday night after party at The Bottom Lounge served double duty as both a celebration of Chicago talent and one of the Festival's swan songs. Joel Cummins and Brendan Bayliss from Umphrey's McGee joined Van Ghost for "Mary Jane," and later Umphrey's McGee reunited with original drummer Mike Mirro to cover Wilco's "Jesus, Etc." Chicago was singing the blues when Mike Berg, Jennifer Hartswick and all of Van Ghost joined fellow Chicago rockers Umphrey's McGee for a soulful rendition of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," ending the weekend on a perfect note!

"This weekend exceeded my expectations as both a promoter and as a performer," says Berg. "Being part of North Coast's launch team and having the honor to share the stage with some of my favorite electronic & rock and roll artists has been a once in a lifetime experience. Well, until we do it again next year!"

Grace Potter by Dave Vann
Fellow event organizer Mike Raspatello had lofty ambitions when he joined up with several other independent promoters to conceptualize and throw this three-day festival, and this weekend's success surpassed them all. "I think it finally hit a few of us when we looked out into the crowd and saw all the hands in the air, and everyone dancing," says Raspatello. "We created a festival for the likeminded and diverse fans of Chicago, and they rewarded us and themselves by showing up!" Best of all, Raspatello confirms, "Planning is underway for North Coast Music Festival 2011!"

With over 650 live tweets sent from @NorthCoastFest and a mid-festival Tweet-up held at 6 pm on Saturday, North Coast Fest engaged an estimated 50,000 festival attendees and the online audience in real time all weekend long. Besides communicating essential information, including vast schedule logistics (65 acts on four stages in 2½ days), @NorthCoastFest shared funky fan photos, recruited volunteers in real time, and even went onstage to capture the crowd rocking out!

As North Coast Music Festival's live tweeter, I ran from stage to stage (read: outlet to outlet) charging my iPhone4 and interacting with festival fans via live tweets and Facebook updates all weekend long, at all hours. As an avid concertgoer, and one who follows along on couch-tour when I can't make a show, I wanted to give fans both onsite and at home a personalized and informative experience while engaging them in a way I know that bigger brands cannot. People love to get a shout out from brands and bands they care about, and I wanted to capture the palpable excitement in the air, connect and unite fans and build lasting relationships. [Check out Amy's handiwork at her site].

The weather cooperated, the talent brought the heat, and this first year festival made people feel warm and fuzzy by sharing the North Coast Fest excitement in real time. There is no question that North Coast Music Festival is now on the map.

Continue reading for Dave Vann's massive gallery...

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