North Coast Music Fest | Chicago | Review | Pics

Words by: Meredith Krupa | Images by: Chad Smith

North Coast Music Festival :: 09.02.11-09.04.11 :: Union Park :: Chicago, IL

Big photo gallery directly below review!

Lotus @ NCMF 2011 by Chad Smith
For a festival billed as “Summer’s Last Stand”, North Coast Music Festival certainly lived up to that. Starting out as a sweaty affair and ending with a chilly downpour, 3 days of music, art, and fun in Chicago’s Union Park signified the end of the season and a successful sequel to last year’s inaugural fest. Three day passes sold out over a month in advance, Saturday single day tickets sold out a week in advance, and Friday and Sunday eventually sold out as well. Over 50 acts shared four stages with dubstep, funk, house, electronic, rock, and various other electronic subgenres represented.

Each night there was a tough decision to make with regard to the headliners: two talented artists on two different stages at the same time throwing down the best they’ve got. Night one had us choosing between David Guetta and Wiz Khalifa. Guetta showcased some classic Chicago house beats that had the crowd screaming for more, along with his club hits that boom out of every bar on weekend nights. Electronic music’s heaviest hitters, including godfather Fatboy Slim, reminded the crowd that age is only a number, and with sampling experience comes sick mashups. Bassnectar enthralled the crowd with a full onslaught of lights, pop samples, and heavy bass that carried well beyond the festival confines. His hits had the crowd bobbing in unison nonstop throughout the entire set and reminded everyone as he closed out the festival that he is the original BassHead.

Auto Body @ NCMF 2011 by Chad Smith
There was no shortage of amazing local acts; an entire stage sponsored by Magic Hat was the site of some of the best surprises of the festival, including DJ Thibault, who’s Auto Body side project melted faces, Wyllys and his special brand of Nu Disco, along with The Coop, who keep working their way up on people’s personal schedules. There was also plenty of fantastic dubstep, proving that this fest has all electronic genres covered. Adding a distinctly rock and pop vibe to North Coast were local favorites Van Ghost (with Jen Hartswick and Natalie Cressman of the Trey Anastasio Band). The sun broke through the clouds as they played old melodies and new material from their forthcoming album.

RJD2 & Break Science @ NCMF 2011 by Chad Smith
Funk’s best players were UK outfit The New Mastersounds, who recently released a new album with vocal harmonies to pair with their standard B3, guitar, drums and bass jams. The boys also played an all-nighter after party and the crowd dug it; people dancing with umbrellas, barefoot, and soaking wet grooved together. Following was a combination set of RJD2 and drummer Break Science; something about the sampling and the break beat percussion made it fit right in after The New Mastersounds. Adam Deitch proved that he is one of the hardest working men in music, sitting in at the drum kit for the next dose of happy funk and horns from Lettuce immediately following his Break Science set.

North Coast Music Fest 2011 by Chad Smith
Indie freak rock/punk outfit of Montreal took pageantry and performance art up several notches with prom dresses, dancers in flowing white body suits, and crowd antics including an inflatable raft passed through the audience. Some people camped out immediately after the previous set to get close enough to participate in the action. Latryx and Common both brought tight, inspirational hip hop performances to the table. Lyrics Born of Latyrx urged the audience to keep it positive as they closed out their set, and Common made a point of connecting with fellow Chicagoans.

Signs on sticks, tutus, mud, body paint, and LED everything were all popular amongst festival goers. Why use a cell phone to try and locate your friends when you can hoist a stick with numerous inflatables, glowsticks, and stuffed animals attached to it? Attendees ranged from high school kids getting ready to get back in the classroom to hardcore househeads in their thirties.

STS9 @ NCMF 2011 by Chad Smith
STS9 just keeps getting better and better - at Friday’s after party, they put on a light show that more than complimented the music - it was part of the music. Also notable was their collaboration with Big Gigantic saxophonist Dominic Lalli. By their closing set on Saturday, it was easy to see why this is not just an electronic duo, but a legitimate rock band. Each time they perform, they upped the bar with a unique style of guitar and drum hooks with imaginative sampling.

Another band that upped the ante by mixing live improvisation, sampling and heavy beats was Thievery Corporation. Set at the Grove Stage and vaguely reminiscent of something from a darker Alice in Wonderland, their weekend closing set on Sunday included a sitar, amongst the booming bass and sensual vocals. The crowd gyrated as the smooth, intoxicating drum and bass flowed over us. When the lights came up for the very last time at the festival, many stood for a second. Leaving Union Park was like going back into the “real world”. Luckily, there was a whole host of after parties to choose from with a second set of Thievery included.

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[Published on: 9/13/11]

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