Labor Day Weekend marked the 4th annual North Coast Music Festival at Union Park as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all packed with a mix of primarily EDM artists and DJs with some of hip hop's most established names, and up and comers in both genres. Let's get right into the highlights...
This was the one day I couldn't attend, but Maks G & Justin Escalona were there taking some of the photos above and bouncing around the three stages checking out act after act. Two of the night's headliners stood out: Mac Miller & Passion Pit, with the latter drawing more rave reviews from Maks & Justin.
Maks and I made it for the night's main acts: Nas, Big Gigantic, and Afrojack. First (of course) Nas, who returned to the North Coast stage after last performing at the debut edition of the festival with Damian Marley in 2010. Nas kept it simple: it was him, a drummer, and a DJ. He ran through classic after classic, only pausing to rile up the crowd for the next one. My only wish was if he dropped the beat completely at times through the set to only further showcase his flawless live delivery. I'm just a fan of a capellas in a live rap show, and if I recall correctly, I think Nas had more of those last time I saw him at North Coast. Sure enough, however, Nas provided the most chilling moment of my weekend when he came back out for an encore of "One Mic", with each verse building up upon the previous. It culminated with Nas whispering into the mic (my desired a capella of sorts) and the crowd waiting for one more intense chorus. Enter: chills. He left Chicago with these short but sweet words, "You have a voice. Be heard."
The scene on a cloudy night at North Coast for Nas
Saturday continued with a couple of big EDM/DJ acts as Big Gigantic first impressed with their live saxophone on top of recognizable remixes like the fitting Kanye West "Jesus Walks". Then we walked over a stage to Afrojack, who I liked even more as he had more of a fast, upbeat flow of songs coming one after another and ending on a premiere that I instantly liked that features some female vocals. I'll be sure to point it out when it drops. All in all, the three acts made for a great Saturday night, as Nas was Nas and Big Gigantic and Afrojack took me out of my comfort zone that proved to be a fun experience.
Justin and I got our money's worth Sunday as we got to the Fest on the early side to first catch DJs Datsik, A-Trak, and Madeon. I especially liked the latter two as A-Trak mixed in some hip hop into his upbeat set while showcasing his live skills as well, and the young Madeon (he's 18, looks like he's 13), keeping the crowd going with just enough recognizable tunes to get the crowd singing (from The Killers to Kanye's "Black Skinhead").
I then made my way across the fields for my most abrupt change in music and scenery. It felt surreal to go from a crowd jumping up and down to EDM and dance to a chill crowd hanging on every word and guitar solo from the soulful Gary Clark Jr.. There was only minor chit chat in the crowd for Gary Clark, whose live sound (especially his guitar) translated well to the festival. The moment he ended, I heard the dark sounds begin from the stage next to us, courtesy of Purity Ring (another abrupt change.)
That's one of the beauties of North Coast: all of the sets are precisely scheduled and never run late, giving the fans a unique experience of the thrilling conclusion of one artist and then the rush to see the beginning of the next artist, who almost always is a completely different genre. It's safe to say Madeon to Gary Clark Jr. to Purity Ring is about as different as you can get.
To speak on Purity Ring real quick, I became a fan of the duo with "Odebear", and now even moreso after seeing what I saw on Carson Daly earlier this summer replicated and more polished in person. The duo can transform your mood in an instant as lantern banging, light shining, and piercing vocals all combine for a very fresh and edgy sound. Look these guys up when you get a chance.
Finally, and if you read this far you won't be disappointed, Wu-Tang Clan closed out the festival like only they would. And that's with a raw mix of songs from their debut album, 36 Chambers. They naturally began with "Bring Da Ruckus" as an endless sea of people threw their "W's" up. Seriously, this was the biggest crowd of the three nights for sure. The group had the crowd going the whole time and kept it moving with no breaks between songs, save for a tribute to Ol' Dirty Bastard. They tried to fit as many songs as possible in before an impending thunderstorm was threatening to cut the performance short. That unfortunately came to fruition 40 minutes in and ending Wu-Tang's set prematurely without a fitting conclusion. The crowd was naturally upset that the set ended 15 minutes before it should have while it was only drizzling at the time, but considering it was drizzling at the start, I'm happy we got that far. Plus, the performance and my savvy to hold the record button combined for my favorite Vine ever. I don't think I can end it better than this...
Great times at North Coast all weekend long! Shoutout to React Presents for putting it all together and be sure to scroll through the slideshow (hit the arrows) for more photos: all taken by either Maks G, Justin Escalona, or myself. Until next Labor Day weekend...!