North Coast Music Festival (NCMF), held in Chicago’s Union Park over Labor Day weekend, provided the perfect soundtrack for taking “summer’s last stand.” The diverse, multi-stage showcase was a well-balanced mix of performances by established and emerging EDM, neo-soul, jam band, hip-hop, indie, and house music artists. The music lineup, art installations, food booths, and overall enthusiastic vibe captured the pulse of what moves the Windy City.
Headliners Widespread Panic and the Chemical Brothers delivered for their devotees and won some new fans with spirited sets on NCMF’s first and last nights. Saturday night’s headliner D’Angelo and the Vanguard, however, completely missed the mark. The band started 20 minutes late and never gained momentum before it was cut off by the festival’s strict curfew. Hundreds of fans missed that unfortunate ending, though, because they were part of the overflow crowd cheering on Steve Aoki’s anthemic set and brilliant light show at the opposite end of the park.
In addition to Aoki, several other NCMF performances exceeded expectations and left festivalgoers wanting more. These acts are definitely worth seeing as headliners on their own tours:
The Roots were stronger than ever. The hardest working band in hip-hop opened with “Table of Contents (Parts 1 & 2),” dropped “Break You Off” and “You Got Me,” and closed with a cover of Kool G Rap’s “Men at Work.” Keen observers noticed that Questlove wore a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt in solidarity with the social movement while laying the beats for the band’s message. Most of their music revolution will not be televised, so follow @theroots on Twitter.
Galactic with Macy Gray was a special, festival-only pairing. The New Orleans band and the dynamic diva served up a succulent version of their duet “Into the Deep” plus some of her hits including set closer “I Try.” Website www.galacticfunk.comlists Galactic’s tour dates through Spring 2016, and www.MacyGray.com has over a dozen U.S. dates listed for this November.
South African electronic duo Goldfish played live instruments over house beats and choice cuts during an amazing NCMF set. Transforming Fleetwood Mac's "Little Lies" into a dancefloor smash with soaring sax over a sample of Christine McVie’s chorus was just one of the highlights. Goldfish will be Stateside again for two Halloween festivals, but visit www.goldfishlive.com for advance notice of their next tour.
Tycho’s ambient and atmospheric EDM with live drums, guitar and bass was ideal for the sunset performance on a hot, festival day. Until Tycho hits the road again, go to www.tychomusic.com to watch videos and explore Awake and earlier releases.
Don’t miss North Coast Music Festival 2016. Check http://www.northcoastfestival.com for details, and plan to be in Chicago next Labor Day weekend when it all goes down.
Check out the North Coast 2015 photo gallery: http://www.gratefulweb.com/photos/north-coast-music-festival-chicago