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Wednesday
Sep082010

NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL

North Coast Festival
Where: Union Park
When: September 3-5, 2010
Reviewed By: Neil Miller, Jr.
Photos By: Mike Murphy

While Labor Day is prime time for barbecues and getting wasted, Chicago had a new way to spend the holiday weekend this year.  In its inaugural year, North Coast Festival really brought it to the table, giving other festivals of the past few months a run for their money.  Sure, the lineup may seem like a footnote to that of festival behemoths like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, but the talent they had was beyond stellar.  Not to mention there were basically no scheduling conflicts where festivalgoers had to pick and choose who they wanted to check out.

 

 

Day One

Day one got off to a weird start – for some reason, Paul van Dyk was relegated to a set shorter than the hour he was originally allotted—strange, seeing as how this is a DJ who traditionally clocks in around two or three hours during his regular sets.  Whatever the case and however brief, his set was still worth checking out as he’s a legend in the Trance genre and he can do no wrong.  After PvD, Pretty Lights took to the adjacent stage and provided a set of virtually nonstop Breaks and Hip-Hop filled out with a live drummer and— no pun intended here—some pretty lights.  The first half of his set was kickin’, but towards the end it seemed to be dragging a little (this was evidenced by people flocking to the main stage to lineup for the headliner).  As soon as Pretty Lights closed out his hour, Chemical Brothers took to the stage and gave everyone a real show. 


Now, I haven’t seen Underworld, The Orb, or Orbital yet – but I can say that the Chemical Brothers represent the apex of what live Electronic music is.  There’s been much speculation as to how much of their show is really live, but listen to bootlegs from any two shows and you’ll hear all the evidence one needs to believe they really are mixing everything in real time.  I don’t feel like getting into the visual aspect of the show is even worth our time because it’s really something that needs to be seen to be believed.  As for the setlist, it was everything you’d want from a Chemical Brothers show – at least for the true fans.  The singles were there (‘Star Guitar,’ ‘Swoon,’ ‘Out of Control,’ and show opener ‘Galvanize’ to name a few), but the real treats came in the form of selections from their Electronic Battle Weapon series.  I actually expected a set fleshed out with 50% hits and 50% material from the new record, “Further”.  So to be treated to a few Electronic Battle Weapons (they performed #1, #5, and #7 respectively) was a pleasant surprise.  These actually helped segue into teases of other tracks such as “It Began in Afrika” and “Acid Children,” showing that this duo really cares to give their fans a taste of their entire catalog.  It begs mentioning as well that the weather and setting for this show was absolutely flawless – feeling the wind blow on your face during ‘Star Guitar’ is something that really defines a live experience.  This is one show that can never be duplicated and never imitated – these guys have to be seen by absolutely anyone who’s remotely a fan of Electronic music – or even just flashy, crazed out arena shows.

Day Two

 

Day two was the one that held the most treats as far as the lineup goes.  I started my day off with a stroll by Benga’s DJ set for some good old fashioned Broken Beat and Dubstep.  If anyone can successfully throw multiple sub-genres of Electronic music into a blender and somehow make it all coexist peacefully, Benga is that man.  Besides, he’s a trip to watch behind the decks too – he literally has a movement for every bass drum, snare hit, and “womp womp womp”.  I was glad he didn’t overdo the Dubstep though, although he’s known for it, it’s not all he’s good at – definitely check out his remix of The Prodigy’s ‘Warrior’s Dance’ if you get a chance, it’s a personal favorite!


I ducked out of his set a bit early to go check out some gritty Blues/Rock from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.  After missing them at Bonnaroo, I wanted to make it a point to check them out this time around and I’m glad I did.  It’s been a long while since I’ve been treated to a balls out Rock show like what this troupe puts on, and how fitting that the balls of the outfit are owned by their frontwoman, Grace Potter.  The riffs are straight out of any of your favorite 70’s Rock radio hits, but her vocals are so full of soul, they recall the spirit of Janis with the shitkickin’ power behind Pat Benatar’s pipes.  This act was one of the highlights of my weekend by far, a very unexpected surprise that I hope to be able to treat myself to again soon. 

After Grace Potter and the Nocturnals left the stage, I stuck around to be up front for the elusive MC that is Jay Electronica.  I knew from previous experience that this was the only place to be for his show.  He has a way of connecting with his crowd that few artists can pull off.  Sure, he pulls a good 30-40 people onstage during his performance of ‘Googly Eyes’ on the regular, and yeah, he threw a fresh bottle of Jack Daniels in the audience mid-set, but it’s through his earnest lyrics and love for crowd participation that really gets the crowd involved.  In an era where an artist like Waka Flocka Flame has become a household name, it’s a breath of fresh air to witness pure talent like Jay Electronica’s. 


Immediately after Jay Elec closed out his set, it was a mad rush to the next stage to catch De La Soul.  This is a group that needs no introduction – they were a part of what’s called the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, when lyrics were more forward thinking, told a story, and had a point to prove.  If you need any proof that real Hip-Hop is thriving even to this day, just go see this trio onstage.  They’re vibrant, they’re on point, and they love their fans just as much as their fans love them.  An even better special treat was them bringing Black Sheep onstage.  For those who don’t know, De La Soul are a part of a creative group known as Native Tongues – this includes artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Common, and yes, Black Sheep.  Black Sheep’s flow was so astounding, I’m 100% positive that anyone who wasn’t a fan before he came onstage definitely left wanting to check out his new album, “From the Black Pool of Genius”. 

Once the lyrical masterminds that are De La Soul took off, I checked out a little of the Boys Noize set to see what kind of crazy Electro he was pumping out of the system.  While it was a fun listen for a while, his set starts feeling a bit monotonous after a good 20-30 minutes (this could be due to his inclusion of a bit too many Boys Noize Records tracks).  Besides, after witnessing the awe-inspiring De La Soul and Jay Electronica, I felt like nothing could top that anyways – this would actually hold true for the whole weekend as it turns out.

Day Three

Once day three rolled around, the crowd was visibly getting tired and worn out.  More people were lying on the grass and there was less of a rush to get up front for artists.  I started my day off with the Flying Lotus set and damn if this guy isn’t a physical manifestation of the music he mingles together.  His movement, his facial reactions, everything he does is reactionary to what he’s playing for us.  It’s fascinating to watch, naturally, but even just closing your eyes during his set will set your senses ablaze.  His sets are meant to be felt and not just heard.  And really, I’ll take any chance I get to hear both Radiohead and Portishead tracks (‘Idioteque’ and ‘Machine Gun’ respectively) through a bangin’ soundsystem in an outdoor setting.
 After Lotus took off, I camped out in front to be in a good position for Nas & Damian Marley.  Since I’d caught Lupe Fiasco earlier this year and was less than impressed, I didn’t think I’d be missing out on much this time around – as it turns out, I was right.  At least this time, he didn’t perform the first few songs of his set a second time around because no one was “feeling it” as he so succinctly put it back in Peoria.  If he can’t connect with a decent-sized audience in his hometown, something tells me he needs to reinvent his live show a bit. 


But I digress, once Nas & Damian Marley came on, it seemed as if the whole weekend was building up to this point.  While their collaborative album might have fallen short of expectations for most people, the live show certainly picks up that slack.  These are two mega talents who know exactly what their audience wants – something real and raw – and they deliver in spades.  Nas’ flow is just as flawless as it was back in his Illmatic days, in fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s more of a live MC than a studio artist.  Damian Marley, of course, lives up to his father’s namesake without a doubt.  He harnesses such a powerful voice and influence over his crowd, I expected his vocals to fall short of what we’ve heard on his records, but his voice sounds just as clean live as it does elsewhere.  Their set was arranged nicely too, with both opening up the show together, then Nas performed a medley of his tracks prior to them both doing some of the “Distant Relatives” material before Nas bowed out to let Damian perform some of his tracks as well.  After their set closed out, I felt like this weekend had definitely been one of the highlights of the year.  The talent that was raked in for this festival was among some of the best around.  This is definitely a festival to keep an eye on in years to come, they brought all they had to the table in 2010 and I’m sure no one left disappointed.


Reader Comments (1)

I think your confused because Benga couldnt get into the country for Northcoast and Daedalus played in his place.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMac

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