I love music and the North Coast Music Festival (NCMF) was the perfect way to cap off the summer. The festival, coining itself as “Summer’s Last Stand,” took place for three days over Labor Day weekend at Union Park in Chicago.
NCMF hosted a plethora of different musical genres including rock bands, hip-hop artists, DJs and more. The headliners on Friday were Pretty Lights and The Chemical Brothers. Saturday brought forth De La Soul, Umphrey’s McGee and Moby performing a DJ set. Sunday showcased the talents of Lupe Fiasco, The Disco Biscuits and Nas & Damian “The Gong” Marley.
Upon entering the festival, I felt a great sense of community and was greeted by a group of gals spinning hula hoops around their waists, arms and legs with the Willis Tower as the backdrop to their hula performance. I saw to my left the Groupon: What’s A Music? Stage, straight ahead – the North Stage, farther off in the distance was the Red Bull Local Stage and to my right was the Coast Stage.
I got right into the variety of music being offered at this first-time festival.
Pretty Lights, an electronic music duo, played to a massive crowd that moved to their beats with such high energy. Of course, the lighting was insanely colorful and luminous and overflowed out into the audience.
Moments after Pretty Lights concluded, The Chemical Brothers – a British electronic music duo began their set to another gigantic group of onlookers. The Chemical Brothers are known for their single “Block Rockin’ Beats.”
Rock jam band Umphrey’s McGee headlined the North Stage on Saturday night in front of thousands of their faithful fans. The last time I saw Umphrey’s McGee was at the Riviera half a decade ago. I was eager to see how this show would differ from the last time I saw them. While waiting for them to grace the stage, I met a woman who travels all over the country following them… just another affirmation that this band has loyal listeners. The band starting jamming and their performance has matured since the last time I saw them. The lighting display was phenomenal and the vocals and exuberance of Umphrey’s McGee entertained for over an hour.
Moby, who gained mainstream notoriety with Gwen Stefani for their collaborative single “South Side,” played a DJ set for an hour. He played with intensity and had a wonderful backdrop behind him playing great visual art to accompany his tracks. There were dozens of beach balls being thrown around the audience during his show and the ones that made their way on stage were eventually thrown off by Moby to give the crowd more reason to party.
The first act I caught was Grammy Award winning Italian electro DJ Benny Benassi. Despite his global fame, Benassi played an earlier set at the NCMF because he had a gig in Las Vegas at Rain later that night. He was a natural on stage, totally carefree and very delightful to watch. He has this aura about him that sets you at ease and keeps your body moving with his music. “Satisfaction” is one of his biggest tracks.
Soul singer Mayer Hawthorne & The Country was my next musical stop of the afternoon. Admittedly, I had never heard of Mayer Hawthorne and thought he was trying to rip off John Mayer’s name, but I was highly mistaken. I had to Google this artist and figure out where his name came from. Per Wikipedia, his middle name is Mayer and the street he grew up on in Michigan was Hawthorne Street. When I first laid eyes on him, I noticed his suave blue suit, retro sunglasses and slicked-back hair. He looks similar to Michael Buble and he made reference to that later on during his show. His smooth moves brought a sense of sophistication to the festival.
Within two hours I caught four new performers: Flying Lotus, Green Velvet, Lupe Fiasco and The Disco Biscuits. I wanted to catch more of these performances, but there was so much music to catch in so little time. Flying Lotus, an electronic musician, bounced from side to side of his laptop with a big smile. Green Velvet were rockin’ their turntables and even brought out dancers to energize their audience even more. Rapper Lupe Fiasco was a big hit with his crowd and had a very commanding stage presence as he sang all over the place. The Disco Biscuits’ performance area was lit up by light features and lasers that zoomed into sky and treetops.
The main stage act I was excited about was Nas & Damian Marley…together. In anticipation of their performance, it felt like I was waiting forever for them to begin. Once the stage lights dimmed, a flag bearing the colors of Jamaica was being flown about the stage. Nas, a hip-hop artist took to the stage followed by reggae artist, Damian Marley. The energy of their performances was so intense. Marley, whose father was world-renowned singer, Bob Marley, sang many of his dad’s tunes.
The entire weekend I felt like the metal ball inside a pinball machine getting moved by the music from one side of the festival grounds to the other. Three full days of walking from stage to stage, getting an education in diverse music and meeting many interesting people…I had one amazing time. The NCMF to me now stands for Nights of Complete Musical Fun!
FULL NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL IMAGE GALLERY BELOW:
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