Where’s North Coast From Here?
It was Labor Day weekend and the drive into Chicago seemed bleak, busy, and expensive, but all that is worth it knowing that North Coast Music Festival was at the end of the line and ready to help all of us hard working festival fans unwind and get down.
Despite the fact that Illinois would leave a better first impression by having a toll booth as a welcome center, the weekend was shaping up to be a banger with hometown heroes, Umphrey’s McGee, the amorphous man of bass known as Bassnectar, and an onslaught of great supporting acts to bring the boogie throughout the weekend. Not to mention the conscious scheduling that allowed the divide in taste to never over lap into complex decisions about deciding which show to go to. Union Park is a beautiful setting for this festival and the name was quite fitting as well. The crew at North Coast pulled it off flawlessly so let that be the first part of this review.
My vibe was set when I walked into Hermitude playing a Lion King remix of “Hakuna Matata,” as if it on cue. It definitely made the madness subside and allowed for everyone to get into the festival mood early Friday afternoon.
After settling in on the Hermitude vibe, the Revivalists took to the same stage and put on an insanely energetic set. Many people had commented on the expectations of a poppy set but they had something different in mind. They played their current hit “Wish I New You When I Was Young” later on in the set but that was totally looked over. It was a friend of the band’s birthday and their one request was a “Bulls on Parade” cover by Rage Against the Machine. Ed Williams played lap steel guitar during this song and pulled off some Tom Morrello distortions that did the song more than just justice; it split the wigs of the entire crowd who were singing along. It was a good weekend for Rage Against the Machine covers, more on that in a second.
The night floated onto the Juicy J set which featured short snippets of the classic bangers “Slob on my Knob,” “Fly,” and his new song, “Bake Sale.” He was definitely hyped to be there, and if you’re curious about how the show was, go to his Snapchat story, because he basically snapped during the entire set. As for a comment on 3 6 Mafia reuniting, Juicy J said “that shit would be dope.” Yes it would Juicy, that would indeed be some dope shit.
Odesza closed out tonight with a ton of rotating instrumentalists. The most notable, though, would be the Chicago Bulls drum line. It definitely made for a beautiful way to end a set. In all honesty, I was worried I was going to get the same Odesza set I saw last time considering they haven’t put out any new music, besides a single, in a very long time. I was nothing but impressed.
Day two kicked off with some Twiddle. They’ve gained rapid popularity and their complex grooves and uplifting lyrics leave little reason left to wonder why. However, out of their live sets this one started off a little shaky following their banger “Out in the Cold.” The drummer seemed to be having a rough time but the band patiently guided everyone back into the groove mid set. Their warming hospitality kicked the day off right.
Future Rock took to the Coast Stage not long after and the brought out their female vocalist Anna Soltys, who is also on their new album, Long Ago, and she brought a whole new energy to their sound. That set featured a lot of songs off of their new album and they pulled it off flawlessly.
Vulfpeck brought the evening in with their hilarious antics. Joe Dart can play a beastly bass guitar. Their set included “Funky Duck,” “Back Pocket,” and the most suitable song for the festival in September, “Christmas in L.A.” Also, if anyone has any hook ups with radio stations that play Christmas songs, these guys could really use a hand making this track a household classic, next to “Jingle Bells.” Lets make it happen. These guys deserve it.
The Lennon Claypool Delirium is an insane orchestration of mad geniuses doing what they do best. I believe there was a King Crimson cover and a Pink Floyd cover, but the delirium got to me and I cannot recall. Go out of your way to see this historical act.
Bassnectar started off rough after a power shortage cut out the intro track. Luckily the crew figured it out and as they say, the show goes on. It was a very hip-hop heavy set, and not a lot of time for that space nectar vibe some of us old bassheads really enjoy. During this set he confirmed his Halloween show in Peoria, Illinois. One of the most notable part of this set was his Rage Against the Machine remix of “Killing in the Name of” and on the screen he had the photo of Tiananmen square of the single protestor holding up the tanks as “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” came on repeat and he began to crawl on the tanks with flashes to major news network symbols. Pretty straight and to the point. Exactly what one would expect from Lorin.
Day three started off with TAUK. They were flawless. They paid homage to Gene Wilder with a Willy Wonka soundtrack take on “Oompa Loompa.” It was surprising to see these guys in such high spirits and hitting all their cues on the dot because they were coming off a good run on the road playing back to back shows and about to ship off to another the next day. They also killed it with TAUKing McGee which included some Pink Floyd covers as well.
Polish Ambassador played a super funky set including bits from all of his various projects. The most notable part of this set was his remix of Bassnectar’s “Cozza Frenzy.” Really that would be the last song one would expect the Ambassador to pull out. It was a great nod to Bassnectar and did the song with some super funky undertones.
Greensky Bluegrass was there to welcome the sunset with their opening cover of Atlantic City. Their set included their classics like “I’d Probably Kill You” and “Windshield.” Greensky was such a great balancing addition to this set and they were definitely happy to play for Chicago.
That left Umphrey’s McGee to send everyone out on a good note. They didn’t have a lot of time to play and they made it apparent with amazingly blind siding transitions like between the “Floor” and “40’s Theme.” However the best parts of this set, besides all of it, was the guest appearances. Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass came out and played his lap steel for “Glory” and jelled really well with Jake on lead.
Umphrey’s missed Chicago and it showed. They treated us to a three song encore Triple Wide>electric Avenue to Hell, but don’t let the title full you, it was a triple decker mashup of “Electric Avenue,” “Triple Wide,” and “Highway to Hell” with a little help from Jennifer Hartswick, typically know for her work with Trey Anastasio Band. Her vocals brought some powerful soul to a ludicrous mashup.
North Coast makes for some memorable sets. The artists that grace those stages carry the energy of the Windy City with them, and it takes their sound and the audience to some far away places right there in their mind. Don’t miss it next year, because we already know you’ll have that weekend off…
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