[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang!

[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang!

[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang!


[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang!

Labor Day weekend is most often associated with end of summer, but for the fifth year in a row Chicago’s best consolation has been North Coast Music Festival located in the west loop’s Union Park. Characterized by veteran hip-hop acts, EDM superstars and a plethora of indie acts and jam bands this year has not been much different except that everything seemed bigger and bolder. This year’s expanded grounds were home to five stages and hosted over 19,000 interesting (looking and sometimes smelling) festival goers on Friday, while Saturday and Sunday’s sold out crowds were at the max of 20,000, each day. The weather consistently brought the heat temperature-wise while the eclectic line up consistently brought the heat on (and sometimes off) stage.

While trying to direct my attention at the various stages named after Chicago telephone area codes as opposed to the countless girls in booty shorts I actually got to catch most of Showtek’s hour-long set on Friday at the 630 Stage. Given that EDM seems to be the new Top 40, the veteran Dutch brother duo brought plenty of energy and skill considering that most of their set was comprised of well-known dance hits from the current season as well as last year’s. The healthy dose of EDM provided for a nice antithesis to the mellow yet enchantingly smooth sounds of Chet Faker who made his festival debut earlier in the day over at the 312 stage with a set composed of songs like “Gold” or his interesting take on Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”.

Post Showtek, the remainder of my Friday evening was spent running between the 312 Stage where Bassnectar played a more chilled-out and groovy set and the 630 Stage where Alesso showed everyone why he’s now on another level and deserves the same kind of respect as heavyweight EDM superstars such as Avicci or Steve Angello. While trying to focus on listening to new and improved remixes of such hits as “Years” and “Raise Your Head” amongst all of the confetti cannons, blasting fog machines and trippy lasers the biggest pleasure came when he dropped his new production with hot-of-the-moment fellow Swede, Tove Lo, on vocals. The lyrically positive and uplifting future hit immediately caught on with the crowd and proved that Alesso deserves every bit of their attention.

Saturday, Day 2 of the festival, seemed like a continuation of Friday. I arrived late as I was already pretty tired from going slightly too hard on the first day, but obviously not too hard to miss Kid Cudi passing out on the 312 stage mid-song during “Pursuit of Happiness”. He later tweeted “I’m OK” citing exhaustion as the reason for his ‘fainting,’ but while talking to friends and many other attendants most believed that he just partied a little too hard. Luckily, he got to perform many of the hits off of his first two albums before he flew into the crowd (literally).
[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang! sts9
While finding the improvisational style of STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9) a little too mellow for my tastes over at the 773 Stage, I headed over to the 630 stage to catch much of Adventure Club’s EDM-oriented set. While many of the dubstep and progressive house sounded familiar and slightly generic, the Montreal natives did not disappoint. Although, 630 seemed to have more energy than all the other stages combined, Adventure Club didn’t overdo it to the point where anyone was too tired for Nicky Romero, who came up next. The 25 year-old Dutch producer brought his A-game to close out the night while dropping many of his own hit productions in-between juiced up versions and mash-ups of hits by NERVO, Disclosure, and Icona Pop, to name a few. Naturally, the colorful and mesmerizing light show only enhanced the already ecstatic experience.

Like countless other “Coasties” I saved most of my limited supply of ‘weekend’ energy and excitement for the final day of the festival, Sunday. Making the effort to arrive a bit earlier than the two previous days seemed to have paid off, as I got to jump up and down to the energetic sound of Ookay over at the 847 Stage, scratch my head trying to figure out what to make of Riff Raff’s set and his constant rapping over dubstep, house, and hip-hop beats, and groove to the slightly more mellow electronic sounds of Griz.
[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang! ookay
Having already seen Wolfgang Gartner countless times, I was surprised by his effortless and interesting set that consisted not only of his trademark electro productions such as “Illmerica” and “Forever”, but also of more current house hits. I must admit that he has managed to keep my interest throughout majority of his hour-long set over at the 630 Stage by not being predictable and generic and switching up the sounds often enough to match the energy of the very excited crowd-a quality any good DJ/producer possesses when performing live.

Prior to closing out the evening with the walking sonic euphoria that is Dada Life, I got the chance to catch a glimpse of Snoop Dogg over at the 312 stage who performed classics such as “Gin and Juice”, “The Next Episode”, and “Drop It Like It’s Hot” along with a dash of more recant material from his ‘Snoop Lion’ phase. Of note was the West Coast MC’s choice to perform selections by rap legends Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. proving that old rivalries and beefs are a part of a distant past.
[FESTIVAL RECAP] North Coast Closes Out The 2014 Chicago Festival Season With a Bang! snoop dogg
Of course, no electronic act on this year’s roster could match the euphoric and bonkers energy of Olle Corneer and Stegan Engblom aka Dada Life. The Stockholm duo, although this time without bananas and other goofy props, drove the crowd wild from the start to finish of their hour and fifteen minute long close-out set over at the 630 Stage. While intertwining their massive hits such as “So Young So High”, “Happy Violence” and “Kick Out the Epic Motherfucker” with remixed and updated hits by fellow Swedes Swedish House Mafia and MSTRKRFT, it was hard to look around and spot someone who literally wasn’t “raging” at gear six. Talk about doing the DADA!

All in all, in comparison to the four in the past, this year’s festival gathered bigger crowd’s than ever, had better organization (along with food stands and shops) than its predecessors and brought some of the biggest names in dance music and hip-hop, to date. Whereas some may argue that due to Chicagoans having more festivals to choose from than ever and as a result, some of the magic and excitement characteristic to the festival’s previous outings seems to be now missing, it’s hard to deny that React Presents knows how to organize a good party. I stand to be corrected, but for now, North Coast is the only Labor Day weekend option I intend to choose for years to come. Let’s make it another five!

Photos by: Scott Drazler, Trés Awesome


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James Kabat Editor, based in Chicago specializing in pop, dance, and underground club culture. I have interviewed some of the world's biggest DJ's and I enjoy diving deep into the minds of my musical heroes.