Our guest author is Rebecca O’Neil, a Los Angeles native who traded the seashore for the lakeshore. She’s a music festival veteran.
Upon entering React Present’s Mamby on the Beach at Oakwood Beach this past weekend I skedaddled past the wishbone-shaped funnel of wooden triangles. The seran-wrapped trees were curious, the bohemian tents inviting, yoga mats enticing—and popular. I sped past all of it, concerned that I was running late to Chicago-locals Monte Booker and Ravyn Lenae. Having just become obsessed with Booker’s Soulection a few days before, I didn’t fully appreciate the open space lined with food trucks and tents. The direction I entered in steered me towards Park Stage but I veered left, avoiding the silent disco dancers, a beeline for Beach Stage.
Observations: Ravyn Lenae’s voice has an amazing range. Live, her style of singing only adhered to the hip-hop, jazzed funk instrumentals for brief moments. Then, from the ’90s child’s pipes came a kind of sound Sarah Vaughan and her ‘50s contemporaries produced. The captivating electro-soul instrumentals and intriguing old-time vocals emanated good vibes into a sparse but moving audience. The larger audience that followed during Bishop Briggs was less intimate, less mobile, but emotionally moved. Someone tried to describe her recently as AWOLNATION meets Adele. The aesthetic comparison can be disputed, but Briggs undoubtedly packs the same dramatic and stellar punch.
It was as I traveled between Briggs and K Flay that I became overwhelmingly distracted. Staying true to my newly declared vegetarian self, I devoured Cheesie’s Food Truck’s Frenchie. While waiting for my butter-infused sourdough sandwich, a tall, long-haired blonde man donning Pharrell’s hat admitted to the cooks through the window that he followed them wherever he knew they would be.
My brief trip to the freakishly clean port-a-potties (to be expected, for the first day) was fortuitous after finding a friend from South Bend close to the phone charging tent. We chatted over K. Flay, the most coveted tracks of her set still beautiful from a distance. Then, after a delicious chicken sandwich from Harold’s Wings, followed by a pulled pork sandwich (goodbye vegetarianism) from Porkchop and Bearclaw Coffee’s Great Lake Mocha Latte (I will be seeking that out again) back to Park Stage for Kaytranada. Haitian-Canadian Kaytranada, known to me after his collaboration with The Internet for her song “Girl,” delivered quite the performance, rapping over his electronic R&B set. Although most of the crowd was getting their groove on, it felt completely acceptable for those feeling a tad peaked to sit, and even lie down, at the periphery of the set.
Tycho’s set was ambient as ever. Their lights, even during the day, were done well—something many of the previous sets lacked the foresight for. They played songs just released, perhaps for the first time to a large audience. Turning around after the conclusion of Tycho’s set to chase the sun set to Beach Stage was like watching Tycho’s album cover for “Awake” in 3D, with a silhouette of the Chicago skyline in the foreground.
Milky Chance invited us all to dance. The fireworks to the left of Beach Stage were beautiful but interruptive and magical. The duo was a great way to end the night and head off to the festival’s after parties. They’re positive electro-folk funk feel sent us off into the dark, and helped get through the hour-long line for buses back to parking.
Mamby on the Beach connects you to talent and the haven of paradise found only on the shore. Amidst the windy city, its south side no less, transports you to a breezy beach paradise. The sand kicked up as attendees traveled from tent to tent was reminiscent of every other dirty, dry festival in the country, except of course, Chicago.
What I missed most: A camelback, darkness, art pieces accentuated by light, Chance the Rapper, Chrome Sparks, Santigold.