It’s another glorious weekend for music in Union Park. North Coast Music Festival’s 2016 lineup features a range of dynamic acts, from the electronic, to the funk, to the hip-hop. We’ve enjoyed breezy temperatures and a whole lot of good music to keep us company all weekend long, as Friday got the festival up-and-running.
Jamila Woods is exhilarating. Performing in the middle of Friday afternoon while many people were (assumedly) still at work, the crowd for Woods is small but thriving. Draped in the afternoon sun and with a gentle breeze, Woods’ performance is a quiet storm containing the restrained muscle of R&B and smooth jazz with clear pop sensibilities. Throughout her set, Woods effortlessly shifts from neo-soul songs about love in the face of adversity to funk covers of Kid Cudi’s “Day n Nite” and back again.
Large spacious drums and the sound of horns fill the air as Woods leads her band with cool grace singing the absolutely majestic of “Blk Girl Soldier”, her song about the empowerment of black women. It sounds soaring. We just wish more people were around to see it.
I wasn’t entirely familiar with The Revivalist’s sound when I found myself at their stage, but within a few moments I became a fan. They are a New Orleans band and sound like it, combining pieces of jazz, blues, and jam band aesthetics into an infectious package.
While the early hours of the fest were a little barren in terms of audience members, The Revivialists were able to garner a sizable crowd that seemed to connect quite heavily with the band. Countless people were transfixed by the band (likely due to the impressive and evocative solos from saxophonist Rob Ingraham) asking who they were and instantly falling for their danceable tunes just like I did.
The Revivalists reached a high point during their penultimate song “Wish I Knew You”. It displayed every element that the band was building up to this point. The southern rock guitar sound interlaced with the jazz undertones of the sax incredibly smoothly as vocalist David Shaw belted out the catchy lyrics.
When the end of their set time loomed mere moments away, Shaw pointed out to the crowd and acknowledged a birthday song request. Familiar guitar riffs bellowed out into the crowd as the band dived headlong into a heavy and faithful cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” The song had The Revivalists at their most raw and bombastic, leaving North Coast with a perfect picture of their musical abilities.
With his vivid tales of hedonism and the morally ambiguous pursuit of an American Dream that may no longer exist, a Juicy J show is like a wild and out of control house party in a ’90s teen comedy where the main character’s parents are out of town for the weekend.
“Weed is legal in Chicago!” Juicy J screams to a fervent crowd of disciples shortly after inviting a few of his fans on stage to do shots with him. An absolutely massive mosh pit breaks out as he runs through “Bandz A Make Her Dance” and his part on Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” Later during the set, he paid homage to his humble Memphis roots with a series of Three 6 Mafia covers. As I watched hundreds of people lose their minds to “Stay High”, Sippin On Some Syrup”, and “Who Run it”, I realized that these songs are just as incendiary as they were a decade or so ago. Juicy J pauses for a moment after covering Three 6, smiling as he recognizes his past yet eager to write his own future.
The noise bleed that has become customary of NCMF has been a little more bearable with one less stage this year, but that may have been brought to an end during Sleigh Bells‘ set. Despite initially coming out to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’”, Alex Krauss and Derek Miller (and a touring guitarist Ryan) tore onto the stage with and unapologetically loud “Tell ‘Em”. The song smashed into the crowd’s bodies with no remorse, as a couple next to me remarked how they could feel the music in their chest and throat.
Things only got louder and more entertaining after that as Krauss let loose. She and her stage mates have an intense kinetic chemistry, playing off each other’s energy so well as they bounced of each other after every momentary meetup. Krauss, the consummate performer, twirled and dashed across the stage with a headbanger’s fervor, slowing down only to thank the crowd between songs.
While Sleigh Bells are touring in support of their upcoming album Jessica Rabbit, the set relied heavily on their debut album Treats, playing nearly half of that album throughout the set. Familiar favorites like “Infinity Guitars” and “Crown on the Ground” were peppered in at the right times to get the crowd hyped. Not that they need it: everyone was frantic about Sleigh Bells. New songs like “Number One” absorbed the crowd just as well as any of the older hits. Plus, with Krauss constantly finding herself at the edge of crowd dancing and singing right in the arms, there was no way the crowd wasn’t going to be into the performance.
Sleigh Bells finished their set with “A/B Machines”, raising the audio levels way higher than before. Any doubt to the opening song’s question of “Did you do your best today?” was put to rest thanks to this exuberant performance.