I noted in my preview that the starring role at Mamby on the Beach is the music showcased on four stages: Park, Beach, Mixmag, and Silent Disco. On the contrary, after having spent an entire day at the beach, feet sliding through the sand, and feeling as though I was on my first vacation in two years, I am reassigning roles.
Lake Michigan is the protagonist of Mamby on the Beach. Physically, the biggest and most noticeable character is that lake. I have an anxious tendency, especially when I know I will be surrounded by crowds for eight to 10 hours, but the setting of this festival brought me the most inner peace I’ve experienced in perhaps months.
My purpose in attending this festival is now just to meander from stage to stage, from art installation to pop-up shop and from activity to activity, all the while smelling the water and relaxing my feet in the sand.
One of my first experiences after traipsing around for awhile, was watching Afrokilla paint an art installation towards the middle of the festival grounds. When I asked Afrokilla to give me a glimpse of the symbolism behind this geometric piece, he explained that its purpose is to “give people an awesomely great and fun thing to look at when at the fest, to change the experience a bit.”
Fair enough. As I ate my hot dog, covered in pickle slices and sauerkraut, I watched him graffiti this piece, made solely from white cardboard.
After sitting in the sand and listening to some hard bass-ridden Will Clarke and Justin Jay EDM by the Mixmag stage, my bones got a jolt and I was ready to take on Phoebe Ryan per a friend’s suggestion. Her voice soothed while giving me a new outlet by which to get excited for the evening ahead.
All anxiety from the start of the day had depleted. Phoebe Ryan performed “Mine,” a song whose beauty stems from her crooning and of her words of independence and patience. Her tone exhibits maturity and excitement for what is to come, while defying desperation for more.
After a short visit with her, I was ready to head back to Beach Stage to catch the end of Raury. I was curious to hear his live sound after having done some research, and was pleasantly surprised by his ability to keep me on my feet. That’s in spite of the amount of space there still was to lazily sprawl in the sand, and be able to see the stage from the ground. As Matt mentions later in his review, Raury’s objective is to bring the audience together, and to be optimistic in hard times.
Raury’s last few songs had me jumping, but I was preparing myself for Marian Hill, whose hit, “Down”, is easily recognizable by its first piano riffs. But it’s most famous for its build into her electronic motif of repeated words by way of machine.
Mamby flaunts another smooth vocal through Marian Hill’s Samantha Gongol, whose DJ, Jeremy Lloyd, complements her sound with great precision. After Marian Hill left the stage, I stuck around to satisfy my high school and early college cravings of Miike Snow and MGMT. Moving to the middle section of the crowd, I got closer as Miike Snow played hits including, “Silvia,” “Animal,” and “Cult Logic.” With Miike Snow’s performance, the crowd shifted its attention to focus mainly on the stage. Conversations began to dwindle, as we swayed together with strangers and sang the lyrics.
Then the sun dropped, and 8 o’clock finally rolled around to help us welcome an immaculate light show and major flash back by MGMT. The band didn’t do much talking, save for a “How are you all doing?” and a, “Well ya look great!” imitating the voice of an old guy who’s had a bit too much to smoke in his life span. That one was right in my territory of improvisational comedy.
But more importantly, MGMT brought masterfully to its audience such classics as “The Youth,” “Time to Pretend” and “Kids.” As whimsical as the sound of MGMT is, the most notable element to its live production is its crispness. I felt the bass bring a delightful chill to my skin as I listened to the words of Singer Ben Goldwasser float across the top of the audience with ease. Everything about the live sound of MGMT is clean and beautifully delivered, even with a lake directly to its left.
OddCouple, the Closed Sessions producer, was one of the first to grace a Mamby stage on this perfect Saturday afternoon. While Zach Henderson needs no help with stage presence, the Milwaukee native was joined on stage by a bassist and keyboardist, both of which sang through what appeared to be a melodica. The entire set was a perfect way to start off the weekend with energy, particularly when Joey Purp joined for the final song.
Next up was Ravyn Lenae. With her first major, public performance in Chicago since a two-night showing at the Metro alongside NoName, Ravyn Lenae energized the crowd at the Beach Stage with whimsy and impeccable vocal control. Performing such tracks as “Unknown” and others from Midnight Moonlight, Ravyn repeated “I promise to move my body” to the crowd and received just that promise back, though some were too enamored with her own stage presence to even worry about their own bodies.
This Chicagoan, at only 19, dazzled the crowd with her fluttering vocals over often polyrhythmic instrumentals. Her cover of “Crazy” was unlike any that has ever been heard, and may ever be heard. Joined at one point on stage by Smino, it’s becoming more clear with every performance that this girl is here to stay.
Now eight months following the highly anticipated release of Bucket List Project, Westside native Saba showed just how much he’s grown in those months. Opening with “Stoney” and closing with “Church / Liquor Store,” Saba’s stage presence was unmatched, particularly to those that had seen him even a short time ago.
As a member of Pivot Gang, there’s no surprise that Saba was joined on stage by MfN Melo and Joseph Chilliams, among many others throughout the set. There was also a dedication to dinnerwithjohn, a fellow Pivot member that was killed last year. This has become a large piece of unity for the remaining Pivot members, who often include #ForeverJohnWalt in their social media posts. Saba himself was also wearing a jean jacket dedicated to him.
Saba may have stolen the show on day 1, and rightfully so, as he may be at the top of these lineups as early as next summer.
Random quote from Raury’s set: “There’s a lot going on in the world that’s got us pissed off, and there’s never been a more important time for me to be up here rapping to you. Turn to your neighbor on your left, and turn to one on your right, and give them a hug. Tell them that you love them and spread positivity, because that’s what we are here for today.”
Keeping the local love strong, BJ The Chicago Kid’s set was one of vibrant soul influence. He spoke to the audience about the strong influence Marvin Gaye had on one of his three Grammy-nominated songs, and showcased a vocal range that is often forgotten about with his rapping.