On day two of Mamby on the Beach, I was excited to embark on another day of vacation in Chicago. I couldn’t wait to abandon my sandals again, and to let the sand massage my feet as I danced to Cut Copy. But there were still hours until that moment. So, my first stop was the Silent Disco tent.
I was prepared for some 1970s disco to fill my ears at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and to watch others secretly enjoy the same music with me. I was handed a pair of bulky headphones that suctioned my ears, and the pounding of house music got my legs moving. Every so often, I took my headphones off to observe other members of the Silent Disco jam to what would then sound like nothing.
After about five minutes of this, it was time to do some more aimless walking around until I decided it was only appropriate to start the day with my favorite place: in the sand, right in front of the water. This was the right transition to MUNA‘s set at Beach Stage.
I had listened to MUNA before, in my earbuds on my way to work, but I couldn’t remember this until midway through the set. I recognized her ethereal voice, accompanied by a bass that plays a main role in MUNA’s sound. The words “This is the love that we won’t get right” reminded me of that week two months ago, that MUNA album, About U, was all I could listen to. It also reminded me of my days of selling handbags for a high-end retailer. Just before winter, just before the new year began, using the skills I had only recently begun to learn; to stand my ground, I fought drama and stress that I encountered daily.
MUNA rings in my ears from those days of hurt, and from days that I would rather be lifted. For example, at Mamby on the Beach, frontwoman Katie Gavin tells us that “I Know A Place” was inspired by her Pride Parade experiences, having grown up in Chicago. The most notable line from that song is, “I know a place we can run/ Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon.” Gavin’s voice live sounds identical to its recorded version, and instrumentalists never miss a beat. There is nothing sad about her music; it’s cathartic to listen to, and appropriate for this beach getaway.
Next in line on that same stage was STRFKR, whose recognizable song, “While I’m Alive” was most anticipated by me. I had officially entered a marathon of music for another couple of hours, and I was absolutely okay with not stopping. STRFKR brought an even more relaxing atmosphere to the Beach Stage, with its synthesized sparks, paired with the falsetto, distorted voices of Joshua Hodges, Keil Corcoran and Patrick Morris. I, personally, had no more reason to think of sorrows from the winter time.
STRFKR reminds me of the sounds of the ‘70s. I imagine dancing to STRFKR at prom, as in Sofia Coppola’s ”Virgin Suicides.”
This perfect combination of summer music was added to by Cut Copy, the band I had been waiting all day for. Soaking up such hits as, “Take Me Over,” “Need You Now,” and “Lights & Music,” the crowd basked in the last few moments of the sun’s bright rays. The dark, deep vocals of Dan Whitford contrasts his mixes of what sound literally like colored lights, flashing about the beach, reflecting from the water. Whitford peels away each layer with the touch of a finger. He brings in the sound of a feathery saxophone when it’s least expected, and he does so masterfully with the backing of Mitchell Scott’s drums, Tim Hoey’s guitar, and Ben Browning’s bass.
All I could do was jump. When I thought I was finished with that for awhile before catching the set of headliner Flying Lotus, I decided it might be time to take a seat. I didn’t realize that Park Stage was still showcasing the music of a DJ I had only heard a few times in my life, at my day job. That is, I could still catch the last two songs of Todd Terje and the Olsens. Normally, Terje Olsen (or Todd Terje) performs alone with his turn table. But, this time, he brought along a conga player and brother Olaf Olsen, who played a massive red drum set, with cymbals hanging above his head.
Todd Terje and the Olsens proved to me that I clearly was not finished dancing–or jumping, for that matter. The first song the DJ played was happy and fast, but it had nothing on the famed, “Inspector Norse,” a song I am quite familiar with due to the WGN Radio John Williams segment, “Vibescore.” I couldn’t stop smiling and shouting, “This is awesome!”
While the headliners are what most look forward to, I could at this point easily sit back by the water again, and say that I was satisfied for the weekend. But, I waited patiently, gazing out a chain link fence and into the water, as Flying Lotus prepared to take the Park stage. Flying Lotus (actually named Steven Ellison) brought us back down to earth with his somewhat discombobulated, but beautifully so, mixes of heavy breathing and the electronic versions of the tapping of xylophone keys.
Flying Lotus is a DJ whose music I’ve used as a method of focus, so after the sun had just set, Ellison’s set was actually a better way to end the weekend, to bring us back to a work week mentality. I was prepared to start my Monday with the sound of floating saxophone, drifting through my ears, at my desk.
For those looking for some authentic, technical, and forward-thinking jazz fusion, attendees needed to look no further than Thundercat. Frontman Stephen Bruner sported the bass in this trio, though their sound went beyond that of your normal three-piece. The polyrhythmic precision of these three musicians was absolutely hypnotizing, and for the brief moments that one had the chance to look around at the crowd, it was evident that those that made it out to this performance knew that they were lucky.
Mutemath. What is there to say about these veterans? They rocked. They’ve always rocked. Beyond their tightness as a group and the impeccable tone of lead vocalist Paul Meany, these guys knew how to get down to business. It was refreshing to see such a seasoned band in a daytime festival atmosphere, though surprisingly, my favorite memory came before the first note was even played. It became clear why once they started playing, but there was a solid round of laughter from the audience when drummer Darren King duct taped his headphones to his head, as he knew he would play too aggressively to keep them on otherwise. That’s knowing your system!
Well, how far have Walk The Moon gone in a few short years? It feels like yesterday that “Anna Sun” was a summer anthem with a more or less unknown artist behind it. This writer even saw Walk The Moon as an opener for Young The Giant at The Metro in 2011, and though both bands have made significant strides since then, we have the feeling that the lineup order may be switched if it happened today.
Seemingly the pioneers of the synth-pop obsession, and today somewhat reinventing our expectations of pop with the infectious “Shut Up and Dance,” Walk The Moon performed with the same humbleness that they’ve always had. With a solid blend of new and old material, this young band lived up to expectations as the closer of Mamby 2017, whether you’re coming from the perspective of a long-time fan or the millions that jumped on with their recent hit.