North Coast Music Festival 2017: Day One in Review

All photos by Julian Ramirez

North Coast Music Festival: Summer’s Last Stand has finally arrived! The eclectic festival started out their Labor Day weekend stay at Union Park with a nice mix of EDM, funk, soul, and hip hop. It took a little while for the crowds to make their way to the event, but after a few hours the festival grounds were packed!

Here are our takes on Friday’s performances.


North Coast got off to a rough start this year. The gates remained closed until 3pm, the exact time Akenya was supposed to begin performing. This caused her set to be pushed back ten minutes and a sparse crowd in a fest already known for being a daytime ghost town. Scrolling through the lineup on the North Coast app, one will notice that Akenya is also the only featured woman to perform on Friday, making it doubly insulting to have her set cut short.

Despite these setbacks, the Chicago-based singer and her backing band (including guitar, bass, drums, keys, three singers, and brass trio) and two dancers never missed a beat. After a medley of songs she has made guest appearances on (Noname – “Reality Check;” SABA – “American Hypnosis;” Chance the Rapper – “Windows”), she dove into her own original jazz-soul-hip-hop tunes, including “Disappear” and “Sorrow Song,” the latter surprisingly sampling “Last Resort” by Papa Roach (and pulling it off surprisingly well). Akenya’s vocal range is outstanding, operatic at times and confoundingly dynamic. Setting the tone for a festival is never easy but Akenya and her band didn’t seem too fazed by it. Here’s hoping they get a proper time slot next year.
– Andrew Hertzberg


The sun was setting when Bad Bad Not Good took to the Coast Stage. The Toronto-based electro-jazz quartet competed with the thrusting beats of the nearby House Stage, as the stage setups were not ideal for eliminating sound bleed. They played high octane versions mostly from their recent release IV, opening with “Speaking Gently,” drummer Alexander Sowinski not content to play to the album tempo and ramping up the speed.

The band continued to build up the energy throughout the set with tracks like “And That, Too” and “Confessions Part Two,” and with the crowd size only increasing as the set went on, the nearby DJ’s tracks eventually fell to whimpers by the end of BBNG’s set.
– Andrew Hertzberg

Lil Dicky

After a 7 minute DJ set that riled the already hyped crowd up, Lil Dicky emerged to easily the loudest reception of the day. There is no denying the pull this Professional Rapper (as his debut album title and hype man referred to him as) has, whether it’s spitting out a rapid fire flow or belting out a jokingly terrible rendition of the national anthem. Lil Dicky’s homegrown style rapping is infectious and his banter with the crowd just as crude as some of his songs. “This is the part of the show where I expose myself” he uttered early and referenced often throughout his set. The mere mention of pulling out his privates was met with cheers and insistence that he do so, something that wasn’t going to happen. Either way the crowd was all in, making for one of the more electric performances of the day.
– Julian Ramirez


Going into the weekend, Bonobo was one of the artists I was most excited to see and they did not disappoint. Led by producer Simon Green, he played with a full band including at various times a drummer, guitarist, keyboardist, and saxophonist. Szjerdene also came out to sing on a few songs; she was featured on Bonobo’s 2014 album The North Borders.

Bonobo’s newest album Migration, released earlier this year, is full of dynamic and atmospheric downtempo tracks, but everything had an extra kick with the live set, like “Kerala” and “Bambro Koyo Ganda.” They played at the same stage BBNG played at but the bass seemed ten times as loud, perhaps the sound crew overcompensating for the sound bleed. I was expecting a more chill set but the energy of the crowd and on stage, aided by ominous desert and forest visual projections and a hyperactive light show, made for the most intense set of the day.
– Andrew Hertzberg

Gucci Mane

Ok, I get it. The protocol of pumping up the crowd with a DJ set is to be expected from a good portion of hip hop acts. Sometimes you need to prep the crowd, get them going. But it’s NCMF, everyone is already hyped. The crowd descends on the Coast Stage, pushing forward to get as close as humanly possible to the front well before the set started. And by started, I mean with a 20-minute long DJ set. That is far too long for what turned out to be a pretty sedated set from Gucci Mane. I’ll admit though, the crowd was eating up every minute of it. His set was preaching to an already devoted choir screaming out every verse and responding to every call Gucci Mane’s songs demand.
– Julian Ramirez

Andrew Hertzberg
Andrew Hertzberg
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