Finally the North Coast Music Festival schedules aligned and gates opened 15 minutes before any of the performers began their sets. It doesn’t seem like much but after two day of scrambling through the gates to see performances either already going or getting cut short, it was a pleasant surprise.
Sunday was filled with welcome surprises that elevated the day’s festivities. From enthusiastic performances and special guests you wouldn’t have expected, the final day of Summer’s Last Stand was a wonderful way to cap off the fest!
As I wrote in the preview for the fest, Rich Jones is all over the Chicago hip-hop scene, from being in the spotlight himself to showcasing other talent at the monthly All Smiles series. Jones and his backing band’s Sunday afternoon set was full of smooth funk and pop songs, like “Everything” and “Chasing Lights” from last year’s Vegas EP and “Lies, Lies, Lies” and “Wake, Eat, Sleep” from 2015’s Pigeons and Waffles. The set also featured guest appearances from Show You Suck for the recently released “Dean Ween” and Mykele Deville on “No Clue.” Jones played another new track dedicated to the Mothman sightings happening around Chicago this summer. Safe to say I’m looking forward to the new Light Work EP planned to drop later this year.
Towards the end of the set, Julian texted me about a Chicago rapper who’s watching Jones’ set but isn’t scheduled to perform today. I wonder if…nah, couldn’t be.
Rich Jones’ set was pushed to stage right, occupying only half of the already cozy confines of the Coast stage. This only made his performance feel more intimate and alluring as he and the band nestled together and belted out their crowd-pleasing songs. Jones’ smooth vocals that wove through funky pop instrumentals shone bright and attracted a nice crowd of friends and brand new fans. Between Show You Suck and Mykele Deville’s guest appearances, another local rapper was hanging out in the crowd and enjoying the collaborations happening on stage. Everyone was too enthralled by Jones and co.’s amazing stage presence to look back and realize that Chance was jamming out just as much as they were.
Afternoon Medley – Kasbo, Vallis Alps, Elephante
On Saturday, Andrew and I spoke about how the majority of NCMF attendees seemed to jump around from set to set with reckless abandon. There is this almost constant state of FOMO happening at the festival, something that I felt most strongly on this final day.
While watching Kasbo effortlessly handle original and remixed songs (a slowed down Post Malone “Congratulations” was particularly great) at his command station, surrounded by drum machines and various equipment, I felt the urge to walk over to the North Stage. Here Vallis Alps, the duo of producer David Ansari and vocalist Parissa Tosif, were putting on one of the most tender and beautiful performance of the fest. Ansari’s electronic mosaic of sounds perfectly supported Tosif’s vocals, which felt serene and ethereal as the sun hung low in the sky. After a few moments my whims drove me back to the Coast stage, where Elephante was pumping up a crowd with his tight DJ set. This constant moving around, never fully experiencing one set, was something I initially lamented. But after having taken in so many great moments just sifting through stages, I can see why so many of NCMF’s crowds are constantly switching it up. That being said, there was no way I was going to step away from The Cool Kids set.
The Cool Kids
Another highly anticipated set of the weekend, Chicago hip-hop duo the Cool Kids (Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish) did not disappoint. The bass-heavy set was a homecoming of sorts. Even though they’ve been playing out earlier this year, the duo was mostly on hiatus between 2011 and now. Buzz has continued to build for their new album Special Edition Grand Master Deluxe due out September 15. Their set featured a lot of new material including singles ‘TV Dinner’ and ‘Connect Four,’ as well as favorites from 2008’s Bake Sale ‘Bassment Party,’ ‘Mikey Rocks,’ and ‘Gold and a Pager.’ They even played ‘Freak City’ from 2010 mixtape Tacklebox.
The photo pit cleared out after the third song, which is standard for a music fest but the rule seemed unenforced throughout most of the weekend at the Coast stage. Rumors were growing all day and when the Cool Kids started talking about a special guest, everyone’s hopes were confirmed. Chance the Rapper came out to do a medley of ‘No Problem,’ ‘All Night,’ and his verse from ‘I’m the One,’ before closing the set out with Cool Kids originals ‘What Up Man’ and ‘Black Mags.’ Chance was noticeably emotional when he mentioned how much the Cool Kids mean to him, having crashed with Inglish and meeting one of his engineers through Mikey. Since Chance released 10 Day in 2012, he’d never had the opportunity to play with his mentors until now. Easily the best set of the weekend.
As Andrew mentioned, there were rumors circulating all morning about Chance making a performance appearance at the fest. Initially it felt like his presence was only to watch the acts, something that wouldn’t be too far-fetched even with his celebrity status. But as the rumors persisted, I eschewed my photo pit privileges and dove deep into the crowd for the Cool Kids set. I had just seen them perform at House of Blues and was blown away by their charisma and flawless flows. If there was any chance that Chance would come out and perform with them, I wan’t going to miss it.
When the premonitions came true, it was other worldly. This was Chance the Rapper at his most energetic and appreciative, performing with people he looks up to and admires, not only as mentors but as friends. The Cool Kids were on fire without Chance, but with him they were unstoppable. This surprise was one for the books of North Coast and everyone in attendance knew it.
Primus delivered a career-spanning set, opening up with a “YYZ” teaser before going into “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver,” complete with creepy foam-rubber-cowboy music video in the background. This was followed by “Too Many Puppies” from the band’s first album and then “Sgt. Baker” off Sailing the Seas of Cheese. A fan walking by said to me “These guys fucking suck” and I couldn’t tell if he meant that as a compliment or an astute criticism. Either way, not much can be said for Les Claypool’s bass-playing that hasn’t already been covered a million times. His precision is incredible and I’m glad it’s something I finally got to see. The trio continued on with a new single from an upcoming album The Seven, making clever use of 7/8 timing.
Claypool switched to an upright electric bass and bow for the “Candyman,” and they closed out the set with perennial-favorites “My Name is Mud” and “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver.” Not done yet, Claypool came out on bass during Ween’s set to perform ‘The Mollusk,” Sunday ending on a brilliant note that actually has me thinking maybe North Coast isn’t such a bad festival after all.
Primus sucks! PRIMUS SUCKS! I like Primus.
Ween is a band unlike any other. Their sound is determined by whatever whim Gene Ween and Dean Ween (Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo) had on a particular song or in some cases a particular album. Oh, let’s try a sarcastic country album? Sure, why not? How about a song about a dying horse? Ok. and the best part of those songs, is that they’re all amazing. Their sets are career/genre/rarities/mood spanning affairs complete with facemelters like “Take Me Away,” which reminds you that Freeman is a madman vocalist and Deaner’s guitar skills are unparalleled. Then take into account Les Claypool sitting in with the band to perform “The Mollusk” and there is something so extraordinary about the moment that you let yourself be taken in by their collective oddity and weirdness. It’s days like these that keep the spirit of North Coast alive.
All photos by Julian Ramirez