I’ve been making my way around the Chicago music festival circuit for a while now. And while our city has some truly notable fests, North Coast Music Festival has held a special place in my heart. Despite the fact that North Coast was my first ever music festival, I think the festival is pretty great for many reasons.
For one – it has a heavy focus on the local, tending to put emphasis on highlighting all things Chicago. North Coast always makes sure to enlist the talents of local musicians, visual artists, and businesses. Secondly, it’s one of the most laid back music festivals that you can attend in Chicago. Whether you’re a festival newbie or an introvert with social anxiety (cough, me), North Coast is a pleasant change of pace from the rather overcrowded and busy festivals that Chicago is known for. North Coast also has pretty amazing scheduling, making it easy to catch any and all acts that you want to see throughout the weekend.
That being said, this year’s North Coast was… an interesting experience, and maybe not for the best of reasons.
– Pearl Tiffany Shin
Like most three day festivals, day one is typically a little empty. I wasn’t surprised that the crowds weren’t out in full force, leaving much of Union Park’s grounds open. The main stages didn’t really suffer too much as the crowds gravitated towards them with effortless ease, but the Monaco DJ focused stage remained barren for much of the day. However, part of the issue was likely due to all the stages being DJ focused on Friday (7 acts were DJs, 3 hip hop artists, 2 soul/R&B, and 1 jam band). It was a bit of a shame especially with Kaina + Sen Morimoto, Pachanga!, and Iris Temple doing a live set at the smaller more intimate Monaco stage.
Despite the overwhelming DJ presence, there were a few acts that were able to gather up the crowd with a different sound. Bryce Vine impressed early on with his instantly catchy hip hop tracks, including “Drew Barrymore” and “Glamorama”. His smooth delivery definitely had a portion of the crowd entranced, but being so early in the day, there were still people wandering around the fest try to acclimate to their surroundings.
Those surrounding of course feature vendors with NCMF appropriate wares (hat pins & Pashmina scarves galore!) and as always, North Coast’s arts scene which was on point with live paintings and murals on display all weekend, showcasing some gorgeous works. There was definitely a little less representation than previous years, particularly inside the Silent Disco where most of the art was usually displayed. But it could be just a case of everything being spread out across the festival.
Once some time had past and the after-work crowd got in, North Coast finally started feeling like its usual self. Juice Wrld especial brought an energy to the day that was honestly missing before his arrival. The local rapper was joined by friends, family, and a little boy throughout his set. Full of unbridled energy, Juice Wrld got the crowd going with some lyrics that I reckon most people would not approve for the four year old who was lip singing along on stage. Nonetheless, the experience was odd, surreal, absurd, and pretty damn fun.
The fun kept going as Too Many Zooz was easily the biggest breath of fresh air on day one with their incredibly fun set. Boisterous and down right joyous, the three piece brought a much need live sound to the main stages and kept the energy up for their entire time on stage. Which is saying something as Leo Pellegrino dashed around the stage playing a gigantic baritone saxophone. It looked like an exhausting feat, one that he and the rest of the band were more than happy to supply to the growing crowds at the fest.
After catching the start of Snails DJ set and perusing the vendor shops, I started to make my way towards the Monaco stage to get ready for The Cool Kids DJ set, when my attention shifted over to DVSN, the musical project of Daniel Daley and Nineteen85. The Canadian R&B duo was represented by Daley and and some backup singers onstage, belting out some pretty incredible sounds. Daley commanded the stage with his smooth R&B so well that its no surprised that he’s signed to Drake’s OVO Sounds.
However, DVSN’s excellent set was short lived as rain started to make its way toward the festival. What at first felt like a light drizzle quickly became a down pour that would not end. I eventually made by way to a beer tent and hid from the rain with other festival goers, including Mikey Rocks of The Cool Kids. Despite all hopes and efforts, NCMF was shut down for the night, cutting sets short and outright canceling acts like Axwell /\ Ingrosso, the aforementioned Cool Kids DJ set, and Miguel (who ended up performing at Concord Music Hall). It was a sad end to to the first day of NCMF, one that would unfortunately occur again the following day.
All photos by Pearl Tiffany Shin