Published: September 11, 2013
Photos by: Duncan Ross
Story by: Robert Martin
This year’s festival season was decidedly marked by some brutal storms. The state of Illinois alone saw torrential downpours affect both Summer Camp and EDC Chicago in the same weekend while Arkansas’s Wakarusa Festival was all but ruined by torrential downpours. It was no shock when Mother Nature butted her ugly head one last time at Chicago’s fourth annual North Coast Music Festival. The city’s last outdoor dance music festival of the year, North Coast was hampered by the threat of severe weather in both its opening and closing nights, but despite Friday’s rain delay and Sunday’s early ending, the weekend was another notch in the now sizable belts of Chicago promoters Silver Wrapper and React Presents.
Taking place in Chicago’s west side Union Park, North Coast has established itself as one of the city’s most diverse festivals over the past four years. While its appeal may be less broad than larger events such as Lollapalooza, North Coast boasts a diverse enough lineup to bring everyone from devout hip-hop heads to ravers and brass band enthusiasts out for one last weekend in the city. Although all three days were stacked with artists ranging from Big Gigantic to Danny Brown and Aloe Blacc, these were our top picks for Summer’s Last Stand.
The Disco Biscuits:
After closing the festival for roughly two hours while heavy winds and rain blew through Union Park, North Coast organizers reopened the gates around 7PM and allowed headliners Disco Biscuits and Passion Pit an extra hour of playtime. Unfortunately for the latter, 75% of their gear was destroyed in the storm, forcing the electro-pop act into a less than stellar last-minute DJ set. Thankfully, the Biscuits’ performance went on as planned, while a crowd of unsuspecting kids were destroyed with lasers. The Disco Biscuits headlined the first ever North Coast in 2010, but since then, Chicago (and the rest of the country for that matter) have only had a few rare opportunities to see the Biscuits as a true live unit. Friday night’s set was a true return to form, and one that pulled the crowd in for a mindboggling experience unlike any other over the three days. Mowing through favorites like “Digital Buddha,” the band was on such a higher level than what was being done at the other end of the park, and the bar was set high very early on for everyone that was to follow for the rest of the weekend.
A key element in the birth and subsequent domination of the dubstep movement, Skream has stepped away from the heavier stuff in the last few months to try something new. After months of touring with Benga, Skream is now a solo unit whose deep house and disco appeal is every bit as exciting as the dubs of years past. The changeup in sound fared quite well at North Coast. In a sub-headliner spot, Skream absolutely went off, playing some of the strangest and darkest tunes of anyone all weekend. The completely off-kilter set may have let down the fans who came expecting booming bass, but Skream still managed to capture the crowd with his biting set that included the most bizarre remix I’ve heard this summer.
Edmonton’s Purity Ring neither aims to “turn up” or “run the trap”. What the duo have done is brilliantly manipulate the staple 808 drums to weave some deeply haunting tracks that are still capable of opening the dancefloor. The last act Sunday night before the iconic Wu-Tang Clan, Purity Ring put the North Coast crowd into a pleasant trance after a day full of jiving and wailing from artists like A-Trak and Madeon. Megan James’ vocals translated beautifully into the live spectrum despite the booming nature of the groups tracks and somewhat shaky audio from the festival’s setup. Using a custom drum rig with beat pads that double as triggered lights, producer Corin Roddick simultaneously controlled the group’s intuitive visuals while performing live. The hourlong set was brilliantly understated and a fantastic introduction to Purity Ring for many festivalgoers.