Over the Labor Day weekend, I had the unique opportunity to attend the 12e anniversary of the North Shore Music Festival. This being my first festival since the Warped Tour in 2007, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew there would be a LOT of fun with over 100 artists on 4 different stages in 3 days. I couldn’t have asked for better weather this weekend; it never got hotter than 80-85 degrees with an almost constant cooling breeze, ensuring we could all focus on having a good time instead of finding the nearest shady spot (or maybe being that it’s just me, I’m fading in the sun!).
I was worried about having a hydrated festival adventure, as ravers notoriously need a serious water replenishment after even one set, let alone 10 hours of non-stop EDM. Luckily, NCMF thought ahead by including water stations at a few spots on the festival grounds where people could refill their water bottles or drink directly from the fountain – all of which were filtered!
I knew there would be interactive art installations all over the festival site, but the details of the rainbow acorn walk and the giant tree man really blew my mind. These, among other art installations, served as the perfect backdrop for Instagram photos and a place where festival-goers could take time to scramble on the rail.
The North Coast Music Festival has changed a lot over the years and has steadily become more EDM focused – this year was no different and featured headliners like Illenium, Porter Robinson and Armin Van Buuren, and even Diplo.
Music was at the center of the festival, but the outfits worn by festival goers and costumers played a big part in the super fun weekend. Not only was there a giant robot on stilts and an alien girl/cat hybrid, but also tons of traditional rave outfits, including a ton of “candy” (rave jewelry made from plastic beads).
The staging of disguised people was increased tenfold by each of the 4 stage productions. The Vega, Canopy, and Stadium stages all had massive LED walls displaying each artist’s unique visual selection in correlation with their decor, not to mention fog machines and lasers. If the combination of lasers and bass music that your body can’t stop moving to doesn’t make you want to stomp, then pyrotechnics will. The fireworks and pyrotechnics across Seat Geek Stadium, the Vega Stage and the Fire Pit were not only stunning, but a welcome burst of heat towards the end of Sunday when things really started to cool down outside. outside.
Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the whole festival was the Chill Dome. The Chill Dome covers a full field of air-conditioned laser-filled space paired with a different DJ every hour. There were pillows strewn about, providing some much-needed comfy downtime between everyone’s favorite DJ sets under the sun.
The Canopy Stage also offered some respite from the sun, its vine-adorned shade structure extending across a grass-green dance floor. The coolest house music I’ve ever heard kept a steady stream of people coming to sway and vibe. With DJ styles from Eli & Fur, Hotto, Kaytranada, TSHA and Diplo, it’s no wonder the canopy is almost always full.
One of the most memorable performances, and the one that’s close to my heart now was Channel Tres, aka. Sheldon Young of Compton, CA. Channel’s EDM beats and rap diverted me from the path I was on in search of the best nachos a festival had to offer. I was not disappointed to witness an exquisite and choreographed dance performance by Channel Tres and her backup dancers. Her outfit alone would have solidified this as my favorite performance of the festival.
Another favorite was TSHA. Teisha Matthews graced the Canopy Stage on Sunday, bringing us a distinct and exciting sound from London, UK. The TSHA ensemble was a breath of fresh air and with such a fresh face to match. His smile and his boogie on stage were contagious!
Slander’s set at the Stadium was the most fiery and electric set of the weekend. The American DJ duo (Scott Land and Derek Anderson) hail from Los Angeles, California. Their signature trap-trance style that pioneered the genre gave us absolutely no break, only dancing.
Baynk had such a cold stage presence; I almost forgot I was at an EDM festival, because as I walked up to the stage (a few minutes into his set) I saw the sweet New Zealand vision wielding a saxophone. Baynk sounds like the kind of person who would ask questions about your day and be genuinely interested in the answer, and his catchy, vibrant music conveyed that to me before I even saw his face.
Porter Robinson’s set on Sunday night was uplifting and inspiring. I loved the piano on stage that he played live; his set also included live vocals that he edited to create a unique experience, especially when they didn’t turn him off at the start of his banter with the audience. I’m sure not many people noticed, but I did, and it was great. Behind him, on the LED wall, were phrases like “I can do something good”, “I cherished the flowers”, and “I’m still here”. These visuals gave me a glimpse of what he overcame, which I think everyone can relate to.
The festival welcomed DJs from all over the world, but I believe that Hugo Pierre Leclercq, better known as Madeon, was perhaps the only French artist and producer to join us in Chicago. Madeon’s set started with minimalist visuals that drew in the audience as he appeared on stage as a figure against the LED wall behind him, flashing patterns, colors and animation that all synced perfectly. with the feeling of his songs. About 7 minutes into the set, Madeon dramatically left her silhouetted podium to stand and greet the audience with a raised hand met with the crescendo of electronic music and a spotlight. The marching figures that passed the LED wall later brought a sense of militaristic doom.
Trevor Christensen is a music producer from Colorado who goes by the name of professional artist Said The Sky. Said The Sky’s performance at the Stadium on Saturday was the kind of set that makes you happy to be alive. The dreamy visuals paired with waves of uplifting music got her audience emotive and ready to dance.
Jai Wolf, a Bangladeshi-American producer living in New York, gave an exceptional set to his many fans at the Stadium on Sunday evening. His production was simpler, but it fitted perfectly with his characteristic melodic style (reminiscent of Chvrches). His indie-dance anthems hit even harder than they do when you’re driving a little too fast in your car in the middle of Indian Summer (not to mention experience or whatever).
The Vega scene has hosted a slew of dubstep artists including Jeff Montalvo, known to most as the Seven Lions. His mix of genres includes electro house, glitch hop, drums and bass and dubstep which, when seen live, are intense, some would say life changing. The visual aspect of her performance was mysterious and confident.
Must Die!, aka Lee Austin Bates, is a dubstep artist who is best known for his track “VIP’s”, a collaboration with the iconic Skrillex. It was one of the most memorable performances overall, mainly because he started the set by shouting “Who’s ready to S**K some D**K?!”. That’s when a security guard looked at me and said, “Man… It’s only 4 p.m. How weirder is today going to be? »
“Svdden Death Presents: Voyd” was the title of the final Vega stage performance on Sunday night. I got ready like I always do, walking to the security gate a few minutes before the set started hanging out with my favorite security guards. Unfortunately, I was escorted out of the photo booth by one of the DJ’s security guards as Svdden Death’s alias Voyd does not allow the press to cover the set. I chose to watch from the audience and was not disappointed (although my camera was). Voyd is a truly terrifying alien creature with antlers that gave away the weekend’s malevolent set, hands down. There was fire, lasers, kicks, and necks were most definitely snapped (headbanging lingo, I’m an EDM kid now).
This review of the latest North Coast Music Festival was written by Shaela Johnston. You can see more of his work here.