Concert Review: Wavefront Music Festival (Day 1 - Friday, July 5 at Montrose Beach)

Concert Review: Wavefront Music Festival (Day 1 - Friday, July 5 at Montrose Beach)

With one of the best weather forecasts so far this summer (and an extended holiday weekend), thousands flocked to the lakefront for performances by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, Cedric Gervais and more on day one of the 2013 Wavefront Music Festival... 

Eighty and sunny.

Finally, after weeks and months of rain and cool temps, comes a decent Chicago weather forecast... and just in time for not only the fourth of July but a plethora of outdoor festivals throughout the city.

I live only blocks from Montrose Beach and for years have been mystified by its ability to remain one of Uptown's hidden gems (if not the city's).

For the second consecutive year though, thousands swarmed the city's northern lakefront discovering Montrose Beach amidst waves of electronic music on day one of the Wavefront Music Festival.

Unbeknownst to those who often opt instead for the sexier confines of North Avenue and Oak Street, Montrose Beach is actually the city's largest.  More space and more parking make Montrose Beach unique in its ability to host four stages of live music across a newly expanded Wavefront Music Festival, which, for the first time, now spans three days.

Unlike a festival like Pitchfork, which calls Union Park its home on the city's west side, Wavefront takes advantage of its space.  There's plenty of room, it's easy to navigate, they don't oversell it and you can always break away from the crowd.  Stages are definitely too close and for the music aficionado sound bleed will be the biggest complaint... but it's worth noting that I didn't exactly see people complaining Friday afternoon.

Aside from the sound bleed, the only real drawback to the Wavefront setup is the placement of the bathrooms.  There are none located within any real proximity to a main stage for general admission ticketholders.  You have to actually leave the beach entirely because all bathrooms are set up off of the beach itself, on the west side of the festival's northern perimeter.  Quite frequently, people seemed to be paying attention to everything but what was going on on the stage Friday afternoon... but it's still less than ideal.  That said, at least there seemed to be a sufficient number of them and, as a result, no long lines.

2013 Wavefront Music Festival - Montrose Beach, Chicago

Photo by Jim Ryan

Weather couldn't have been better Friday with a cool breeze off the lake helping festivalgoers to beat the heat and views of the city and lake from atop the ferris wheel and water slide aren't likely to be topped at any other local festival this summer.

Onto the music...

Crowds might have been bigger later on but Chris Lake certainly had people moving early Friday afternoon on the first day of the 2013 Wavefront Music Festival.  The British house DJ, flanked onstage by several dancers, was a stark contrast to the more laid-back vibe I experienced across the beach during Gus Gerber's set.

"If ya had it, would ya flaunt it?" asked the sample during Ida Engberg's set.  Judging from the beach-ready attire of those around me, the answer Friday at the Wavefront Music Festival seemed to be a resounding "Yes!"

"Do you know where I can find Molly?"  Cedric Gervais chose to ask a slightly more tongue in cheek question Friday (though the answer was equally as obvious).  "She makes me want to dance" roared the crowd in what became the most call-and-response moment of day one.  One of the more enthusiastic on Friday, Gervais' crowd drowned out, almost completely at times, the live performance of Holy Ghost going on simultaneously at the festival's center, in the tent, on the "Legends" stage.

Made up of six members (keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals and electronic elements), Holy Ghost made for the only actual live performance Friday.  Featuring dual live drumming on some tracks and two live keyboard players on others, Holy Ghost combined live instrumentation with electronics on songs more closely resembling rock than anything else I heard on Friday (always with a thumping beat and at times reminiscent of early MGMT).

It's unfortunate the vocals inside the tent were completely buried, for the most part, by the performances surrounding it on the other three main stages.  "Wow!  That stuff is really loud!" concurred LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy as he took to the "Legends" stage asking for more volume in preparation for a set that began with house music but was initially marred by technical problems that delayed his scheduled start.

- Jim Ryan

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