North Coast Music Festival guarantees Labor Day weekend fun

North Coast Music Festival returns for its fifth year, celebrating half a decade of musically jam packed Labor Day weekends.  It feels rewarding to be able to say I was there for the inaugural festival.  North Coast feels like family.  I would feel comfortable going to the festival by myself, knowing I would run into a friend the minute I walked through the gates.  Before I delve into this year’s lineup and after shows, I’d like to recap the past four years of North Coast Music Festival.

2010 was the inaugural year of North Coast.  I remember everyone buzzing about the hype of a new festival featuring a variety of electronic, hip hop and jam band artists.  The Chemical Brothers took the cake for the best performance that year.  Not only do they rarely play in Chicago, they rarely play in the U.S.  We were very lucky to experience that.  Moby was another special treat, performing a memorable DJ set.  Hometown hero Lupe Fiasco was another great act, along with Nas and Damien Marley’s collaboration.  The artists on the baseball field produced extraordinary paintings during these performances.

2011 brought Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Major Lazer fans dancing on statues, and a giant disco ball rage stick.  Groupon offered ridiculously low prices for three day passes for the first two years.  Hometown hero Common stepped in for a stellar performance.  These first two years were the most exciting due to the vibe of a new festival and the lineups.

“Pupils like marbles hide behind eyelids”.  Atmosphere got that one right, as he headlined in 2012 along with Big Boi, STS9, Girl Talk, Pretty Lights, Umphrey’s McGee and more.  Atmosphere and People Under the Stairs were the most memorable performances.  STS9 performed an incredible sold out show at the House of Blues.

Last year was quite enjoyable despite the rain on Friday night.  The Disco Biscuits returned for their second NCMF performance, tuning in right after the rain storm.  Passion Pit’s instruments were damaged from the rain so they threw down a DJ set, which actually sounded pretty good.  Danny Brown was obnoxious, hilarious, and entertaining.  A-Trak and Claude VonStroke got the crowds dancing like crazy.  Wu-Tang Clan was all the rage and drew in the largest crowd of the weekend, performing 36 Chambers.  Lotus played a great show as always, returning for their second NCMF as well.  Dirty Dozen Brass Band played a great after show at the Bottom Lounge.

This year will be another one for the books.  Everyone’s favorite bands STS9 and Umphrey’s McGee return for the fifth year anniversary.   Bassnectar, and Papadosio are also returning artists this year.    We have the revival of The New Deal, funk masters Lettuce and The Motet, great up and coming bands like Wild Belle, Young Blood Brass Band, and Dopapod.  The infamous Snoop Dogg will surely be puffing away on stage.  Kid Cudi will try to tell us that he is not a lonely stoner.  Bruce Willis will make an appearance at Zed’s Dead.   The crowd will go bananas for Dada Life.

Slightly Stoopid is a classic addition to the lineup as well as Talib Kweli. Beloved Chicago band, Future Rock is always fun to see live, almost as fun as seeing them out and about in the city.  Boombox is always enjoyable.  Emancipator Ensemble will be intriguing and unique.  The Floozies will keep the party going while bass heads will go crazy for Bassnectar.  Dirtybird’s only female DJ, J. Phlip will be spinning as well.

Chicago’s newest venue Concord Music Hall will host a variety of after shows including Lettuce Friday night and The New Deal Saturday night.  Chicago’s favorite local groups Future Rock and Orchard Lounge will be playing together at House of Blues Friday night.    Flyawerks Boat Party features Talib Kweli; who doesn’t want to party on a boat with Talib?  Sunday night’s STS9 after show at the House of Blues sold out in minutes.  Don’t worry. I am sure there will be some last minute bailers to sell their tickets.  Dada Life is throwing down at The Mid.  MK and Kevin Saunderson with J. Philip will be playing at Transit as well.

I see a bright future for North Coast.  Who knows?  Maybe for the tenth anniversary Daft Punk will return for a reunion show and Jay Z will headline as well.  The fest may get so big it will have to move to Grant Park and rival Lollapalooza for the best Chicago festival, but for now I enjoy the smaller close knit feel of North Coast Music Festival stationed in Union Park.

Go to for a full lineup!D

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