The Reinvention of North Coast at Northerly Island
Last week, thousands experienced the new North Coast at Northerly Island. With huge names Bassnectar, Major Lazer, Tchami, Jauz, Gorgon City and more, the festival was packed with great music. Held at a new location at the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, the festival felt like something completely new. This year marked the 10th anniversary of North Coast. The aura of the festival didn’t feel like North Coast, but this wasn’t a negative. While the vibes and venue were different, they were still positive and full of dancing.
North Coast at Northerly Island made the festival feel like a fair. While there weren’t any carnival rides, there were corndogs and plenty of fun. The venue itself was spacious and could have held many more people than in attendance. The grass wasn’t natural, but it added a unique feel when laying down and listening to the stage in the near distance. On the grassy knoll were live painters, colorful artwork, and unique art installations.
This year’s festival had 4 stages. The Pavilion Stage held the headlining acts such as Bassnectar, Tchami, Gorgon City and Major Lazer. The stage had stadium seating which very few people actually used aside from the VIP Lounge. Those with “Floor” tickets could be on the dance floor directly in front of the stage. Those with “Lawn” tickets were pushed back a bit on the grass. Security had a tough time keeping some from jumping the barrier because there was truly plenty of room for everyone in the sectioned off area. There wasn’t much of a reason to split the festival in that way. Those with Floor wristbands could go from the Pavilion Stage to the other stages and back while those on the lawn could really only see this stage at a distance. The split allowed for plenty of dancing room but excluded many for no real reason aside from selling price-tiered tickets.
The Hangar Stage was the only covered stage at the festival, so the light show was available even in midday. The stage had many of the harder electronic artists and became the rage stage of the festival. Jauz, Anna Lunoe, Flux Pavilion, Dirt Monkey and more all took the stage for some serious headbanging. Only the sweatiest of ragers stuck around the Hangar for extended periods of time. The stage was also a nice escape from the rain on Saturday.
The GoodBus brought an intimate feel and has become one of our favorite traveling stages around Chicago. GoodSex and their collective of local and national friends hosted quite the party. The grassy dancefloor and lawn furniture made the stage feel like the coolest backyard BBQ this decade. The dancing did not cease at this stage and it was a perfect place to post up and chill in the grass while still enjoying some funky tunes. The Silent Disco was so popular, many had to wait in line to get headphones and get inside. The coolest and quietest place at any festival, it seems people are finally picking up on the fact that silent discos are really cool.
The overall sound and production at North Coast were just as flawless as previous years. From the pyrotechnics at Bassnectar to the vocal quality of Gorgon City, the event pulled off some amazing challenges.
North Coast Music Festival always had a lineup that reflected the diversity and culture of the Chicago music scene. Each year, artists from around the globe in hip-hop, indie, pop, and electronic took the stage. This year’s North Coast at Northerly Island leaned more toward the electronic side of things. While this writer isn’t about to complain, others who attended the festival in the past might not agree with the decision to cut some more diverse aspects of North Coast. Differences aside, all the artists who took the stage truly brought something special. The lineup was smaller but allowed for long set times and a lot of movement throughout the festival.
Young Bae spun his own version of several classics during his set, bringing people the floor for singing and dancing rarely seen at a festival. The familiar tunes brought the whole crowd together as one. Bassnectar played a hard-hitting set that seemed very catered to North Coast and wasn’t as bass-heavy as expected. Gorgon City and Big Wild brought captivating live music to a DJ/Producer- filled lineup. While their sets also boasted a dance feel, it was nice to see the magic happen in front of your eyes. i_o was a weekend highlight, spinning great tunes and adding some much needed heavy bass drops. Tchami brought the dark beats to the festival. Complete with his stained glass backdrop, we were all brought to a different type of church. Plaid Hawaii and GoodSex brought the funky house tunes to the GoodBus and helped everyone dance the rain off on Saturday. This writer’s favorite set of the weekend was Anna Lunoe. Out of the gate, her set caught the ears of everyone in the Hangar and held on throughout the whole set. Her musical repertoire and flawlessly smooth delivery made her stand out not only as a female but as a talented DJ.
The largest criticism of the weekend had to be the festival’s concessions. Oversized beers and prices are to be expected at any festival, but $10 for a 5oz glass of cheap wine is a bit of a stretch. The local food trucks of the old North Coast were a thing of the past. Replaced by food one would find at the county fair. The food was all pre-made and put in warmers so that $12 order of 3 chicken strips and fries were hours old and anything but hot. Next year, we recommend coming to the festival with a full belly and lots of cash if drinking is on the agenda.
Overall, North Coast at Northerly Island was a blast. the music was great, the venue was large, and the vibes were amazing. The festival was vastly different than those of the previous 9 years, but change is inevitable and we hope that those in attendance had as much fun as we did dancing in the rain. We can’t wait to see what next year will potentially bring.