North Coast Music Festival
Union Park // Chicago, IL // August 31-September 2, 2018
North Coast brought Jamiroquai to Chicago for the first time in 17 years.
It’s never a good sign when the weekend of a festival calls for thunderstorms. Chicagoans are used to it, though. Nearly every year of Pitchfork and Riot Fest, rain rolls in and turns the grounds into marsh, and fans adapt by wearing their favorite rain boots. But North Coast was not so lucky. The 3-day festival is a hodge-podge of hip-hop, EDM, bluegrass, and lo-fi that combines all of the elements that React Presents is known for. Their headliners this year included Miguel, DJ Snake, and Jamiroquai, but only Jamiroquai would be lucky enough to perform.
Friday started out strong with performances from current hip-hop stars Juice Wrld and Smokepurpp, both drawing massive crowds. While Smokepurpp played off of more low-key beats and had a more chill demeanor, Juice Wrld’s show was the epitome of hyper trap music, with the 19-year old Chicagoan jumping across the stage at every bass drop. His set was one of the most energetic of the day, rivaled only by brasshouse trio Too Many Zooz. The trio of instrumentalists became famous for playing rowdy, fun tunes on the New York Subway and have since brought their contagious beats to festivals across the country. They had the crowd dancing and cheering along while the sky shifted from a sunny blue to a more ominous gray.
By 8pm, R&B crooner DVSN played at the North Stage as pop star Miguel’s team prepared his elaborate set on the main stage. Just a few minutes later, a huge gust of wind blew through the park and the rain came down in sheets. Fellow photographers and artists huddled under the beer tent in the press lounge and waited for the storm to pass, but as the storm grew stronger and the radar became more and more red, it was clear this wasn’t going away. The park was evacuated, and the festival was shut down early for the night. Both Miguel and Axwell ^ Ingrosso’s sets were canceled.
On Saturday, the festival started an hour late as security and staff scrambled to put down planks and straw on the muddy ground. People came back hopeful that the rain wouldn’t ruin a second night, and they were right in a way. While electronic faves like The Polish Ambassador and Cashmere Cat drew in the usual EDM crowd, the Lyrical Lemonade takeover at the small stage was the highlight of the day. Showcasing some of the best up-and-coming rappers from across the country, the stage featured Lil Gnar, COMETHAZINE, and MadeinTYO, all of whom delivered stellar performances. Unfortunately, the evening was once again cut short, this time in the middle of MadeinTYO’s set. While there wasn’t any rain on the immediate horizon, massive strikes of lightning forced North Coast to once again close their gates early. This night, DJ Snake and The Revivalists were unable to play. DJ Snake jumped down to the barricade before his front-row fans left to take some selfies and chat before everyone had to leave.
Because the last two nights had to end early, React did their best to make up for it by allowing any Friday and Saturday ticket holders to come on Sunday for free. And, much to everyone’s delight, there wasn’t a drop of rain in sight. Some of the weekend’s best acts played on Sunday, including Chicago rapper Kami (and surprise guest Joey Purp), blues king Jacob Banks, and indie pop rockers Moon Taxi. But, the biggest act of the day (and of the weekend) was no doubt English dance legends Jamiroquai. The band hasn’t played in Chicago in 17 years, but they’re still as good as ever. Playing some of their most exciting songs like “High Times” and “Canned Heat”, lead singer Jay Kay led the band through a stellar set. “We have an hour and a half”, he said after the first song, “so let’s do all we can!”
While the rain dampened everyone’s spirits on Friday and Saturday, those who came on Sunday were definitely not disappointed. North Coast was once again a strong, fun festival that helped mark the end of summer.