Three years into North Coast Music Festival—held in West Loop’s Union Park—and this three day fest continues to foster its reputation as one of the most eclectic major music festivals that Chicago has to offer. With a little something for everyone in the way of genre, this year’s lineup is one of the most diverse and most impressive to date.
Likely in response to growing demand for electronic dance music (EDM, for short) at the national level, North Coast has bulked up its electronic offerings this year. Spanning the history of the genre, lifers like London’s Paul Oakenfold, pioneers behind the genre’s semi-recent surge in mainstream popularity such as Steve Aoki and newcomers like Australian/British duo Knife Party—creators of the tongue-in-cheek party favorite “Internet Friends”—have all scored DJ sets this year. Hot local names like Zebo, Team Bayside High and Porn and Chicken house DJ Orville Klein will also be spinning. Groovy, electro beat maker Pretty Lights returns to Union Park for the first time since the festival’s inception. And, if it’s a party you’re after, then I highly recommend you don’t miss mashup master Girl Talk’s headlining set on Saturday. Trust me.
Hip hop is also playing a bigger role this year at North Coast. Mainstream artists like Big Boi (one half of notorious ATLiens Outkast) will be there along with underground LA-based veterans People Under the Stairs. Older fans of indie rap duo Atmosphere should be impressed by the semi-recent addition of a live band to their act. But the real standout on the rap end of this year’s lineup is Southern, trunk-music-bumpin’ Eminem protégé Yelawolf.
If rocking out is your thing, look no further than jam band headliners, and Chicago’s own, Umphrey’s McGee. Three-piece The Rapture brings everything to the stage from dance punk to indie. There’s even a bit of alt-country this year as locals Van Ghost return to Union Park.
Then there are the “miscellaneous acts”—the ones that transcend the typical genre barriers. Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) is sure to light up the night on Friday with their electronically infused brand of jam rock. For world music check out Beats Antique (complete with belly dancing) and the spectacle that is King Khan & the Shrines. If New Orleans is your scene, then the Rebirth Brass Band is your choice performer.
As for the North Coast Music Festival experience, expect a crowd as diverse as the on stage entertainment. No age is the “typical” age for fest goers. The Union Park location is a bit off-the-beaten-path, but the festival grounds are spaced nicely and there are some great shady spots. As for food, expect local vendors to have a pop-up style presence on the festival grounds. For late night dining, there’s the ever classic Bottom Lounge around the corner.
Bottom line for North Coast Music Festival: Come for the music. Stay for the music. Come back the next two days for the music.
North Coast Music Festival takes place in Union Park August 31 through September 2. Three day passes are $120 and single day tickets will run you $50. The festival ends at 10 p.m. each evening.