North Coast Festival
North Coast Festival

North Coast Swarms Chicago


Chicago – The Fourth Annual North Coast Music Festival swarmed Union Park and a collection of downtown venues Aug. 30 through September 1. The event pushed on through difficult weather on Friday, and celebrated summer’s last stand on Sunday in sunny conditions.

Passion Pit, The Disco Biscuits, Nas, Big Gigantic, Afrojack, Wu-Tang Clan, Lotus and many more exciting acts filled the stages over Labor Day Weekend. It provided my first chance to cover the event, and I was excited to interact with the people in Chicago.


Friday, August 30 was an important day for me for many reasons. Early in the afternoon, I attended a funeral for a close and personal friend. He passed away at a young age. We worked together on events in the past, and I had made a real connection with him as a friend. The reason I bring this up during the review is to help shine light on making good decisions, and taking care of yourself physically. It is an easy thing to overlook, but seriously, take care of one another.

As I drove to Chicago in the early afternoon hours, I thought about the past times I had with my friend. The thing that kept my head level was the enjoyment I had during those moments, and the opportunity I have to share those moments with future generations.

When I arrived to Chicago on Friday it was around 6 p.m. I was on the 90-94 and the dark tint to the clouds above meant there was going to be a storm nearby. A lightening storm rolled through the city, and the winds started to pick up. I took the first nearby exit. Once I had the Internet service available, I found out the festival had to evacuate everyone for the storm, but was reopening once it cleared out.

After I checked in to my hotel, I made my way over to the corner of Randolph St. and Ogden Ave. Union Park is more my style when it comes to downtown music festivals in Chicago. The size and location is ideal for an emerging music festival. When I walked into the event grounds it was a little 8 p.m. Aluna-George was finishing a set, and the Paper Diamond performance was about to begin. It was my first time seeing PD live in concert. The weather pushed his set back an hour, and Passion Pit transitioned into a DJ set due to the weather on Friday.

Paper Diamond
Paper Diamond

Paper Diamond, a talented producer from Denver brought his top tier material for his set in Union Park. Later that evening I watched his late night set at the House of Blues with guests. As I watched both performances, I thought that this light show, mixed with large amounts of bass may need a warning, like they have on video games for producing seizure conducing effects. One guest at the late night show did have a seizure front row. It was troubling to see, but medics were on the spot in under a minute. I hope the guest made it out okay.

“Chi-town you got me burning up”. Paper Diamond

The Disco Biscuits took the Last Stand Stage around 9:40 p.m. on Friday evening. Event organizers were able to extend the festival to 11 p.m. after the storm swarmed the city. Guests from all over the country danced and enjoyed TDB music collectively. The band performed a sold-out late night set at the Concord Music Hall on Saturday that had people buzzing all weekend.

Passion Pit is a multidimensional group, with the ability to perform as a live band, and as DJs for audiences of all sizes. In early August, I caught them in analog form at the Summer Set Music Festival. It was a refreshing contrast to their full- bodied set. The crowd was energetic and lively. Just Blaze and The Werks performed later sets due to the rain storm as well.

The late night performance by Paper Diamond at the House of Blues reminded me of the late night festivities during the New Orleans Jazz Festival. North Coast Music Festival feels like the EDM/Northern version of Jazz Fest. Guests gyrated and danced late into the evening at the House of Blues.

Saturday, the skies cleared later in the day, and the temperature coasted in around the 70s. Light rain drifted over Chicago during the first section of the day. When the climate conditions cleared up, I made my way down Randolph St. to check out the entertainment.

Aloe Blacc
Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc, hosted a soul train dance party for the North Coast Music Festival. His set was easily one of the top performances during the 3 day event. The original ‘I Need a Dollar’ was performed and remixed with ‘No Women, No Cry’ by Bob Marly live on the North Stage, as well as many other original hits. The band’s interaction with the crowd, and pure talent pushed them to the top tier for entertainment value.

In 2008 I traveled to downtown St. Louis to watch Livetronica on the Landing. It was an after party following a free STS9 & Umphrey’s McGee set on 13th Street. I met Future Rock that day, and got to know their music. I have been a fan ever since.

Their North Coast set was nothing short of impressive. They packed in guests to the Coast Stage from 5:30 – 6:30. It was a fiery performance, and I enjoyed the full-bodied rock sound the band has on stage.

Gramatik, prepped and popped the crowd continuously during his show in the late afternoon hours on Saturday. Dominic Lalli, saxophonist for Big Gigantic, joined the duo on stage for a special guest spot. The stage crew were on the ball for most of the weekend. The two main stages sat fairly close to one another. It was easy to move from the North Stage and the Coast Stage without missing a beat.

Nas, lyricist and artist from Queensbridge, New York, rocked the crowd in Union Park with legendary style and grace. It was my first time seeing Nas perform on stage as a solo artist. In the past, I have experienced his concert and material created with Damian Marley. His solo set was packed full of countless hits ranging back into his work on “Illmatic”. Nas switched up N.Y. State of Mind, and gave respect to Chicago for sharing some of the same struggles he has had to face in New York.

“Chicago, you are one of my favorite cities in the world”. – Nas

Big Gigantic and Afrojack battled for guests attention late Saturday night. Both acts provided excellent performances to wrap up the music for Day 2. After the festival let out on Saturday, the real story broke loose.

On the corner of Lake Street and Ogden, a naked guest took to the streets in grand fashion. (Luckily no one was seriously injured.) This intoxicated guest made one bad decision after another Saturday evening. The individual jumped through a car windshield ass first, and was tasered by local officials. It is interesting how cops get a bad rap at music festivals normally, but in this case, security acted professionally and acted accordingly for the situation.

Sunday, the weather was perfect for any outdoor event. As I walked around downtown Chicago, people were buzzing around town, wedding parties gathered together, and the smell of authentic food was in the air. I made my way over the festival grounds around 2:30 p.m. to catch the last section of The Coop’s concert.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band was geared up and ready to go on the Last Stand Stage. Their New Orleans historic blend of uptempo jazz music is a must-see performance for any music fan. Danny Brown performed a high energy set of electronic music in the midday sun for the North Coast fans.

Emancipator, Portland-based producer brought a relaxing slice of electronic pie to the table on Sunday afternoon. A large percentage of the producers in the music scene attempt to be the same in my view. The continuous bass drops, a set of fast and loud beats per minute, and telling everyone to get their hands up has started to get old. The refreshing thing about acts like Emancipator, is that they are brave enough to take chances outside of the norm. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t, but the thrill is found in the discovery. They mixed the violin in with elegant beats created by the duo collectively.


“It’s a beautiful Sunday.” – Emancipator

Datsik, performed during the day and at night with a group of guests at the House of Blues Sunday night. The Hard Rock Hotel was overflowing with big name musicians, and well-known mangers in the music industry. Protohype and I shared a elevator ride together on Sunday. I had never met him before, so it was an interesting meeting to share.

Protohype, Max gets on the elevator, and I ask him if he is going down to the lobby. He says yes in a tiresome voice. I ask him how his day had gone so far. He repiled, “a lot of traveling. I just got in, and will be doing a show later tonight at the House of Blues”. I introduced myself, and wanted to see his late night set, but found myself needing to be on the road early the next morning to travel back home.


A-Trak performed after Emancipator on the Last Stand Stage, and Made On followed his set. It was a great way to build the energy up around the stage on Sunday. Rebelution performed a set of reggae music that was a blissful contrast to the bass heavy acts that dominated most of Sunday’s entertainment.

Before the Wu-Tang & Lotus set started up around 9 p.m. I made my way back to the hotel for a quick bite to eat. As I entered the hotel, a group of media was huddled around a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. After they wrapped their interview, I introduced myself, and spoke with GZA about who he knew in Chicago.

“Yeah, I know Big Stu. He is a teacher in Chicago that got me setup with a student outreach program.” – GZA

Lotus launched into a raunchy set of electronic rock on the Last Stand Stage. It was literally the last performance on the stage, and as the leaves fell off the trees due to the cool temperature, I could feel the end of summer coming soon. They jammed a wicked version of “Tip of the Tongue”, along with many other hard-hitting hits from the cannon of material.

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Matthew McGuire is the founder and editor of Crescent Vale News. In 2014, he acquired a master's degree in Professional Media and Media Management from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.