photos by Manny Diaz
If you love dancing to electronic music then you likely were at the participating in this epic weekend. If however, you missed it, don’t worry — we will bring you there over the next few paragraphs.
The festival has evolved into one of the biggest EDM events in Chicago and this year was taking place at SeatGeek Stadium, where the Chicago Fire soccer team used to play. The first two days were cloudy overcast, not super chilly, just enough clouds to block out the sun with a cool breeze reminding us that summer is over. But by the last day, the sun returned creating a perfectly sunny send-off for the festivities.
The festival featured four stages: The Canopy, The Vega, The Panky Rang, and The Stadium itself. The three smaller stages were outside the stadium but turfgrass was placed so that fans could kick off their shoes and relax comfortably. Getting inside the stadium itself was a journey – fans had to walk up and down elongated stairs in order to access the stage but the impressive setup and powerful acts were worth the adventure.
The first day of the festival was all about bouncing between the Stadium and the Vega stage. Inside the Stadium, you had a mixture of different styles: put on a reggaeton showcase getting people to exercise their hips while stayed in the more classic house music space that Chicago very much appreciates. At sunset, kicked things off with Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream”, the visuals had an 80’s style video game corvette cruising to the sunset that matched the real-world tone — a perfectly fitting setup for this time of day. To get people hyped he played Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle” followed by Oliver Tree’s “When I’m Down.” Back at the Vega Stage, was putting on a terrific performance with whimsical visuals to match the intensity and beauty of the overall soundscape. He had the perfect balance of chill making the crowd move and vibe to the naturally psychedelic kaleidoscope visuals.
The second day of the festivities was definitely about being staying put at the main stadium. It was quite the spectacle seeing aka Shaquille O’Neal! The 4x NBA Champion is not only a threat in the paint, but showing off his DJ skills more and more he’s a beast with the technique. Many were surprised at the range of music Shaq put on cementing himself as a legit DJ with a killer mix playing tracks from old-school jams like Cutting Crew “Died In Your Arms” to Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under the Bridge”. The overall vibe, however, was solid hip-hop, at some point Shaq cut out the audio for Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared” so the crowd could yell out the chorus — it was a powerful moment shared by the crowd. Mid-set he brought out for guest collaboration to preview a new track “Shell Shock,” set to drop on Halloween.
The last day was all about roaming the grounds to fully experience the rest of what North Coast had to offer under the sun. There was a “Chill Dome” where fans could sit or dance that was equipped with a laser show and fog room, outside near the Canopy stage people were chilling in large hammocks, and back at the stadium, had the arena thumping to White Stripes “Seven Nation Army.” One of the audience members held up a sign that read “Spit in my mouth!”, noticing it McGree laughed commenting “I would, but due to Covid times I’m not” going to, instead she insisted on playing a banger with a guitar accompaniment. At the “Panky Rang” stage was spinning a mellow set, slowing things down with heavy bass and mixing in some hip-hop tunes like Freddie Gibbs.
The honor of closing out the festival went to . The duo played a wide range of their heavy hitters from all genres from “Stand By Me” Ben E. King to Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” bringing dancing lovers a little closer together. Zed’s Dead carried on with The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and Dido’s “Thank You” ending the night with Fugees “Ready or Not” and Oliver Tree’s “Miracle Man”.
North Coast Music Festival, as expected, was quite the experience. It was the perfect way to send off summer and embrace the inevitable changing of the seasons. After being apart for many months people came together at North Coast. Despite the moody weather, everyone took care of each other, sharing water, keeping tabs on the unwell, sharing space, and spreading good energy. It was a beautiful thing to witness and I cannot wait to do it all again next year!