North Coast Music Festival: Saturday

Hip hop meets electronica on North Coast's Saturday line-up

Saturday’s line-up started off weak but ended in a flurry of dancing, bass, and music.  The line-up consisted of three main genres: jam band, hip hop, and DJ/electronic.  So you know the crowd was diverse and dreadlocked.  Amy and Dominick took opposite ends of Union Park to find some good music and dodge ten minute Phish tributes.

Dominick Mayer

2:00 – After a regrettably late start to the day, we’ll kick the day off with some jam band music; appropriate given that Umphrey’s McGee is one of the big headliners for the evening. Great Divide, a hometown six-piece, is pretty good; they’ve attracted a pretty sizable crowd to the Red Bull stage. Kudos to their bassist for putting in serious work.

2:30 – Over on the North stage, English jam outfit New Mastersounds come on. They’ve elevated themselves beyond a typical jam style by incorporating quite a bit of funk into their sound. However, at the risk of simplistically vilifying an entire popular genre of bands, so much of the jam I’ve heard peripherally today, and in the past, just sounds so similar as a whole. Back on topic though, New Mastersounds are instrumentally as tight a live band I’ve heard in a while.

3:15 – Time for that most illustrious of dining experiences, the footlong corn dog. This has no right to be as delicious as it is.

3:30 – Local blues-tinged roots rock band Van Ghost show up on the Groupon stage and quickly attract a sizable audience. They fit in well with the rest of the day’s setup without being as jammy as some. Co-lead vocalist Jennifer Hartswick is definitely the highlight of the act; the power of her voice defines a lot of their songs. A man in a Viking outfit is thoroughly enjoying the act, dancing himself into a frenzy. However, his helmet only has one horn. If a Viking only has a single horn, is he a Viking at all? Discuss.

4:15 – One can’t help but feel like if jam isn’t your thing, it’s high time something else was played.

4:30 – And here is that something else. In what will surely be one of the best sets of the weekend, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals take the North stage by force. Potter is a brassy, energetic frontwoman, and her voice is reminiscent of another famous Grace, a comparison that’s only reinforced when the band cover Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” halfway through the set. A majority of their songs built to forceful, whiplash-inducing crescendos, which serve to pull the crowd out of their midday lethargy. The Nocturnals’ classic-rock sound, tinged with bits of Middle Eastern guitar and blues, is so infectious that it’s easy to see why they’ve been noted an up-and-coming act to watch.

5:30 – On the Groupon stage, The New Deal are introduced, and at last dancing and movement are being demanded. The Toronto three-piece are a curious case in that they sound vaguely electronic despite being a live act, but drummer Darren Shearer adds a disco flair to the proceedings. The crowd takes a little while to come to life for them, but once the dancing begins there’s no end.

6:00 – I’m engaged in what I believe is called a “danceoff.” By that, I mean that while watching local mash-up DJ Rukus (the latest in a line to prove that Jay-Z’s “Encore” goes well with anything, even Nine Inch Nails), a man flailing wildly dances closer to me, makes a “come forth” motion and dances back to allow me space. I answer the call, and I’m reasonably sure I won.

6:30 – It’s hard to know what to say about Jay Electronica’s set. It’s truly difficult to gauge whether the set was actually good or bad, so here’s a list of some empirical evidence of what ensued: two J. Dilla covers and a rendition of “The World Is Yours” to start the set off, continual requesting of a beat drop in order to deliver a majority of his verses acapella, which showcased his spitfire flow, invitations to two crowd members to do their own rapping, which led to absurd amounts of hype-manning and another invitation to the entire front two rows to come onstage and dance with him. This last one led to some conflict, as the security team attempted to remove people for the sake of safety, which led to Jay forming a protective barrier between the safety team and the fans, all while rapping. The man is an impressive showman, and it was definitely unlike most any other hip-hop set I’ve seen before. That’s definitely the truth.

7:30 – Speaking of hip-hop (Electronica continually implored the audience to scream for “true hip-hop”), golden age MCs De La Soul appear on the Groupon stage to teach a clinic on how to put on a hip-hop show. I’ll stop saying hip-hop now. Anyway, since their legendary 1989 debut 3 Feet High And Rising, the collective has consistently put out quality old-school hip-hop (okay, one more time), but to the current generation they’re probably better known for their collaboration with Gorillaz than for the gleeful bounce of “Me Myself and I.” That and “Potholes” were among the classic tracks played, and Dres from Black Sheep showed up to bust out some Native Tongues. Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo were in rare voice, unafraid to stop tracks and start from the top if the crowd wasn’t going wild enough. It’s a critical conceit to lament that there hasn’t been essential rap since the early ‘90s (there has been), but there’s an art to it that has been lost; De La Soul forced Union Park to see this.

Amy Dittmeier

Saturday Observations

-       Can we just say how awesome Moby and Daedelus were?  In a world of play/pause DJing these guys are kicking the industry’s ass.  A last minute fill in for Benga, who couldn’t perform for mysterious reasons, Daedelus absolutely tore up the Coast stage.  The bass was all the way up in my throat and his on stage persona got the crowd moving with him.  I have never seen Daedelus live so I wasn’t sure what to expect but damn, this man has some style.  The way he hits those turntables with so much flourish and zeal, it’s hard not to get into his music.  His set strayed from his more experimental work and instead went for hard-hitting electronica mixed with dub step.  And he looked like he was having fun every second. In most of the pictures I snapped of his set he’s sporting a big ol’ grin.  This is a man that enjoys what he’s doing, who likes the connection he has with his instrument and with the crowd.  Also Daedelus may have been one of the best-dressed acts of the day, donning a powder blue sports jacket and grey slacks for his set.  Score one for classy DJs.

Everyone knows who Moby is.  If you grew up in the 90s “Southside” was probably your middle school dance theme.  But did you know Moby is an excellent house DJ?  His headlining set on the Coast stage was one of the best house sets I have ever seen and coming from a native of the city that created house, that means something.  His style is in your face yet not aggressive, old school with dashes of new school.  All in all, awesome.  Boys Noize and Moby transferred into each other easily but there was a definite difference in style.  There are DJs that are ok and there are DJs that are above par.  Boys Noize was ok, his style is very European and isn’t really my thing.  Moby is above par.  I do have one complaint.  I was standing about halfway back from the stage and halfway through the set the sound got really low, like some speakers blew and we were only hearing on stage sound.  I don’t know what happened but it really ruined the set.  You could still hear Moby but above the chatter of the crowd it was hard to really appreciate it.  But this wasn’t the first time North Coast’s sound failed…

-       Saturday with checkered with some major sound issues.  Most were minor and had to do with proper mixing.  Others were just absolutely terrible.  I tried to catch some of Great Divide’s set at the Red Bull stage early in the day.  The band ended up going on 40 minutes late, only to have their first two songs sans vocals because of microphone failure.  40 minutes late due to set-up and then complete sound failure?  What the hell?  Frustrated I ended up leaving and going to see Two Fresh, who wasn’t the best mixed act of the day but had vastly superior sound.  It’s nothing against Great Divide.  It’s like my film teacher said, people will tolerate a bad movie but if it has bad sound they won’t.  Same goes for music.  Jam bands may not be my thing but I’d rather see a ten minute saxophone solo than endure a poorly mixed set.

-       Jay Electronica.  What. The. Hell?!  Though his set was 50% dialog and 50% freestyle he had to best one of the most entertaining acts yet.  There were so many hilarious questions Jay asked the crowd, all prefaced by “Hold up, hold up. I gotta say something.”  Some gems were:

“I have a bet with Nas.  Clap if you agree – all women like to be choked during sex.”

“Who has a blunt?”

“Who wants to come up on stage and lay down some rhymes?”

I’m surprised security didn’t shut his set down!  At one point Jay invited the audience on stage, so you know a rush of people tackled that shit.  Then he had 3 people come up and freestyle.  One was downright terrible, trying to be Jay’s surrogate hype man.  The other two faired pretty well.  All in all, I learned Jay Electronica is a crazy MFer who likes pot and thinks 9/11 was plotted by the US.

Posted by Amy Dittmeier on Sep 05, 2010 @ 11:11 am

north coast music festival, jay electronica, de la soul, daedelus, moby, great divide, the new mastersounds, van ghost, grace potter and the nocturnals