North Coast Music Festival: Sunday

Lupe Fiasco and Flying Lotus wow Sunday's audience

Dominick Mayer

1:45 – Loyal Divide is…well, they’re a thing. The Chicago-based noise-tinged shoegazer act was an interesting way to start off they day, as there’s no way to ease into their sound. Unlike many bands of their ilk, there’s not much blatant abuse of the loud/quiet dynamic. The energy they bring live is more than enough to attract a crowd, but the general facial expressions were those of confusion or bemusement; a shame, because they’re quite talented.

2:30 – New York duo Phantogram initially seemed like an odd fit for such an early-afternoon slot, being that the near-hypnotic beauty of their debut record Eyelid Movies seems better suited to a tiny indoor space with lots of making out in the general vicinity of the stage. That said, they put on an excellent set; keyboardist Sarah Barthel is an adorable presence onstage, genuinely excited even as she and collaborator Josh Carter play midtempo electro-tinged dream pop. On the strength of their debut LP alone they were a band to watch, and their live show only reinforces this.

3:30 – Since the late 1970s, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band from New Orleans has been keeping alive a Southern-fried spirit of bluesy, joyous rock. Trumpeter/frontman Gregory Davis comes off onstage like a French quarter Andrew WK, driving the entire set with the continual admonishment of “PARTY!” And party the crowd did; the audience was high-stepping like the moved at a church revival.

4:10 – Time for Footlong Corn Dog II: Son of Footlong Corn Dog.

4:15 – I check out house stalwart Benny Benassi over on the Coast stage. I didn’t stay for much of the set, but having been in the back and able to see, I’d like to point out that there was a full-scale gate crash. Security was lax for the duration of the weekend, but around 30 people pulled down the chain-link fence along the edge of the venue and went running in. I felt the worst for the one guy out of the 30 who got caught; he got tackled like a running back.

4:30 – 30 minutes after the supposed beginning of their set, local neo-soul act The Right Now finally took the Red Bull stage. As Amy noted in the Saturday recap, there have been major timing issues with setup and takedown. Frontwoman Stefanie Berecz has a voice as brassy as any soul songstress to play in decades past, and the backing band (make no mistake; the band is her show and the others simply inhabit it) brings a two-stepping joy to the proceedings that make them an infectiously fun live band. They frequently play around the city, so I can’t stress enough how much The Right Now are a band to keep your eye on.

5:30 – Mayer Hawthorne and the County took the Groupon stage, continuing this sudden neo-soul motif. Unfortunately, his set wasn’t anything to write home about. Hawthorne is a born frontman, but the two most memorable moments of his set were the back to back covers of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” and N.E.R.D.’s underrated “Fly or Die.” Though the covers were capable, none of the original material by the band held up.

6:00 – Once again, the Red Bull stage was grossly behind schedule. Stephen Paul Smoker’s set was supposed to begin at 6, but was only about to begin at half past the hour when I finally decided to leave.

6:30 – Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison), known best for his uncredited work as the creator of Adult Swim’s ambient bumper music and also for his production work, put on a set that rivals the Chemical Brothers for the best electronic set of the weekend. Adding to the quality of his work is the fact that unlike many of the DJs who spun over the course of North Coast, FlyLo was grinning a mile wide the entire time he was onstage, overjoyed to be there. As a side note, as much as I hate being the “everyone’s on drugs” guy, the prior two days were merely a warmup for the tail end of Sunday.

7:30 – Beginning with an extended freestyle rap, Chicago native Lupe Fiasco closed out the Groupon stage for the weekend with vigor. Admitting that he’d broken a fast so that he wouldn’t pass out onstage, Fiasco tore through a set full of fan favorites (“Shining Down,” “Go Go Gadget Flow”) and hits, closing with the knockout combination of “I Gotcha,” “Kick Push” and “Superstar.” The distinction between Lupe and his far-too-frequent comparisons to mentor Kanye West was made clear when Lupe strolled out in typical big-shot rapper garb before removing all of it and throwing himself all over the stage for an hour. The newer material off his infinitely delayed Lasers is definitely more rock-heavy, fitting given that he carries himself more like the frontman of a rock band than an MC. A final note: Can somebody please release Lasers already?

Amy Dittmeier

-       I agree with Dominick, why the hell isn’t Lasers out in the world yet?!  Seeing Lupe Fiasco at the Groupon stage was a rare opportunity to hear some of his new material live.  And it was awesome.  His new material is characterized by his stylish lyrics and rock riffs and expands upon what he started on his last two albums.  So the question is, when something this good is waiting in the wings why won’t Atlantic release it?  Lupe released “Shining Down” from Lasers back in 2009 and Atlantic still hasn’t given it an official release date.  Fans have been signing an online petition but nothing has happened yet.  I figure this is the closest I’ll get to hearing his new album for another six months.

-       Our friends at Kilo Records have signed another fantastic act to their label.  Playing the Red Bull stage, Stephen Paul Smoker’s unique vocals reverberated over the small crowd gathered to watch him.  Smoker fits nicely into the Kilo family vein, pumping T. Rex influenced music with an eclectic group of musicians backing him up.  If you live in Chicago, specifically Pilsen, check this guy out.

- I have nothing to say about Nas and Damein Marley.  I don't care for Nas's music and I don't care for reggae, vis a vis I didn't care for their set.  It was fine and all but just not my thing.

-       Overall North Coast was a decent first year festival.  There were definite organization problems but they managed a good line-up and environment for concert goers.  I hope the crew putting this event on decides to continue it next year.  Chicago is full of music festivals but North Coast is one that offers a solid line-up of electronic and hip hop acts as well as a stage devoted to only Chicago bands.  Sure Pitchfork and Lollapalooza include one or two Chicago acts and Lollapalooza has an entire stage devoted to DJs, but North Coast’s deal is different.  It combines genres and people who wouldn’t necessarily be together and stick them all into Union Park, finding commonality in dancing, marijuana, and thumping bass.  Hopefully they'll learn from their mistakes this year and beef up the festival for next year.

Posted by Amy Dittmeier on Sep 07, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

north coast music festival, loyal divide, phantogram, the right now, mayor hawthorne, lupe fiasco, dirty dozen band, benny benassi, stephen paul smoker, flying lotus