Held at Union Park, the intimate skyline setting made North Coast Music Festival one of my favorite events of the year. The smaller venue and lack of corporate disruption makes it less like Lollapalooza, and more like a camping-free EF. The advantage is the close quartered stages that make it easy to jump around acts. Chicago was blown away with each new set as if it were a competition, making Summers Last Stand tall and proud. Inspired by the dueling DJ's, I present to you The North Coast Awards.
The Kickoff Award: Friday evening, Eoto set the bar. I literally watched the faces of many apprehensive attendees change from skeptic to ecstatic as J. Kwon's "Tipsy" rang out. The bass was funky and new, taking inspiration from what could have been a bubbling faucet and producing a surprisingly satisfying pop to every sound.
The Bieber Award: I like to think that in most instances I am a girl that keeps my cool. I never cried watching American Idol, and I don't follow teen heart throbs on twitter- but Friday night when Knife Party dropped Internet Friends for the first time ever in Chicago, I screamed like a Justin Bieber fan. I might have fallen to my knees if they weren't so busy dancing. It was exactly the kind of show fans hope for: slowed down, sped up, remixed by the original artists right in front of you.
The Crowd Contribution Award: OG producer Paul Oakenfold tore it up like the godfather of house. The real icing on the funfetti cake was the crowd. Sprinkled into the back were two percussionists, or amateur percussionists, who were going Christopher Walken. That's right, Cowbell and More Cowbell were on point, adding a zesty improvisation to the set. The crowd cheered them on and got down as the darkness settled over the Redbull stage.
Flipside Fail: The crowd at Pretty Lights on Sunday. Constant traffic was disruptive as people struggled to get front row for both Pretty Lights and Steve Aoki. You can't have both. Keep the traffic in the back and the good vibes will stay in the front!
The Idiot Award: To anyone who was confused by the bold "POLICE" lettering on the back of their t-shirts: security at these festivals is real. Real cops with real training. So if you're being chased by one of them, don't skip around like a smart ass. One unlucky attendant thought this fun game of tag would end nicely, until 250 pounds of muscle whipped him to the ground. In the words of Snoop Dog/Lion, run mothafucka, run.
Runner Up: Everyone with braces.
The Enlightenment Award: I love festivals because it is a chance to learn about new artists. Maybe not new to everyone, but this recently recruited member of The Tribe sure got a lesson. Funky melodic bells and starry techno sounds were a beautiful calm after the storm that was Excision. Future Rock was a close second, with supersonic echoes that I cannot wait to investigate further.
The "WTF? This is dope!" Remix Award: Despite my best efforts to avoid Girl Talk, I ended up at his stage for the Saturday night finale. A lot of people gave me the same look that you're probably making now, but when the white lights blast on and the front row rushes the stage it is impossible to get away. Girl Talk is more about atmosphere, he puts on a party. And how could you not party when "Rolling in the Deep" gets laid over "The Motto." Or Party And Bullshit over Tiny Dancer. It's knowing all the words without knowing what comes next that makes the show.
Runner Up: Axwell with Seven Nation Army, house-style. My neck still hurts.
The Laser Award: This award is invented for Pretty Lights. His new stage is mesmerizing as expected, but the added laser show was a mind blowing surprise. You just have to go see it on the Illumination Tour.
The "Idk, But It Was Epic" Award: Stratus on Sunday was absolutely killing it, even in the hot sun. Everyone was turning to their neighbor, "Who IS this??" I can't recall any specifics but if he's on the lineup, go to him.
Runner Up: Felix Da Housecat. Oh man. Legend status earned.
The Best of the Fest Award: Surprisingly enough, Pretty Lights was not my favorite act of the festival. The conflicting sounds with Steve Aoki really threw off the vibe. However, Excision raged his signature dubstep at hyperspeed, almost creating his own genre. Throwing in remixes of Rage Against the Machine and Jibbs' "Chain Hang Low" made him unstoppable, and the crowd had the energy to match. It looked like steam was rising from the front row. "This guy right here, he gets the craziest crowd member award." If an artist takes time from their set to acknowledge the rage efforts of his audience, you know it was off season.
The Craziest Crowd Member Award: Guy at Excision, way to go.
Runner Up: Anyone who climbed into the trees at the Redbull Stage. I wish I was you.
Honorable Mention to Dan Deacon who could be heard far into the Gramatik crowd, Savoy who was standard yet delectable, and Modestep who had unteachable stage presence.
I'd write out awards for every artist and attendant if I could, but these highlights can serve some justice to the grand weekend. Also note that one day when scheduling conflicts disappear and I can finally see Papadosio, they will be getting an award as well. It's always a sad moment when the summer season is over, but the venue concert series will keep us warm in the winter months. Let the indoor smoke-free sweat fests begin.