This year’s edition of North Coast Music Festival brought a massive experience to SeatGeek Stadium, and it was nothing short of magical.
Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival closed out the summer with a bang. Taking place on September 2-4, this year’s edition took “coasties” by storm, hosting some of the best names in electronic music and experiences ranging from massive installations to healing house music yoga. With 3-day GA passes selling out before the festival, it was no surprise that this year was about to be a thrill.
In true final days of Chicago summer fashion, the weather was perfect on the first day of North Coast. It was sunny and 75 with the occasional overcast. A fine breeze that saved you from feeling like you were fighting to stay in the crowd was wonderful. As the clock hit 2 PM on Frioon, the lines that became lengthy as coasties waited for the gates to open began to diminish. Security was quick with their searches, which is often not the case at many festivals, so ly set the tone for how the rest of the weekend would go.
Being right outside a major city, North Coast felt expansive this year – the stage production was on point, the vendors were plentiful, and the energy was thriving.
Experiencing all six stages throughout the event, the Stadium, Vega, Canopy, Incendia Fire Pit, Chill Dome, and Silent Disco all were uniquely intimate, and you could feel a shift in energy, atmosphere, and sound when going from one stage to the next. There was also plenty of room to dance and prevent excessive sound bleed. Each stage brought a completely different crowd, and the production was ideally fit for the artists who would be performing. This is often rare, especially for an urban festival where noise regulations are usually more strict.
Food and beverage vendors were booming all weekend long. The food was quick, and there were plenty of vendors to choose from, including vegan and vegetarian options. Stadium concessions were also available, so coasties didn’t have to leave the Stadium stage to grab a bite to eat. I couldn’t help but devour the carne asada tacos from Tacos Marios. Did we also mention short drink lines? There were plenty of beverage tents, so there was always a short wait or no wait at all. North Coast also offered plenty of different drink options including but not limited to a Hornitos seltzer stand, Corona Electric Beach, a Monaco tent, and several Red Bull tents.
The retail vendors were poppin’ as well! They were located on pathways from one stage to the next, giving attendees easy access to shop til they dropped. One of my favorite retail vendors was Liquid Dreams Art which had a combined vendor with KritterKlips. The UV green, furry, and reversible bucket hat was tough to pass up. There were even two button holes to clip your KritterKlips.
Another component of the festival that stood out was the crowd. I noticed hardly any emergencies and the coasties throughout the festival seemed to really take care of one another. I often feel frustrated being in the crowd due to a lack of “excuse me’s,” pushing, or respect, but this happened very few times. There was definitely a feeling of “community” at North Coast.
Electronic music flourished, and there was a little something for everyone.
North Coast successfully curated a lineup where several different electronic music sub-genres played simultaneously on different stages. Being a bass music lover, I made my home at the Vega stage for most of the first day. The Vega schedule was as follows: Smith., Space Wizard, Level Up, Dirt Monkey b2b SubDocta, Rusko, Boogie T, and finally, Subtronics to close the night. I did need to get my house music fix, so I caught the first half of Fisher at the Canopy right before Subtronics took the stage.
The second day was a whirlwind of emotions as I tried to switch up the vibes. Beginning the day with experimental bass, Mersiv was the act of choice. I transitioned into strictly house vibes with Dombresky to follow and then back to dubstep chaos at Wooli. As if this variation of electronic music wasn’t already intense, a Malaa x Tchami No Redemption set was also on the agenda. To end the second day, I became a sad girl during future bass headliner ILLENIUM.
On the final day, I knew I was in for another hearty helping of dubstep due to SVDDEN DEATH closing out the Vega stage. But to my disbelief, MUST DIE! and Eptic threw a ton of hardstyle into their sets. Hardstyle isn’t my cup of tea, but I witnessed a lot of fist-pumping, so kudos to them for playing something different. SVDDEN DEATH’s VOYD set brought the heat to end the night and sealed the deal on the diverse range of sounds heard throughout the weekend.
Up-and-coming artists were given a chance to be in the spotlight at North Coast.
With the current state of the music industry, seeing a festival give smaller artists a place to showcase their talent gets big ups. There was a ton of fresh talent on the Incendia Fire Pit stage and Silent Disco. One of my favorite acts of the entire weekend was Chicago’s very own Ashton, who was the second act at Incendia on the first day of the fest. He drew in a large crowd and kept the energy high throughout; it was a perfect way to kick off the weekend. With an emphasis on house music, he also incorporated experimental bass tracks into the set. Closing out his set with his collab with Saxogene, leaving the crowd feeling groovy and energized.
Other notable up-and-coming acts who have played some of the heaviest dubstep sets I’ve seen include Outage, Yunit, and Three Wise Monkeys. Outage and Yunit played one set after another at the Incendia stage on Saturday. They both drew in an insanely hyped crowd. It’s hard not to stay high energy at their sets as they bring heat that will have your jaw dropped. Three Wise Monkeys played on Sunday at the Silent Disco, but their set was nothing short of amplified.
North Coast knows how to provide experiences outside of musical performances.
The emphasis on having space to relax and just vibe was a major standout. One of the most memorable moments was listening to MC and beatmaker Uncle El at the Chill Dome. The beats synchronized with the lasers, and the air conditioning felt tremendous. Another space with an emphasis on relaxation was the Rainbow Lounge. The entrance to this area was through a cylinder creating a perfect photo op. Once inside the lounge, large hammocks of every color form a circle. This created a community feel and a place to kick up your feet.
Artistic flair was shown through larger-than-life installations. The Sky Fields looked more lavish than ever, acting as a monumental tunnel of color blowing through the breeze. Covering a pathway between stages, this area reminded us to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. One of the most outstanding works of art was the repurposed 1978 38ft Chris Craft boat by Bam Creates. As part of the North Coast Yacht Club experience, the S.S. Bam was covered in mesmerizing artwork and also quite a fun time.
Despite being up against Arc Music Festival, which takes place on the same weekend in Chicago, the future seems bright for North Coast.
It is no surprise that concern arises when music festivals compete for attention, especially those in the same city on a major holiday weekend. However, ARC Music Festival drives a particular crowd with house and techno artists, whereas North Coast consists of artists of all electronic sub-genres. These two festivals are vastly different experiences, but both bring their own flare that should allow them to withstand each other in the Windy City.
Overall, North Coast Music Festival had another successful year filled with iconic electronic music talent, immersive experiences, plenty of vendor options, and great vibes. With that positive energy bursting from the festival, we look forward to seeing it continue to evolve for many years to come.