North Coast Music Festival celebrated its fifth anniversary this Labor Day Weekend in Chicago at Union Park. The three-day extravaganza consisted of over 50 artists across five stages. Each stage was labeled by a Chicago area code, with 312 and 630 being the big anchor stages. To out-of-towners, these might have seemed like arbitrary numbers, but it’s a subtle nod to the city that’s been hosting this event for the last half-decade.


Credit: Aaron Engler

Building up to Labor Day weekend, the forecast was looking scary. Rain was predicted all day, every day. It was touch-and-go for a few moments leading up to the kickoff but we were treated to a near-perfect weekend. North Coast has been branded as "Summer’s Last Stand," and we were given the right weather to match the season.


Credit: Aaron Engler

The North Coast Music Festival schedule was very cutthroat this year, and attendees were forced to make some difficult decisions when it came to performers. North Coast gave us a strong combination of EDM and hip-hop, but headliners for each genre were set to face off each night. The decisions were easy for some, but brutal for others.


Credit: Aaron Engler

The first night was a battle between stages for Alesso or Bassnectar. Bassnectar is a seasoned veteran on the scene, but the decision was made to see Alesso. I had not yet seen him perform in person and I wanted to see what he could bring. Due to the timing, this meant that other festival goers had to miss out on Bassnectar.


Credit: Chris Monangan

Alesso, the 23-year-old Swedish superstar, definitely held his own with the sea of EDM fans. The crowd stood in awe at the performance of his new single, "Hereos," and then went crazy singing along to an 'old' favorite "Lose My Mind.” This collaboration with Sebastian Ingrosso has been on my playlist for a LONG time and it was an absolute blast to hear. To enjoy this song live with everyone was a fantastic experience. By the end of the night the 630 stage was full of happy people re-energized for the parties ahead and ready for the remainder of the festival.


Credit: Chris Monangan

On Saturday, Union Park had significantly more people and the energy was even higher. One of the benefactors of this day was Adventure Club. They really left nothing on the table and played one of the best sets of this year. Before you even think to ask, they played their memorable remix of "Crave You" by Flight Facilities. This was one of the more interactive and just genuinely great songs of this weekend. The Adventure duo would fade the song at just perfect times, allowing the overwhelming number of fans to sing along through the buildup right before the big drop. During their set, the two also played their brand new song for the first time. It went unnamed, but if the crowd’s reaction was any indicator of this single’s future, it’s going to be a huge success. As is standard with every Adventure Club experience, it was a laser-filled and CO2-clouded party. The special effects did not disappoint and the duo were certainly among the most energized performers of the weekend.


Credit: Chris Monangan

Kid Cudi rounded out Saturday night representing the hip-hop side of the festival, but left some drama in his wake. During his “Pursuit of Happiness” performance, he fainted between the stage and the crowd gates just after signing a quick autograph for a fan. Security whisked him away and he later tweeted that he was alright, and appreciated the support. His performance seemed a little off, but he explained via twitter that he essentially ‘forgot to eat throughout the day.'

Sunday was a very different day than the rest. The crowd was arguable twice the size of the previous days, but with double the talent to match. Toward the end of the night, Wolfgang Gartner brought his refreshing electro-house into the mix. There had been a lot of dubsteppers and trance performers throughout the weekend, and it was a nice change of pace to have some Gartner. It was a thrill to be front and center (well worth the scorching temperatures) for this performance. Throughout the weekend, local news stations flew overhead to get some footage of the festival, but during Gartner’s performance the helicopters must have needed a few double-takes. The choppers made about four separate passes overhead during just the first half of his set. To see this show on the ground was one thing, but I can only imagine what these camera crews were able to capture from the sky.

At the end of the night the big dog himself, Snoop Dogg, put on one of the best performances I've ever witnessed. The man is a professional when it comes to his show, and at 42 he still performs with such passion. He came out playing the favorites, and even dropped in some Katy Perry, "California Girls." It was an entertaining change of pace to go from classic Snoop to a poppy beat, but you were hard-pressed to find anyone not enjoying themselves. Towards the end of Snoop’s performance, you could hear Dada Life across the park playing Prydz’s anthem, “Call on Me,” while the crowd sang along. It was an entertaining way to end the weekend, and I hope someone will get to work on a mashup!


Credit: Aaron Engler

Overall, The North Coast Music Fest had a great fifth anniversary. There was incredible talent, an exciting atmosphere, and gorgeous weather. These are the keys to success for any big festival. If there was anything to improve upon for next year, we’d really like to see more than two fill stations for water. It was fortunate that the temperatures weren’t too bad because the water lines were quite long. Lastly, the performer distribution could have been a little better. It’s always tough to match stages and times with all the big names, but it led to a lot of difficult decisions. If you really break it down it was a non-issue -- there were just too many amazing performers to see. It was memorable to say the least. I take this as a sign for more incredible things to come, and I look forward to what they bring back to Chicago next year.


Credit: Aaron Engler

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