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Chicagoist's Guide To The 2013 North Coast Music Festival

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 29, 2013 7:00PM

Well, here we are on the brink of another North Coast Music Festival. Since its origination four years ago, North Coast (held in Union Park) has been somewhat of an overshadowed little brother to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork music festivals and its tendency to draw a younger crowd has had a lot of critics brushing it off. Instead of developing a chip on its shoulder though, North Coast grows in talent each year. This summer's lineup boasts names that either of the aforementioned festivals would be proud to have perform. In fact, some of them already have.

When NCMF released its schedule a couple weeks ago, the usual "10 Acts to See" and "5 Can't Miss Artists" lists followed. But what we noticed about a lot of these lists was that they failed to actually take the schedule into account. How can we not miss the Wu-Tang Clan and JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound when they're playing at the same time? Sure, let's just step away for a few moments while the Wu drops "Protect Ya Neck."


There are dozens of "can't miss" acts on North Coast's lineup this year but, sadly, you won't be able to catch them all. Allow us to narrow down your tough choices.

5 p.m. - Already grabbing major radio airplay with just one album under their belt, Capital Cities is positioned to blow up. Here's your chance to catch them before that happens. Plus they'll be a great primer for Passion Pit later in the evening since their sound isn't too far off.
6 p.m. - There comes a time at every music festival when your friend will drag you across the grounds to see a band she heard playing in H&M because "they're so great." AlunaGeorge seems to be that band this weekend. We won't fault you for liking them but we also know that North Coast was built on a solid backbone of electronic dance music and RL Grime's trap beats are quick, dirty and danceable.
7 p.m. - All summer everyone's been buzzing about what a great time it is to support Chicago hip hop. Time to stop buzzing and start supporting. Skip Paper Diamond and Laidback Luke - you're not missing much - and watch ProbCause. His recent mixtape The Recipe Volume 2 has been gaining praise and his collaborations with the likes of Chance The Rapper and Action Bronson won't leave him on the side stage for long.
8 p.m. - We might be editorializing a bit here but Mac Miller is a lethargic fraternity rapper who's lucky Kendrick even knew remembered his name when he recorded his "Control" verse. If you're interested in some real musicianship watch The Werks channel STS9 for the last half of their set or see The Disco Biscuits go on at 8:30 p.m.
9 p.m. - Just Blaze is a world class producer. He's assisted artists like Jay-Z, Eminem and Mariah Carey in the studio. But the thing is that Jay, Em and Mariah will not be at North Coast this weekend. If your choice is a DJ set from a guy who's better known for his producing than his DJing or a live performance from a band who is finally ready to make the jump from mid-bill act to festival headliners, Passion Pit is your best bet for Friday's closing slot.   


2 p.m. - The fact that Brassft Punk is a New Orleans brass band that plays Daft Punk covers and only Daft Punk covers is enough to get us out to Union Park early.
3 p.m. - We'll probably be napping under a tree after our early "morning" but if you're up and at 'em, Porn and Chicken always puts on a fun festival show.
4 p.m. - Aside from his Boost Mobile commercial, Aloe Blacc has a damn good voice with an old soul that will surely continue to turn a dollar for him.
5 p.m. - You won't find a better opportunity all weekend to pay homage to both North Coast's history of pairing electronic acts and jam bands as well and its hometown of Chicago than locals Future Rock's set.
6 p.m. - Hip hop heads and bass junkies come together under Gramatik's slick beats. If you're ready to keep the party doing, get to the Coast stage. If you're experiencing an early evening slump, Seven Lion's synth-laden new wave sound lull you while you recharge.
7 p.m. - Skream didn't do it for us even when he was touring alongside his louder and wilder fellow DJ Benga. Nas, on the other hand, has rarely let us down on stage or in the studio (save for that Street's Disciple/Hip Hop Is Dead phase) in his nearly 20 year career and you'll find us squarely planted in front of the North stage for his set. We suggest you do the same.
8 p.m. - Don't brush Big Gigantic off as just another dubstep act. First of all, they're hardly dubstep. Secondly, amidst a sea of generic electronic acts cashing in on the EDM craze, they do it better than most. Live percussion against Dominic Lalli's saxophone melodies inevitably jazzes up the otherwise electronic set. Afrojack is a textbook club DJ who's never really enticed us but but he's been dropping his new material during recent performances. So if you're a fan it has the probability of being a good set.


1-2 p.m. - Stick with what you know and discover some young talent at the same time. Veteran of the local hip hop scene Psalm One will share a set with pupils of her RhymeSchool on the Dos Equis stage at 1:30 p.m
3 p.m. - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is always a fun so but they've performed at North Coast before. If you're already seen them before, whysowhite is a local funk/hip hop collective we recommend.
4 p.m. - Meh. Not a lot going on in this slot. Danny Brown's raunchy raps are a little to "in your face" for us and his set will likely be attended by a sea of teens who are just there to Instagram pics as proof they attended a rap show. This might be the time to grab some chicken on a stick and gear up for the night.
5 p.m. - If you've seen A-Trak's recent Adidas commercials with RUN DMC (or, even better, his live sets), you know that he's a true turntablist -- one of just a few left in the mainstream DJ game. His funky sets are almost enough to make us feel like we're in an underground club rather than a grassy field. That said, Datsik is a professional party starter and we'll probably end up splitting our time between the two.
6 p.m. - Rebelution's blend of reggae and acoustic rock is more Bob Marley than it is Dispatch. If that's your thing, go for it. Poppy DJ Madeon opened for Lady Gaga last time she was here. Midnight Conspiracy are still holding down the local dubstep scene since Krewella moved onto to national tours and promos. We're claiming no allegiance. Do what feels best.
7 p.m. - If you tire of head-bobbing to electronica by Sunday evening, Gary Clark Jr. is an artists who challenges us in a good way. Is his music R&B? Is it blues? Dressed up pop? We don't know but we like it and we're interested to see how it translates live.
8 p.m. - A seemingly easy pick since Purity Ring is the only notable artist whose set starts at 8. The duo recently played a sold out Metro show that left Instagram and Twitter a buzz with their visually conscious stage show.
9 p.m. - We love local music but sorry, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, we can see you any time. Lotus, you're great, but there's enough jamming to go around at this festival. We're not going against the grain on this one. Wu-Tang Clan performing 36 Chambers is the way to go. It's been 20 years since this album came out and we plan to wind down the fest by taking it all in.

Single day tickets to North Coast Music Festival are still on sale starting at $55. Also, click this link for afterparty info -- if you're not wiped out! If you're festival-ed out for the summer, you could always do the lazy thing and watch the festival's live stream from your bed.