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North Coast Music Festival Day Two: A Day For Diversity

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 1, 2013 6:30PM

It's a shame that some Chicagoans consider North Coast Music Festival to be a one-dimensional EDM fest.

True, it was one of the first in the city to seize hold of dance music's popularity, and North Coast still books a generous handful of great electronic acts each year. But, based on our schedule yesterday, it's hardly the only thing on the menu.

For instance: We've heard Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" plenty of times this summer during our festival adventures--but never like we did yesterday. Despite a lack of charismatic stage presence Brassft Punk -- a brass Daft Punk cover band -- put a fun spin on old classics like "One More Time" and "Da Funk."

From there, we meandered between stages. A quick stop by Porn and Chicken's set revealed Dom Brown and co. hyping up a crowd that, for the most part, wasn't even old enough to attend P&C's flagship Monday night event, let alone buy porn.

The festival's Last Stand stage is where most of the dance music is housed and it's hard not to feel like an old geezer over there. Beyond the shady grove along Ashland, though, the festival turned out a crowd that wouldn't look out of place at Lollapalooza or any of Chicago's numerous street festival's.

Aloe Blacc is a solid combination of funk, blues and soul. The "I Need A Dollar" singer wasn't breaking any barriers with his performance yesterday but feel good tracks like "Green Lights" made us appreciate being outside on such a beautiful summer day. That's Good Festival Performer 101.

Chicago's answer to Sound Tribe Sector 9, North Coast vets Future Rock took the stage in the late afternoon. We're not sure if it was the 5:30 p.m. set time (the beginning of peak festival hours) or if we just underestimated the group's popularity but all of a sudden the crowd tripled in size.

The local trio -- made up of synths, bass guitar and a drum kit -- jammed through its hour-long set. While Future Rock's sounds aren't quite as organic as the aforementioned STS9, the crowd still ate it up like a Lincoln Park mother in a Whole Foods produce department.

Gramatik's set, which welcomed guest appearances from a live guitarist and Big Gigantic saxophonist Dominic Lalli, was pleasantly unexpected. We'll always welcome the DJ/live music combo. For the most part the set was fun filled and funky. It got a little bass heavy at times but not enough to turn off the older folk.

We're going to make and statement and you can argue it if you must: Nas has aged incredibly well as a rapper.

When hip-hop stars turn to the festival circuit, it sometimes signals the end of his or her dignity. Faced with the reality that his recent music is too emotional, too thought provoking for current mainstream hip-hop radio, the Queens, NY, rapper has returned to a crowd that never forgot about him. North Coasters still knew every line to former MTV hits like "Got Yourself A Gun," "I Can" and "Made You Look." More dedicated fans sang along to more obscure and older hits like "Get Down" and "N.Y. State of Mind."

Typical of most rap performances, Nas only made it through a verse or two of each hit. We didn't feel shorted, though. Instead, we welcomed as much as he could fit into his hour long set.

Once an angry, spiteful product of the New York projects, Nas has matured into a grateful, almost jovial musician. He's not afraid to poke fun at fans too young to remember his earliest songs and reluctant to swear during live performances should his daughter ever watch. It's an evolution that's been completely endearing to watch.

Why Chicago loves Colorado-based headliners Big Gigantic so much is a mystery. They're a fun listen and a great live show but this city goes ape over the duo no matter what they do.

And Big Gigantic loves us right back. Dominic Lalli's saxophone melodies flowed over a light show boasting big, bright red Chicago flag stars. Easily written off as "just another electronic group" in theory, Big G continued to prove that all it takes is a little live musicianship to elevate your sound. The live drums, jazzy sax interjections and electronic rhythms were the best way to pay tribute to North Coast's diverse offerings.

"Summer's last stand" still has one more day to give it all it's got. After watching the crowd go as hard as it did yesterday though, we won't be surprised if Sunday matches Saturday's might.