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North Coast Music Festival Day Three: All About The Wu

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 2, 2013 6:00PM

By the third day of music festivals, the crowd starts to feel bonded, almost family-like. Sunday at North Coast it felt more like, shall we say, a clan.

Despite the fact that this was easily the most crowded day of the festival, North Coast never felt packed this year. Let us be clear: that is not a complaint or an insult to the fest. It's quite the opposite actually. Coming off a Lollapalooza that managed to make a space as large as Grant Park feel like a sardine can, we graciously welcomed the breathing room.

Another element of the festival that we realize we've passed over in our reviews so far is the drug use. A cover story from RedEye and Saturday's most viral local news story brought the issue home. The grim news from New York that Electric Zoo had been been canceled after two days and two fatal overdoses also loomed on Sunday morning.

Spending just ten minutes by the medical tent at North Coast was enough to prove that not everyone was enjoying responsibly. However, EMS' presence was known everywhere throughout Union Park and we've been lucky enough to not hear of any serious drug-related cases so far.

A festival can only do so much to control attendees' behavior. From there, you can only hold it accountable for its preparedness. From increased security to plentiful on-site medical units to organized storm preparation, North Coast was a professional outing all weekend long. We're happy to say we got nothing but good vibes from this fourth-year festival.

So, onto the musical acts.

We're not exactly fans of Danny Brown but we went against our own advice and gave him a shot at proving himself live. After watching his set, we'll keep our commentary to ourselves. We will say that his voice really does sound like that in real life too.

Datsik, Canada's contribution to dubstep, was great when we saw him at Spring Awakening last year. However, our interest in his set peaked early yesterday. When you're a producer whose music depends on the drops, you can't wait too long in between. The buildups lasted too long and we weren't able to get in sync with the music.

A-Trak, on the other hand, put on our favorite DJ set of the weekend. Unlike other performers, we have no qualms about actually calling him a DJ and imagine it must be hard for A-Trak to not show off at festivals like North Coast. He's likely the only "DJ" on the bill that not only uses an actual turntable but masters all the tricks that come with it. A-Trak scratched and spun his way through a set that shifted from house to pop to hip hop and kept us light on our toes for the full hour.

The change of pace that Gary Clark Jr. offered early in the evening was perfect for the Sunday evening slumps. His stage set up skipped the elaborate production value of almost all of the weekend's other performers and made us feel like we were jammin' down by the river. By the end of his performance we had no doubts in our mind that that man can play the blues guitar.

As a storm loomed in the distance, the crowd converged on the festival's main stage. It was hard to go 10 minutes on Sunday without a reminder of the Wu-Tang Clan's presence, From t-shirts, to hat pins to high socks the iconic yellow "W" was everywhere. And the Wu didn't disappoint.

We knew that all of the living members of the hip hop collective were scheduled to be in attendance but we almost forgot how many members that number totaled. Everyone—including RZA, DZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon—was onstage showing copious amounts of love for the late ODB.

From the start of the performance we knew seeing Enter The Wu-Tang front to back wasn't going to happen. Lightning grew closer to the Union Park and the Wu announced they only had a short time before the storm arrived. Big hits like "C.R.E.A.M." were played early to be sure to get them in and by mid-set the Clan seemed to have abandoned the idea all together, playing un-36-Chambers-related cuts like "Gravel Pit."

The crowd's attention never waned and, to their credit, Wu-Tang Clan tried to cram as much as possible into a set that could be called at any moment. And, finally, 20 minutes before its scheduled conclusion, it was.

It was a sad, unexpected fizzle of an ending to the festival, but you can only blame the weather. In full, North Coast 2013 was an undeniable success.