North Coast 2012

Originally posted on Undercover Clubber on  Tuesday September 18, 2012

It’s been two weeks since “summer’s last stand” or Chicago’s 3rd annual North Coast Music Festival and I’m still having a hard time putting into words a concise non rambling review.  I’ve also been attempting to judge North Coast by its own merit but I do have to compare it to Spring Awakening (which I attended) in order to make some of my points clearer.

The Good:

Lineup – Unlike Spring Awakening North Coast focuses on 3 genres of music not 1; hip hop, EDM and jam bands vs. just EDM respectively. This is not to say that Spring Awakening was not a great festival to attend, but it’s good to get away from the heavy bass lines and drops even for a few minutes to catch your breath. The music selection also ties into the crowd.

Crowd- With a mix of new age hippies, hipsters (for the jam bands) hip hop enthusiasts and of course the ragers, you saw a pretty diverse crowd which added to the festival experience. This is somewhat comparable to Electric Forest minus the hip hop enthusiasts.

Vendors- I know there are many vendors at each music festival one attends, but North Coast’s selection of merchandise, food and beverage vendors seemed larger. Some vendor tents did run out of water towards the end of Sunday, but the variety of products attendees had to choose from should be commended.

Prices – Clothing was roughly 20-25$ a Dos Equis beer was $6 red bull $3 and water $2. I don’t think those are bad prices at all when other festivals would charge you $5 for water or upwards of $8 for a beer.

Other – With Groupon hosting its own huge tent with a silent disco (everyone entering received headphones with 2 channels, each channel had a different DJ spinning you could alternate between the two) and Dos Equis having its own birling arena, it kept festival goers occupied while they waited for their favorite acts to hit the stage. There were some performers spotted that walked around all which contributes to a festival feel.

The Bad:

Location – Last time I checked React Presents claims that over 45000 people attended North Coast over the 3 day weekend.  That’s only 5000 less of what React claims showed up to their first Spring Awakening Music Festival. The difference is that the 50000+ at Soldier Field had a lot more room to move around. There was never a time where you couldn’t get through from one stage to the next. This should be addressed if North Coast continues to grow in popularity. Union Park might not cut it in the next few years.

Stage Set up- I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I think the North and Coast Stage are way too close to each other.  This not only left many gaps in scheduling acts for both stages (when you look at the schedule, acts alternated between the two stages) but also caused a huge stagnant crowd to form very close to  the main part of the festival.  My suggestion is consolidate to 3 stages giving enough room for maneuverability between stages or maybe put in some kind of other entertainment in the open space. This would also potentially allow that one stage (Dos Equis Stage) to be closer to the major crowds and not stuck in a corner of the park.

Water Refill Stations – With the crowd getting larger each day of the festival which actually caused some beverage tents to run out of water; couple that with Chicago humidity (especially Sunday after a drizzly Saturday evening) it was a no-brainer for North Coast organizers to have water refill stations set up around the festival grounds. The only problem was, I was only able to locate one, which had a 30 minute wait for it by Sunday. Now I know it wasn’t like Spring Awakening where we had the scorching heat of a mid July Chicago summer, but there should have been more water refill stations.

Summary – All in all North Coast Music festival is a great way to end your summer, with a variety of acts and activities that will keep you entertained all 3 days of the weekend. But be prepared to fight your way through the crowds progressively throughout the weekend which makes getting around and getting some food or beer a hassle. I’d like to point out that even though Union Park gets filled quickly it is easily accessible by the green line (even though the stop was packed with people in the evening) and street parking was not that hard to find within a few blocks of the entrance all 3 days.

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