Dragon Slays Summer’s Last Stand: Spyro’s Recap of North Coast Music Festival 2017

Official logo of North Coast Music Festival, 2017.

Day 1: We Be In The City

It all started on Fri-yay! I had just returned from walking my big Puppers when a wild Charmander appeared! “Do the shot!” we chanted at each other while sharing slices of Lou Malnati’s deep-dish, butter-crust pizza and shots of Bacardi Pineapple rum after work, pregaming for our 3-day weekend of electronic, hip hop, and instrumental music in Chicago’s own Union Park. We checked the lineup, designed our ultimate schedule over a few rounds of drinks, equipped ourselves with a backpack, LED earrings, IDs and sandals, and grabbed a quick Uber down the street. Spyro and Charmander were at it again.

Spyro and Charmander return for more attending their second NCMF in 2017!

Dave Burd, aka Lil Dicky, grew up in a “silly, old town called Cheltenham”, coincidentally where Charmander grew up, just three years apart in high school. We’d travelled around the midwest and east to see Lil Dicky live for awhile and finally caught up with Burd (and Vic Mensa!) at a show in Michigan last year. It was definitely one of our top sets to get to on Friday and we weren’t disappointed. Burd got dowwwwwwn on Friday, bringing fresh steps and moves to the North Stage. He played a nice combination of old hits such and new music as “Pillow Talking”, “The 90s”, “Too High”, and “Save Dat Money”. It was good to see fans turn up for our favorite white, Jewish rapper and show the good ol’ Philly-fam some Chicago love.

We left before halfway through the set to catch Bonobo. While we wouldn’t have recognized the songs we were eager to hear the British musician and producer perform live. The crowd was huge though, and we could see Skyline was starting to glow with fans ready to see the Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz set. We moseyed our way over to Skyline’s stage, listening to Lil Dicky perform “Lemme Freak” traditionally by giving a fan a lap dance while singing live as more and more festival-goers collected around the Skyline stage waiting for the most historical moment of Day 1 and possibly the biggest headliner North Coast brought to Chicago this year: Deadmau5.

Map of Union Park’s stage arrangement for Summer’s Last Stand!

In the Mau5 Hau5

An hour and a half later, it was hard to process what had just happened. I had bounced in nearly the same spot to a hard, loud, bassy trance set. I turned to Charmander, wondering if the show was over since it had faded out at the beginning of a new pattern. I’m a huge fan of Deadmau5 and know his sets can be very different: my favorite set was Lollapalooza 2009 since his top hits had just been released. This set left me wanting more classic Mau5 with the mau5head. It was even more disappointed than his Spring Awakening set last year where Deadmau5 called the crowd out for not showing him enough love. I’m sorry, Joel. I hope you saved the good stuff for your after-party at Concord because I know you can do better than that FL Studio piano roll lesson you shared with Prydz. While I will always love deadmau5, I hope the next set we see lives up to the high expectations we have of our favorite Canadian newly-wed.

The stacked lineup from NCMF 2013, Jmac’s supposed first festival.

Day 2: JmaC Attack

I woke up feeling way better Saturday morning, logged in to Facebook, picked the fresh, new coral background color for my status, and saved my traditional “It’s a Manic Focus Day!” post. Obviously, this was one of the sets I was most excited to see. I had recently read about JmaC’s first fest experience at North Coast five years prior (assumed 2013), and was so inspired that within five years, he went from an afternoon set and (hopefully) seeing Wutang, Big Gigantic, Disco Biscuits, Mac Miller, Datsik, RL Grime, Cherub, and more… to performing one of the most anticipated sets of #NCMF17.

Charmander and I shared breakfast croissants we made with fresh eggs, cheese, and bacon and downed a few glasses of Prosecco to kick things off. After doing my own Chameleon, mirror nail gel mani, makeup, applying my own mix of glitter gel to my roots, and raising the Chicago-flag and One Piece Straw Hat Pirates-flag on our 20 ft. flag pole, we headed to Union Park for Day 2.

Day 2 Festival look.

While Squabi, Goldfish, and Spafford were all on our schedule, it wasn’t until the middle of the Tank and the Bangas set that the excitement of Manic Focus really hit me. Or maybe it was the Prosecco and two glasses Pinot Grigio. Charmander and I planted our flag up front and in the middle, only a few rows from the North Stage’s rail. We ran into our Umphrey’s McGee and Griz friends and screamed together as JmaC, Patrick Riley, Jacob Barinholtz, two brass players, and a blonde, electric violinist sporting a silver mesh T and matching skirt took the stage.

The Shark and Monkey onesie friends we first met at Manic Focus’ Saturday set

Manic Focused

The set was incredible and came together phenomenally. We really enjoyed energy from the entire live band, surprise appearances from Ben Cofresi on the drums, and Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights’ who rapped. Not only was this set a roller coaster of danceable chillstep, jazz, dubstep, and house, but it was a great way for NCMF attendees to get hyped for a wonderful Saturday night. It was here that Charmander and I first met our onesie fam: a shark and a monkey who were turning up just as hard as we were.

Ran into Scamp fam, also an Umphreak, who is also stoked for Manic Focus!

A big, happy birthday to Patrick Riley, Manic Focus’ skilled guitarist who his celebrated his special day on the day of the show, as well as the night before at the Manic Focus after-party at Bottom Lounge.

Ran into these Umphreaks at the Almost Dead set.

Post-MF, I did wander over to Joe Russo’s Almost Dead to catch some good, chill, instrumentals. Shortly after, I turned to Coast Stage and posted up for Post Malone. Not many anticipated the rain, nor noticed the dark clouds moving in. Charmander and I sat in front of a tree with our two-flag totem checking the 50% chance of rain on the Weather app when we felt the first rain drop.

Let the Rain Fall Down…

It only took moments before the inevitable. Crowds started swarming around the foliage, trying desperately to escape the pitter-patter of pounding rain drops. Within 60 seconds, we had a small community of wet tree-friends, over 15 people trying to stay dry under flags, tapestries, scarves, and unnecessary clothing. A group of cousins, a lost wook, a group of silly characters, and another couple all bonded sharing stories about family, rain, and greatest hip hop sets with the rather loud sound of rain muffling the Post Malone set. One man shared pictures of his newborn son, only a few weeks old. Another guy pretended to talk on the phone with his friend while holding a pack of cigarettes to his ear. One girl left to grab a poncho and hit the bathrooms before returning to our tree. Time flew by and 7:45 was approaching. The rain dulled briefly. Charmander and I wiped our foreheads, hugged our friends goodbye, buttoned the top button of our onesies, and bolted for North Stage.

… Coming Clean

There’s something about Alana Rocklin, center stage, playing in the rain… the wind blowing back her curly locks, the precipitation accentuating the light show deep into the field, the white noise paired with the Tribe sound patterns as STS9 rages… To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever not seen STS9 in a blithering rain storm. It’s always been super epic and totally worth it. Charmander and I took shelter under the vibrant decor that covered the baseball diamond so we wouldn’t miss out. There were at least 100 others, spaced out according to the cut-outs from the fabric above. We all took in Sound Tribe from across the field while another huge crowd embraced the rain and raged by the stage through the storm. It was during the last 10 minutes of the set that the rain let up. We grabbed fresh drinks from the bar, checked out the set from stage right, and soon returned to Coast Stage for Carnage.

The full, official 2017 lineup was finally revealed on August 15, 2017.

If you’ve never been to a Carnage set, I highly recommend you do. I had no idea how crazy that set would be. Definitely a trap, electronic combo influenced by hip hop and latin vibes, and Charmander and I wanted to be in the middle of it all! We ran into Monkey and Shark buddies from Manic Focus and rallied to head into the middle of the crowd. We jumped, danced, and moshed our way up front with our flag totem and onesie fam. When Carnage yelled for us to “open it up” for the mosh pit, I planted my flag briefly in the ground to set the front of the circle, braced myself, and whirled around as the crowd pushed and shoved. We didn’t want to leave when it was over and would definitely go to see another Carnage set again. Rumors of a Carnage show back here in 2018, so we’ll stay updated.

Day 3: Sunday Funday!

They call it Sunday Funday for a reason. Definitely the best of the three days in my opinion. Not just for weather and zombie crowd Sunday’s draw, but generally, Charmander and I had the most fun going from set to set to set because the Sunday lineup was stacked. After a few shots and sharing an Everything Bagel with whipped cream cheese, we arrived to our first ever strip search which was a bit of a buzzkill. We obviously weren’t going to say no, and both took off our onesies in a tent next to the bag search line. THe moment our tickets were scanned and we were allowed in, we ran freely with our flags waving right up to Hippie Sabotage.

Watch me trend! LED eyelashes, LED earrings, mirror mani, and a new friend.

From there, we went to Destructo at the Coast Stage, where we knew the electronic vibes would be keeping us all night. We waited near the tree line until the end of the set and rushed up front for Ganja White Night. Known for their alien-like dubstep we banged our heads and wobbled to their bass. Originally from Belgium, they were one of our top, must-see sets and did not disappoint. Also a huge fan of their trippy, animated visual set, we raged until our mouths were watering and the duo walked off the stage. I clicked on my trendy, new, white LED eyelashes since the sun was going down. We could hear Primus at North and walked through the vendors and art gallery on the west side, but then headed east for dinner, water, and to pregame for Tipper.

Reunited with Onesie Fam at Tipper on Day 3 of NCMF.

Spyro Finds True Love

We purchased three bottles of water and a pulled-pork BBQ sandwich. It was AMAZING. Saucy, salty, tender, juicy: this dragon was so in LOVE with her beef sandwich and her smoking hot fire lizard boyfriend, Charmander. It was almost overwhelming how much love I felt for the two and it was hard to distinguish which I loved more. As a cool breeze rushed through the park, we met a slough of bass heads gathering near our tree, two other dinosaurs, and a bachelor balancing his time between four girls resting in the tall grasses by the food trucks, who were all also so excited for Tipper and were fascinated by my flashing eye lids. We all helped the bachelor polish off the bottle of vodka he had snuck in and rose our flags to begin our adventure as well as or Pinot Grigio cups which we had clicked together to form a more classy version of a wizard’s staff.

Right as we got back to Coast Stage, Tipper’s mandala visuals and lasers started flashing and warping before our eyes and our Shark and Monkey onesie fam appeared out of thin air. It wasn’t long before our huge group snaked our way to the front of the crowd. Half way through the set, security made us and the other totem-ragers nearby take down our flags to improve the light show, and we did knowing flags often block views in the back. We continued to party with friends right up until 10:01pm when the weekend came to an abrupt stop, ending with a bang. We strolled to the rainbow drip tent for some pictures, hugged our friends good bye, escorted a cheerful wook to the Mid for Destructo’s after-party, and walked all the way home with our flags flying high.

And we all lived happily, ever after!

Charmander and I under the rainbow art walk and a picture of our flags waving as we walk home.

For more pictures and videos from North Coast Music Festival and my other festival adventures, follow me on Facebook (Nicole Genevieve) and Instagram @nikstagraham.