FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival

Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival always comes with a sense of bittersweet to go along with the typical fun that accompanies music festivals: typically, it marks the end of another summer of live music. But with NCMF, it’s important to just brush that in to the back of your mind and relish in another fantastic music festival to take over the Midwest’s finest city on Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4-6).

Taking place in Union Park (the same park that hosts Pitchfork Music Festival), the festival boasts a widening range of artists from all sorts of musical genres, ranging from rock to electronic. This year, North Coast has one of its most impressive of recent memories, with some huge names in indie music and some can’t miss live acts.


We shared the lineup for North Coast back in April, and we’ll get into the artists you won’t want to miss further in this piece, but here’s some general info you’ll want to know before heading into the fest.

First off, get your tickets… fast. The festival is close to selling out, and likely will by the time the festival begins. Tickets are a reasonable $159 for a 3-Day GA Pass, and single day tickets will run you $69.

As mentioned, NCMF takes place at Chicago’s Union Park, a beautiful park that features a unique view of the city’s skyline without all the traffic and crowds that downtown festival-goers can sometimes struggle with. Union Park itself seems prime to host music festivals, with grounds that aren’t too big that you can’t bee-line from stage to stage to catch whomever you’re looking for.

Like every music festival, North Coast offers a list of items you can and can’t bring in, and I’d adhere to it pretty strictly, no one wants to be “that guy/girl” who’s holding up a long entry line. Check that out and more important info via the Festival Guide provided by NCMF.

Also like other festivals, NCMF gives festival attendees the chance to upgrade to special VIP privileges. Amongst other things, VIP ticket holders get expedited entry, access to mixed drinks and spirits and complimentary bottled water, air conditioned restroom trailers (a vastly underrated accommodation), special VIP lounges and viewing areas, and more.

Only the best music festivals have after parties, and you better believe North Coast has some to offer. Here’s a list of the shows taking place throughout Chicago that weekend, along with links to purchase tickets/RSVP.


  • Daft Rock – Future Rock Performs the Music of Daft Punk + North American Scum – Members of Turbo Suit, Digital Tape Machine, Spare Parts Present the Music of LCD Soundsystem – Concord Music Hall 18+ | Tickets
  • The Main Squeeze – Official Mind Your Head Album Release Party – Bottom Lounge 17+ | Tickets
  • Knife Party – the MID 21+ | Tickets
  • Salva, Sicko Mobb, Martin $ky + Cofresi – Cobra Lounge 21+ | Tickets


  • The Disco Biscuits – Concord Music Hall 18+ | Tickets
  • Lyrics Born, The Heard + O.R. They? – Cobra Lounge 21+ | Tickets
  • Sweater Beats, Humans + Smoko Ono – Bottom Lounge 17+ | Tickets
  • Steve Aoki + Ricoshei – the MID 21+ | Tickets
  • Galactic – 1st Ward 18+ | Tickets
  • Chromeo (DJ Set) – Studio Paris 21+ | Tickets


  • Goldfish + Auto Body – Bottom Lounge 17+ | Tickets
  • Green Velvet – the MID 21+ | Tickets
  • Kill The Noize, The Trap House + Rodga – Transit 21+ | Tickets
  • Until the Ribbon Breaks, GGOOLLDD, Equator Club – Cobra Lounge 21+ | Tickets


With the full schedule and set times being released earlier this week (full schedule available here), we figured it’d be most helpful to sort through the lineup and pick out our Top 5 Artists to see at this year’s North Coast Music Festival.

5 – The Roots (Saturday 8PM – 773 Stage)

What really can you say about The Roots that hasn’t already been said? One of modern hip-hop’s most time-tested and heralded acts, The Roots put on a show that should be seen (and heard) whenever possible.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen ?uestlove, Black Thought, and the group, but their live show is completely timeless, featuring one of the best live backing bands that has set the stage for so many hip hop acts to follow. The Roots have refined their live sound to be near-flawless, I mean, if NBC can trust the group to be the live band for The Tonight Show, backing artists of just about any musical genre on a nightly basis, do you really need to question whether or not this group can still play? Didn’t think so.


4 – Chromeo (Saturday 7PM – 312 Stage)

Another act that has slipped past me for far too long, Chromeo takes the stage just an hour before The Roots on Saturday. The duo of Dave 1 and P-Thugg, Chromeo is one of the pinnacle electro-funk/pop/hip hop/soul acts in the business today. The group always impresses, and their shows are insanely fun, guaranteed to put a little bounce in your evening.

Coming off their fourth album, White Women, Chromeo have sneakily never released a true stinker of an album. Their LPs are consistently good, and continue to grow musically as each release date passes. I’ve been a fan of the Canadian duo for longer than I care to admit (I’d hate to age myself), but let’s just say I’d give me some room to dance when songs like “You’re So Gangsta”, “Call Me Up”, and “Old 45s” come up in the setlist.


3 – Twin Shadow (Sunday 5:45PM – 773 Stage)

I’ve only seen Twin Shadow at poorly-attended Turner Hall Ballroom shows, which is a shame because George Lewis, Jr. and company put on a vastly underrated live show. Lewis, performing as Twin Shadow since 2010, is an incredible songwriter, a fantastic singer, and an equally impressive live musician and producer.

And don’t even get me started on the dude’s fashion.

Twin Shadow is known to sell out shows in major cities, Chicago included, so I’d expect the group’s set to be very well-attended, which will hopefully make up for the Milwaukee crowds I’ve been a part of. And make no mistake, Lewis has never let any crowd affect his live set, the man would play to a group of five and it would still be goosebump inducing live music.


2 – The Chemical Brothers (Sunday Night Headliner 8:45PM – 312 Stage)

This is a nice throwback act for NCMF, as The Chemical Brothers headlined the fest’s inaugural lineup in 2010. The band has come full circle to headline the fest’s 5th Anniversary dates this year, closing out the festival on Sunday night. And they’ve done it without ever really changing their mindset or musical tendencies.

One of the most consistent electronic acts, the duo from South London have been making music for over twenty-five years,  with their debut album coming out in 1995. The group is credited as being one of the few truly arena-worthy electronic acts, in a genre that is full of imposters. Being that The Chemical Brothers have just released Born In The Echoes, one of the rowdiest electronic albums of this year (and also one of the best), it’s safe to say that their festival-capping set on Sunday is one that shouldn’t be missed, by anyone.


1 – D’Angelo & The Vanguards (Saturday Night Headliner 9PM – 312 Stage)

Are you noticing a trend with these Top 5 acts of NCMF? If you’re not, allow me to fully spell it out for you: veterans.

None of these acts are a stranger to their craft, spending years to master it, and D’Angelo is case and point, with his debut album Brown Sugar coming out twenty years ago in 1995. I’m not one to call a performance a Top Performance of the Year candidate before it even happens, but this is as close as I’ll get.

D’Angelo, ever the crafty musician, released his long-awaited album Black Messiah, the best way he knew how: without warning, at the end of last year, able to sneak under any “poser”‘s radar, and true music fans listened. The album was easily one of the best albums of last year, and is at the top of the list for top neo-soul album’s of all time (rivaling, in my opinion, his 2000 album, Voodoo).

I’m not going to pass up this opportunity to see one of my favorite musicians of all time. Look for me when “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” and “Devil’s Pie” plays, I just might be crying tears of joy.