I always thought that ‘Summer’s Last Stand,’ the de facto slogan for the annual North Coast Music Festival, held in Chicago’s Union Park, sounded strangely combative. It reminded me of Custer’s Last Stand, and I’d imagine the summer sun defending itself against a barrage of apple cider, knit sweaters, and pigskin. But after day one of North Coast, the slogan was fitting-as Mother Nature threw down the gauntlet with some Old Testament-style wind and rain that forced evacuation and pushed the festival schedule back by an hour.
The sun did make a brief appearance at the beginning of the day, but as Los Angeles’ Capital Cities took the Coast Stage at 5 p.m., things above were looking dire. Sporting a set of slick white satin athletic jackets, the band opened with Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” but maybe “Gimme Shelter” would have been a more apt choice given the circumstances. For a while there, as bearded frontman Sebu Simonian waved for the clouds to “bring it on,” I was sure that his god-mocking hubris would be the end of us all. I did appreciate that the band risked life and limb (and satin jacket) to play the crowd-pleaser “Safe and Sound” a few minutes after the evacuation broadcast told the crowd to disperse. The crowd wasn’t in any hurry to move, anyway.
The festival reopened around 7 p.m., and after brief uncertainty about the schedule, the park refilled with Coasties. Post-evac, the crowd bounced between the remaining acts on the two main stages, gaining size and energy with each subsequent performance. Brits AlunaGeorge played the North Stage and covered Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” as lightening cracked through the sky and lit up the park; then the crowd turned and rushed to Pretty Lights’ protege Paper Diamond’s DJ set; then bounced back to Mac Miller. Miller absolutely whipped up the crowd, but for a moment it was suddenly funny to think that come Monday, on the very same spot Miller was asking the crowd to “say ‘Fuck you,’” they’ll be playing tee-ball here.
The headliner on the Coast Stage was Passion Pit, and a crowd as far as the eye could see assembled to see them-however the band explained to that their equipment was damaged in the storm, so they couldn’t play a proper set. What resulted was closer to a DJ set than a proper Passion Pit performance, and though it may not have been what a casual fan bought a ticket for, the crowd didn’t mind. Though Michael Angelakos was relegated more to hype man than singer, the music was palpable and the crowd responded positively, happy that the band didn’t simply pack it up and cancel the set.
Day one of North Coast, and though briefly derailed by one hell of a storm, continued on to everyone’s enjoyment. Still two days to go, and the weather report for the weekend looks… interesting.
Check out photographer Molly Geib’s images from day one in the gallery below.
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