North Coast Music Festival - Day 1

I left Madison a little later than I hoped. After picking up the car from the rental place, I was on the road around 2pm. Not terrible, but it put me in the throws of Chicago gridlock. After checking into the motel and forgetting I was supposed to go to Union Park (not Wicker Park), I got there in time to hear the last 15 minutes of Zabiela's set.

Man, James Zabiela was on fire. I haven't heard any breaks in a long time, and it's so refreshing to hear them as crisp as I remember. I'm totally excited for his after-party tonight at Sound Bar. I was pretty sad that the crowd was so sparse, but those that were there were hanging on each break he threw down.

I took a bunch of pictures, but wasn't able to get video. Afterward, I wandered around the festival grounds, looking at the vendors and their merchandise. One of them had some beautiful trippy tapestries for super cheap, so I bought one. :)

I waited around the North Coast stage for Wolfgang, and listened to Sbtrkt's opening set. I thought it was pretty good. Not my kind of music, bit it definitely had groove to it. Nice and smooth.

He finished, and the roadies started setting up the stage for Wolfgang Gartner. 10 minutes he hopped on stage to NO sound. It took them a couple of minutes to fix that, and then he was off. His set included many of his hits, so it felt much like a concert than a DJ set. His filler tracks were not for me... I thought I liked this guy, but his set was very uninspired. No where near what his essential sounded like. It was pretty disappointing... though maybe he was nervous and played it safe.

Here's the first 16 minutes of him on stage:

While he was jammin his hits, the crowd began to grow immensely. There was a good amount of area to move at the start, but after 15 minutes, it was wall to wall bodies. Hot sweaty half-naked bodies dripping with sweat from the 90, 95 degree weather. I wore the wrong clothes to this pit, so I got out of the crowd to avoid drenching my night club garb.

Wolfgang finished his set in an hour with Wolfgang Gartner - Undertaker, then exited the stage to make way for David Guetta. David Guetta is a horrible sellout producer who doesn't know how to DJ. He can sequence songs, but everyone can do that these days.

He got up on stage and starting blaring the most generic EDM. It was probably some track he's known for. The words "Nothing but the beat" scrolled on the LCD display, so that can probably ID the song. As the song built, he constantly interrupted the track by telling the crowd how this is his biggest gig in Chicago, and how we're all lucky, or whatever.

As soon as the generic beat dropped, I took off. I don't need to hear this. Also, the weather was quite nauseating. It was 90 some degrees with absolutely NO wind, so all the cigarette smoke stayed around the entire crowd. From the setting, you'd think the were blowing smoke machines, but it was all disgusting cigarettes. The worst smell in the world, coupled with some of the most horrible sounds in the world.

So, I left and went to Lou Malnati's for my favorite Chicago pizza, before heading back downtown for Zabiela's after party.

James Zabiela @ Sound-Bar

After eating a whole deepdish pizza, I took off for downtown and made it to the Sound-bar line around 11pm. I was met by a line around the block, and it took about 50 minutes to make it into the club. I finally made it in around Midnight, and had to pay a $10 cover, but it was worth it.

Sound Bar was exactly how I remembered it. This place had not changed in the last 7 years. Speakers lined the entire dance floor, so no matter where you were, you were standing in the best spot to hear the music. And it is loud. SO LOUD. But the music is still crystal clear.

As I entered, there was a couple in the booth tag teamin opening duties. It was pretty cute, and they played some of the smoothest Prog House, including David August - Hamburg is for Lovers. The set already felt close to Sasha's Never say Never sound, but the plucked that one directly from his latest Usiaha set. Man, I love that song.

Halfway through, the guy took over for a couple songs and ramped up the intensity. One of the songs was Moby - Raining again (Steve Angello Remix). Once the girl got control of the decks, she seemed a little annoyed and quickly pulled it back into an amazing groove.

These two were pretty awesome. I must know their names. They continued until 1:30-ish, when James Zabiela took stage. It took him a little while to set up his stuff, and around 1:45, he began.

His set was incredible. High energy, but not offense or pandering. Several songs came from Sasha and John Digweed's playlist. I recognized some of them, but the only one I could ID was Layo & Bushwacka - What do you say Now.

He threw in plenty of effects on top of the normal tracks with his iPad, and some other toys. And he played a couple break tracks LIVE too!

I recorded the first hour and a half of his set, but stopped to take some pictures and enjoy his fantastic set. Here's a link to the video:

Overall, this night was fantastic. Last year, The Chemical Brothers rocked my world, and last night, it was James Zabiela. It was definitely one of my top 5 music experiences of the year, alongside Sasha, Digweed, Shpongle, and OTT.

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