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Friday, September 6, 2013

Festivals reign over Chicago Labor Day Weekend

Concert Review
Chicago Music Festivals over Labor Day Weekend

Union Park & Millennium Park, Chicago, IL


       This past weekend, the city of Chicago was busy and filled with music. Some of this live entertainment was at the Chicago Jazz Festival, well over its 30 year old mark, and North coast Music
Festival, now in its third year running. Both festivals ran the course of the weekend at Chicago’s Millennium Park and Union Park. Completely different from each other in every which way, both festivals have their ups and downs, but despite this, they provided great entertainment and a successful time well worth going to. It was well interesting going to both of these festivals in the same weekend. The intense difference in age groups, setting, style and substance was like stepping into a record store-almost every type of music was experienced from Jazz to rock to Blues to Hip hop and techno. Even North coast Music festival had an extremely talented jazz group during the early part of the day that got everyone up and going and dancing called The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. There were some similar aspects to both festivals: nearly all the artists performing were extremely talented, and people of all ages still go out these days to listen to free and paid music in vast numbers.
          The let downs of each festival however were still there. North coast music festival was extremely over crowded Friday night because after the evacuation due to severe weather, the festival let anyone into the grounds if they had a ticket or not, so  many people got into it for free. That wasn’t the worse thing about the festival by far, either. Unfortunately, with techno music comes molly and all sorts of drugs. These drugs were clearly present at the festival almost everywhere you turned unfortunately. However, despite this, the majority of the crowd was there for the music, and you were
only occasionally asked to buy drugs from someone once in a while. For Jazzfest, not knowing almost any of the musicians was a let down, as well as almost no younger people in the crowd, but that all really wasn’t too bad because it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Here is a list of the top moments of both festivals.

 5) Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party @ Chicago Jazz Festival
       To many young music fans, Jazz is the music their grandparents grew up on. Its often slow, and you can even fall asleep to its melodies. In today’s world, Jazz isn’t heard on the popular radio stations across the country. However, it’s still a dominant force in the music industry. The slowness of Jazz seemed to disappear during the Chicago Jazz Festival on Saturday night at Millennium Park, especially during the headliner’s set, Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party.
       Jason Moran is a worldly known Texan Jazz pianist. Since his beginnings in Houston, Texas, Jason has earned high critical acclaim for his work and many awards. His skills are legendary, and he proved this to everyone at the Jazz Festival Saturday night at one of the best out door places ever to see live music-the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The Pavilion is one of a kind, and its architecture is simply amazing. Add to this a free night of jazz music, and the two go together like peas and carrots. Jason Moran came on stage dedicating his entire set to another legendary jazz that died many years ago-Fats Waller. Nothing about Jason’s set Saturday
 night was slow.
       The group brought on stage two sets of dancers, who swayed perfectly, endlessly and effortlessly to Jason Moran’s music. They even did several back flips during the set. The dancers consisted of two groups of two, male and female. You could easily tell they were professional dancers and provided jazz fest with excellent entertainment. Close to the end of the set, one of the female dancers, who was the most famous, asked everyone what the hell they were sitting down for. So of course, everyone sitting in the seats as we were got up and danced with them for the rest of Jason’s set. The set included excellent piano playing by Jason Moran, who did half the set blind when he put on his head a huge head mask of Fats Waller. It was a bit weird, and extremely different, but Jason Moran is no doubt an extremely talented jazz musician and entertainer as he showed everyone last Saturday night at Jazz Festival. Add to this the beautiful and unusual lights at the Pavilion in downtown Chicago at night, and you were in for a great experience.

 Grade: A      4 out of 5 stars                ****

 4) A-Track @ North by North Coast Music Festival
       Techno music clearly is not dying yet. Everyone knows its popularity has soared over the past few years, and even different genres of techno music have emerged. Several years ago, Perry’s stage at the Lollapalooza festival was incredibly small. Now it’s the biggest stage there, providing the festival with music’s biggest DJS every year. North Coast music festival is indeed an electronic festival, even though there are many other types of different musical genres like jazz and blues within it. North Coast, first debuting several years ago at Chicago’s Union Park, is now a festival in Chicago many electronic fans don’t want to miss. Performing at the festival Sunday during the day (he was actually scheduled to perform at night, but pushed his performance up so it be an easier set up with the rest of the DJS), was A-Trak.
       Canadian DJ A-Trak is known for scratching records, a true staple for DJ music. Seeing him up front within the first three rows at North Coast festival was accelerating to say the least. The guy moved and worked like a madman, using his talent in mixing some incredible songs throughout his set. As he came on stage, A-Trak declared ‘I only have one hour to play record, so I’m going to get right into it’. Clearly he did with stage steam bursting off from the stage into the crowd as he began to jam.
       The crowd went absolutely crazy, with everyone jumping up and down and even moshing to A-Trak. Before his set, a girl told us we should stay because we may never have the chance to be up close to him like this again. Having never even heard of the guy, we agreed. Kudos to her, because his set was one of the most entertaining, and craziest, of the entire weekend. The guy has tons of energy, and respect for Chicago, as he also said ‘Hey, this type of music started in Chicago’ as he began playing another tune. His own edition of ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk was simply incredible, and a stand out during his set.

Grade: B+     3.5 out of 5 Stars      ***/*

 3) Being evacuated twice at North Coast Festival Because of Severe Weather
       Was the weather evacuations at North Coast Music festival good or bad? Either or, it was an experience of its own as the festival unfortunately ran into some severe weather on both Friday and Sunday (more if it on Friday). Everyone was enjoying a set by Capital City on Friday at North Coast Music Festival when the band announced they had to leave stage because of severe weather. It was a huge disappointment because they didn’t even perform their biggest song yet, ‘Safe and Sound’. (The entire situation was kind of ironic, because the festival wanted everyone to be indeed Safe and Sound because of the weather, forcing people to leave the grounds. However, the band came on stage moments later and performed the song with a very ‘fuck authority and the weather’ attitude. All the festivals had to leave the festival site by police order within 30 minutes. However, when that time came, a severe storm was indeed hammering down with hail, strong winds, torrential rain and lightning for an hour an half. Lightning even struck the festival grounds, and fortunately, no one was hurt, and indeed ‘Safe and Sound’.
       Unfortunately, the same thing happened Sunday night during Wu-Tang’s set, shortening their set list just for 40 minutes. This was a huge let down and bummer of the festival, but its something no one can do anything about except be safe and follow procedures.

 2) Dirty Dozen Brass Band at North Coast Music Festival
       Having just been to Jazz festival the previous night, it was nice seeing that genre of music still present at North Coast on Sunday with Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The band performed during the afternoon with the hot sun baring down on everyone. Of course, this didn’t stop people from dancing, cheering, clapping and enjoying the bands set.
       You would think that a new Orleans Jazz band wouldn’t really fit at an electronic music festival. However, it was just the opposite. People gave the extremely talented all African American band their
complete attention as they jammed through the afternoon. The band gave each member of the group a chance to do solo and perform on his own. It was impressive to see two saxophonists in the group,
and one of the guys could even play two trumpets at the same time pressed up to his mouth which was fun to watch. There was even a tuba guy in the back giving the band their name. The band insisted they were clearly all ‘Dirty old men’ from the south, and everyone cheered
them on, clearly not caring if they were or not. The group has good energy despite their ages, (all the men in the band performing had gray hair and beards) and each member of the band is
indeed extremely talented with his own instrument. The crowd at North Coast Music festival loved Dirty Dozen Brass Band. They are a concert worth seeing, even if someone doesn’t particularly enjoy jazz music.

Grade: A or 4 out of 5 stars  ****

 Being able to witness the power of Gary Clark JR
            Hailing from Austin, Texas, Gary Clark JR is described as ‘the future of Texas blues’. Seeing him live over this past weekend proved this claim as completely true. Clark has shared the stage with dozens of legendary rock and roll musicians, including most recently performing along side the Rolling Stones on their 2013 tour. As the day turned to dusk at North Coast Music Festival, a large group of music fans crowded over to where Gary Clark JR graced the stage with a top hot and extremely nice blue suit. Everyone there knew they were in for a hell of a time even before it started. It was a nice mix and change of genres from the other DJs performing that day at the festival.
            As soon as Gary Clark JR came on stage, his guitar blasted away into the on coming night. Make no mistake that once you hear him live, you’ll instantly become a fan. The crowd was completely different from other sets and stages at the festival that day. They didn’t dance, shout or jump and down. Nonetheless, you could tell many people were there to simply nod their heads and enjoy the music. Gary Clark JR provided this music and much more.
            It became clear the first song that Gary Clark JR’s trademark is his rough and over powering guitar work. He jammed without effort, adding to his guitar work the sweet melodic sounds of his voice that blended into the music perfectly. The man knows how to play the blues, and everyone was in awe struck by the third song of his performance. The concert was incredibly loud, the loudest one at the festival by far as Gary Clark JR turned up his amps to the extreme. However, the loudness actually worked well with his music and solos, letting everyone hear every note of his handiwork. Despite only playing for around an hour’s set, Gary proved that he was the best performer at North Coast Music Festival and a force to watch out for in the coming years.
            Rock and Roll, Jazz and Blues fans all need to pay attention to this wonderfully talented blues musician as he is already almost becoming legendary in the upcoming music scene.
5 out of 5 Stars *****

Complete Schedule of Performers this past Weekend seen and their ratings:
North coast Music Festival-Friday:
Capital Cities-3 out of 5 stars *** (Would have been higher if their set wasn't canceled due to severe weather)
RL Grimes-4 out of 5 stars ****
Paper Diamind-2.5 out of 5 stars **/*
Mac Miller-3 out of 5 stars ***
Passion Pit 2 out of 5 stars **

Gregory Porter 3.5 out of 5 stars ***/*
GAMAK-3 out of 5 stars
J.M's Fats Waller Dance Party-4 out of 5 stars ****

Northcoast Music Festival-Sunday
Dirty Dozen Brass Band-4.5 out of 5 stars ****/*
Emanicpitator-3 out of 5 stars ***
A-Trak-4 out of 5 stars ****
Gary Clark JR-5 out of 5 stars *****
Wu-Tang Clan-2.5 out of 5 stars **/* (Would have been higher if their set wasn't canceled due to severe weather)

Pictures !


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