NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL – Saturday, September 5th @ Union Park, Chicago

I wrote my very first blog for Alt360º about New Orleans funk masters Galactic back in February.  This past weekend, I decided I’d up the ante by seeing them twice in one day!

I awoke on September 5th still very tired from my gig the night before.  We played a 3-hour set out in the burbs, so it was understandable.  Lucky for me, I was going to a gig that would feature 3 of my all time favorite drummers.

North Coast was a new experience for me that was mostly awesome, although somewhat scary.  Reason?  There were tons of underage girls scantily clad strewn about the festival, which is sweet if you’re a scumbag or a sophomore in high school, but absolutely terrible if you’re 30 and a decent human being.  At one point I recall being unable to face ANY direction without feeling like I was breaking the law.  Lord help me.

Lucky for me again, I knew just where to run…GALACTIC!  Although I’m sure many a youngin’ can appreciate the awesomeness of a funk-soul-juggernaught like Galactic, it is usually a band appreciated by those with an experienced, seasons sound pallet.  Thank Science I was right!

Galactic had a trick up their sleeve on this day, though, and her name is Macy Gray.  Stanton and the boys handled their business as usual, but Macy Gray was EXTRA Macy Gray-ish on this day.  I’ve never seen her live before but I can’t wait until next time because she is CRAZY in the best way possible!

Apparently, this was the day before Macy’s b-day as the band presented her and band mate Erica Falls a cake for their respective special days.  Perhaps this is why Macy seemed both slightly drunk and stoned but, as her stage banter would suggest, perhaps that’s just how Macy rolls (I’d guess a bit of both).  My favorite memory of the evening was a tale was about how bass player, Rob Mercurio, brought the band together “from all over the world” because he “heard the girls in Chicago had the greatest vaginas in the world.”  You definitely can’t make this shit up.

Although I am an avid student of Questlove and The Legendary Roots Crew, I was wondering how they were going to follow the shit-show of a good time Macy brought to the northernmost stage at North Coast.  They answered my queries by putting on one of the best live shows I’ve seen in years.

I say this about a lot of acts, so let me clarify…this was a SHOW!  I’ve seen them in the past, and they were great, but this was light years ahead of those Lollapalooza gigs as far as stage performance.  Guitarist “Captain Kirk Douglas” was out of his mind when soloing, killed Erykah Badu’s “You got me” vocal part and ran all over the stage like he was in a hair metal band.  Sousaphone player “Tuba Gooding Junior” danced and pogo-ed about the stage with a damn TUBA strapped to him.

I’m pretty sure Black Thought took only 3 breaths the whole show, instead choosing to rap at a machine gun pace.  His style somehow combines the “golden age” of hip hop and soul music into a blend that puts him in a class of his own.  Questlove tweeted from behind his kit while playing and drove the crazy train that is The Roots with precision no one can match.  The highlight of the set overall had to be when they combined “Jungle Boogie” and “Apache (Jump on it)” into a ridiculous jam that had the whole crowd bouncing.  It might have been the peak of the evening, to be honest.

Jimmy Fallon’s boys had done well, but D’Angelo was certainly no slouch himself.  This was by far the most important show of the evening for yours truly as this was the reclusive genius I thought I’d never get to see.  As I mentioned in “The Second Coming of D’Angelo”, I have only recently become aware of his greatness after years of assuming he was just that shirtless guy in the “Untitled (How does it feel?)” video, giving the male species WAY too much to live up to.

D’s band was easily 10 deep, with an army of background singers, horns and, most importantly, drumming wizard Chris Dave.  Although no one can touch Questlove’s precision, I think Chris Dave gets very close while being able to pull off absurdly complex drum pieces that shouldn’t work but VERY much do.  D’Angelo, like his lead guitarist Jesse Johnson of The Time, played a bedazzled black guitar surprisingly well and wore outfits that made him look like a sexy cowboy (big hats and sleeveless poncho-ey things).  “Ain’t That Easy”, “Suggah Daddy” and “Brown Sugar” were standouts in a very spacey and soulful set that consisted of no more than 8 incredibly drawn out tunes.  It was like Led Zeppelin, only somehow more funky and soulful.

Everyone headed home from the fest after D’Angleo…everyone but me and my favorite concert companion Matt Marcionetti!  Galactic was playing a North Coast after show, and we were ready to groove like it was our death wish, so we headed over to Chop Shop.  I should mention that my good friend Matt is tied for first place with my wifey for “best fan” at my shows and was with me through all 3 sets the night before, so we were pretty out of it at this point.

I have only one complaint for my beloved Galactic about this wonderful evening…it was that the gig was actually the NEXT DAY!  The band didn’t hit the stage til’ 12:20AM SUNDAY morning.  I love being on New Orleans time when I’m down on Frenchman Street but, in Chicago, you can’t be hitting the stage past midnight when the ticket says the show starts at 10!  24-year-old me would certainly be disappointed to read that last sentence but it’s true.

Fate would smile on Matty and I again on this fateful day.  As we waited outside the venue for the show to start (it took THAT long) we saw our hero Stanton Moore pop out from a cab and dart across the street into the front doors of Chop House.  We briskly walked after him but, homeboy was moving like Usain Bolt, so we instead re-entered the gig to watch Stanton Moore tune his own drums.  Most humans probably found this mildly amusing at best but, for a drummer like me and the other nerds paying WAY too much attention to his every move, it was awesome.

Finally…FINALLY….wait for it….Galactic came onstage!  All joking aside, Galactic were AMAZING.  The Macy Gray gig was cool and unique (even for a Galactic show) but this was Galactic in their element.  Not outside with a festival crowd who seem to have little awareness of Macy Gray or Galactic, but with a rowdy crowd in a room the size of a smaller Lincoln Hall.  I, for one, was absolutely delirious to the point where everything was hilarious, so that amplified the experience up a few notches.  As always, Galactic killed it, even if it did feel like a dream.

I could go on and on about how I went back to the Double Door the following night to watch my hero Stanton Moore tear the roof off with his side project, Garage a Trois.  I could go into even more painful detail about the insanity that was the overall weekend I’m describing but, much like the weekend itself, it would take way too long!

I think I need a nap.

Written by Alt360º Blogger: Jason Polakowski