Monday, September 6, 2010

North Coast Music Fest 2010 part three: Lupe Fiasco, Flying Lotus, Mayer Hawthorne

Posted by Frank

Lupe Fiasco (photo: Windy City Rock)
Soul, experimental electro and rap were the sounds that closed out the final night of the inaugural North Coast Music Fest Sunday.

Well-respected hometown rapper Lupe Fiasco took the stage at 7:30 p.m., but before then retro-style soulman Mayer Hawthorne and producer/laptop musician Flying Lotus kept the crowd entertained by the fest's two main stages.

Like Maps and Atlases earlier in the day (see my previous post here), Mayer Hawthorne and his band, The County, had a unique presence at the fest. Instead of drawing on electronic sounds for inspiration, the 31-year-old Hawthorne looked to classic '60s and '70s soul, delivering sweet, smooth sounds to those who decided to take in his set. His style of music is the kind that is completely unashamed to borrow from the past and is all the better because of it. Plus, it didn't hurt that he's an entertaining performer to watch and that the band was notably tight. My only gripe was that some of the songs seemed to go on for a bit longer than was necessary, but all in all the performance was well worth checking out.

As soon as Hawthorne wrapped up, Flying Lotus took the nearby North stage. I know a lot of people were excited to hear the trippy electro from this Californian, and the set certainly sounded well-performed, but this sort of music just isn't my bag. It's the kind of trancey stuff that I might appreciate most while played in the background while doing something else, but that I can't focus on or grasp onto when I attempt to devote my full attention to it. Still, the talent was apparent and I suspect that many people would cite the performance as a highlight of the weekend. 

Lupe Fiasco was fantastic, and that's coming from someone who can very rarely get into rap. I find his style fresh, powerful and exciting, and he is an incredibly entertaining ball of energy on stage. Being typically all about rock, of course I love that he takes a rap-rock approach to much of his material and that he seems to favor expanding beyond the confines of any single genre. For most of the afternoon acts it was relatively easy to get to the front, but Fiasco had a very large and enthusiastic crowd, which was much deserved and cool to see. Even the photo pit was so mobbed that security had to split photographers into two groups, one group going in to snap shots at a time. The rapper performed an hour-long set that closed with his best-known song "Superstar" - unfortunately without collaborator Matthew Santos on hand to sing the chorus as he was at Lollapalooza 2008 (a backing track was used instead), but it still sounded excellent. While Nas and Damian Marley, The Disco Biscuits and Gemini Club kept the fest going until 10 p.m., I chose to end my day with Fiasco, and he certainly delivered a grand finale.

All in all, the first North Coast Fest was a great way to spend Labor Day weekend. If I could have asked for one change, I would have loved to see more straight-ahead rock and roll in the lineup. Assuming it will return next year, I'll be curious to see how it will grow and what will change. What do you think? Did you enjoy the fest? Would you go back next year? 

See more photos after the jump.

Lupe Fiasco

Photo: Windy City Rock
Photo: Windy City Rock
Photo: Windy City Rock

Mayer Hawthorne and The County

Photo: Windy City Rock
Photo: Windy City Rock

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