Despite the constant tease of rain all day, Saturday at North Coast 2012 saw little more than a few rain drops and a perfect temperature for a late-summer’s evening. The second day’s lineup was far more eclectic than Friday’s, with the festival’s signature mix of jam, hip-hop and EDM becoming far more noticeable. The crowd was more spread out, the divisions between the rastas, hippies, candy ravers and backpackers becoming more noticeable. What I said yesterday stands, though; it’s nice to be reminded of a party-heavy festival where people are actually respectful of one another. That hasn’t been the case everywhere this summer, and North Coast is still the most entertaining festival of its kind for this reason, among others. Now, allow me to climb off this soapbox and make with the Saturday superlatives. (If you’re just joining us, instead of straight set coverage, we’re giving out made-up but nevertheless highly important awards for the weekend’s sets.)
Most infectiously energetic: Girl Talk. Frankly, even with a day left, I don’t know that anybody this weekend is going to top the spectacle that Greg Gillis staged on Saturday night. He made the most of his headlining setup, with a battery-styled background that ran all manner of Technicolor projections throughout, as well as flashing, scoreboard-styled lights flashing his name periodically. It’s appropriate for the king of the mash-up DJs, whose appeal has long been the “name that sample” eclecticism of his work, and its demographic the kids who grew up on their parents’ Jock Jams cassettes. That manic, “everyone get fucking amped!” energy hummed through the entire packed crowd (including the lucky group who got to party with Gillis onstage), who went just as wild for a sample of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” as they did for “Niggas In Paris.” The set was nicely heavy on material from his masterwork Feed The Animals, but incorporated new samples in a way that didn’t feel gimmicky (the aforementioned from Watch The Throne, some M83). Where most mash-up artists would be dropping “Somebody That I Used To Know” and “Call Me Maybe” like their lives depended on it, Gillis instead did what he does best: jumping around like a carnival barker on a year’s worth of crank while condensing about 40 years of mainstream music into one manic hour.
Most likely to attract cross-country followers: Early in the day, far too few people roused themselves from their dopamine-depleted states to make it to North Coast in time to catch Dan Deacon. I’ve heard nothing but rapturous things about Deacon’s live show for years now, but it’s impossible to understand those accolades until you see him in person. From splitting the crowd Braveheart-style to engage in synchronized dancing (pictured above), to organizing huge circles, Deacon knows how to parlay his dissonant, bizarre and ultimately upbeat songs into a live show befitting them. Just in one song, set closer “USA” moved from a massive-yet-twinkling breakdown to bell percussion to even more massive noise, and the crowd’s expressions sat somewhere between bewilderment and pure joy in response. A bonus for my Twitter-made argument that Deacon could lead America’s happiest cult: His nonsense rambling onstage, which is as hilarious as it is totally appropriate for what he does.
Best sign: After two days, it goes to the gentleman carrying around a tripped-out Admiral Ackbar with the missive “It’s a trip! We can’t repel parties of this magnitude!”
Least effective globe-trotting: Beats Antique’s fusion of electronica and all manners of world music made me long for Gogol Bordello’s set last year, in which they did the same thing a lot better and without the disruptive synths. Points for Zoe Jakes’ dancing, though, which was easily the most compelling aspect of the set.
Best callback to past years of North Coast: At North Coast, the 7:30 p.m. side stage closer slot on Saturdays has seemingly been designated as a place for old-school styled hip-hop artists to draw a large crowd. After De La Soul’s fantastic set two years ago, and Common’s strong one last year, Atmosphere had big shoes to fill. Luckily, the stalwart Minneapolis crew were more than up to the task. Slug and Ant have a reputation for an impressive live show, and the former in particular has a gift for conducting himself as though he belongs in the spotlight (which he does) without the smugness that some long-running rappers tend to adopt with time. Opening with a bigger-feeling live band version of “Trying To Find A Balance,” and moving through a mix of newer and older material before closing with the endlessly genuine, touching “Yesterday,” Atmosphere’s set felt like it was put on by a group with far longer-running veteran status than them. And that’s totally a compliment.
Most unsung set: Given that a significant chunk of those in attendance were getting their fill of hardcore dirty dubstep over at Excision, far too few people were over at the Red Bull stage for YACHT, who treated those who did come by to an hour of endlessly entertaining dance-punk attitude. Everybody in YACHT is cooler than you, but not to a point that it becomes obnoxious, or stops you from jumping around. If anything, it lends credence to occasional frontwoman Claire L. Evans’ declaration on “Paradise Engineering” that “If you want me to be your god, yeah, I will be your god.” The four-piece was remarkably adept at swapping vocal duties and instruments throughout, changing setups by the song. YACHT is done many favors by the live setup, which expands the electropop sound of their recorded work into something more anthemic, especially on “Psychic City,” where the “Ay-yay-yay-ya” refrain popped in a way it doesn’t on record.
Coming tomorrow: Pretty Lights brings his top-notch light show back to Union Park, Big Boi hopefully mixes in some choice Outkast cuts with his solo material and we close out North Coast 2012.