[REVIEW] North Coast Music Festival celebrated its second year at SeatGeek Stadium in Chicago, and the music, vibes, and venue were on point all weekend.
For over ten years, North Coast Music Festival in Chicago has been a staple of festival season. 2022 was no different, as this year at SeatGeek Stadium went down as another unforgettable Labor Day Weekend spent at North Coast.
North Coast Music Festival started in 2010 at Union Park, the current home of ARC Music Festival. After a year at Northerly Island, North Coast moved to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, located near Chicago’s southwest side. NCMF confidently delivers a stacked lineup, comfortable venue, and friendly crowd to make it one of the best festivals to attend in the late summer months.
Chicago is officially the place to be for electronic music on Labor Day Weekend.
While ARC Music Festival hosts a selection of underground house and techno like Carl Cox and Richie Hawtin, the North Coast lineup has a more wide-ranging lineup of EDM. Along with house music acts like Fisher, Solardo, Yotto, and Luttrell, North Coast also brings out dubstep, future bass, and mainstage EDM artists.
SeatGeek Stadium provides North Coast with a massive stadium venue and enough room for several different stages and experiences.
Formerly known as Toyota Park, SeatGeek Stadium was once used for Freaky Deaky festival before it was relocated to Texas. The setup for Freaky Deaky was a few basic tent structures and stages in the parking lots. North Coast has taken the venue to a whole different level, utilizing the inside of the stadium and adding five stages on the outside of the venue.
The Stadium stage takes over the entire stadium interior and has a floor level with both GA and VIP sections.
The lower concourse is open, inviting fans to sit down across the lower level seats and bleachers. With running water and plenty of areas to stand or sit, The Stadium is a welcoming festival stage setup.
There were some minor issues with the sound in certain areas throughout the crowd, and that’s something that can be improved upon in future years. It’d be great to see another row of speakers similar to Perry’s at Lollapalooza. Regardless, watching DJs like Illenium, Porter Robinson, and Armin van Buuren at mainstage is an awesome experience reminiscent of the days of Spring Awakening Music Festival at Soldier Field.
Outside of The Stadium, the rest of the festival is spread across practice soccer fields and an indoor soccer dome.
SeatGeek Stadium was once home to the Chicago Fire of the MLS and is still used by their training academy. The campus is covered by artificial turf and practice fields. It’s a much more pleasant experience standing on turf as opposed to asphalt (or grass) all day. The second largest stage, The Vega, is on a huge soccer field that balances mosh pits in the front with chilling in the back.
The Vega hosts a diverse selection of music that appeals to a wide range of EDM fans. Subtronics and Cyclops Recordings took over on Friday, and SVDDEN DEATH and his VOYD project headlined another day of bass on Sunday. Saturday was reserved for Ophelia Records and Seven Lions, who put on one of the best shows of the weekend.
Across the lot, The Canopy is a tented stage in the corner that welcomes house music and more chill vibes.
Headlined by Fisher’s Catch & Release Records and Diplo’s Higher Ground the first two days, The Canopy hosted two nicely curated house music lineups. Sunday brought multi-genre vibes from Sango and Channel Tres before Kaytranada played a can’t-miss set to properly close out the stage.
Both The Canopy and The Vega were easy to navigate, and the production still sounded good near the back of the crowd. The grounds surrounding the stadium were decorated with art installations, brand integrations, vendors, and enough bars to not have to worry about waiting in lines.
Crowd vibes were high all weekend, and the festival is able to go past 10 PM in its current location.
All festivals within Chicago’s city limits must end at 10 PM, meaning North Coast can go several hours later than its competition. There really wasn’t much to complain about in terms of the fan experience at North Coast. People were friendly, and the event brought out a good balance of passionate fans and more casual festivalgoers. With so much room to wander the crowd, there was always somewhere to feel at home at North Coast Music Festival.
When it comes to Labor Day Weekend in Chicago, North Coast delivers the most well-rounded festival experience.
It might not be an immersive festival like Electric Forest, and it’s not exactly what it was during the golden years at Union Park, but North Coast is a must-attend for EDM fans in the area. With Spring Awakening canceled and no makeup date in sight, North Coast has taken the crown as Chicago’s most complete EDM festival.
One of the best qualities of North Coast is its late hours past 10 PM each day. Electronic music is meant to be enjoyed in dark rooms with light shows and stage production. When compared to other Chicago fests, the final hours of each day after sunset here add a lot to the experience. And the party doesn’t stop at midnight – across the parking lot, The Pavilion hosted local DJs until 3 AM each night.
While Auris Presents (Heatwave, Necropolis, Prysm, Concord, Radius) dominates the Chicago EDM industry, North Coast is run independently and planned year-round. The lineup was announced in December, and it was clear a lot of time and effort went into the event’s planning. The result was a fun and manageable festival in a venue that will likely hold more events in years to come.
North Coast has already announced a return to SeatGeek Stadium in 2023, and tickets are on sale soon.
Being just its second year at this venue, North Coast is destined to get even better. And with the festival establishing itself as the go-to EDM festival in Chicago for big names, the lineup for next year is going to be insane.
North Coast Music Festival’s 2023 ticket sale starts on Wednesday, September 28. The future of North Coast is bright, and next year will be one for the books.