In this special edition of our STREETSIDE column, writer Jeff Min spotlights each consecutive day of Chicago’s annual North Coast Music Festival with the most lyrically memorable act found.
With the weather being such an overriding force at North Coast, day three got off to a good start – bright sun, cool breeze, cloudless. The energy was noticeably more vibrant than the previous two days, and having the always lively Danny Brown usher in the early evening festivities was the right move.
Brown came out to a frenzied crowd, greeting them with his token ugh-face – the one Miley Cyrus shamelessly hijacked. Before even uttering a word fans were melting before him, so you can only imagine what it was like when he broke into “Witit:” [LISTEN]
After that first hedonistic call to arms or legs or ass or whatever, fans began to flock to the stage in droves. In that setting, it’s easy to see how skilled Brown is as a rapper. His lyrics certainly have become more raunchy as the years have gone by but what’s remained is a solid understanding of breath control, fluctuating effortlessly between a deep growl and that high nasally tone he’s best known for.
He continued to reel off lyrics like a live action porn, fueling a pervasive sexual heat rising from the crowd. At the height of the collective orgasm Brown delivered a spirited version of “Black Brad Pitt:” [LISTEN]
The crude nature of Brown’s set derailed the mellow vibes brought on by the morning sun, which in many ways was the point. It was the closing day and people wanted to get buck. But the build up for Wu-Tang wasn’t as dramatic as expected probably because the lyrical angel of the day gave way to a more beat driven theme.
Fans were still poking around aimlessly, and before there was even time to digest what was going on, Ghostface jumped on stage and plunged headfirst into “Bring da Ruckus.” There was no romancing at all: [LISTEN]
All the members of the Wu were present, coming out as if they were the ’92 Dream Team, so all wasn’t lost. Still it was hard putting it all into context, especially after all the solo ventures, all the drama, and all the different paths each had taken since debuting in ’93. Instead of seeing Jordan or Bird or Magic pop off for 50 they each differed to each other resulting in some pretty restrained performances.
The one to emerge as a force was Method Man. He owned the stage and delivered his verses with fervor, which bodes well for those looking forward to Crystal Meth. When he broke into “Method Man” he seemed to tower over everyone else on stage: [LISTEN]
Around this time the generational gap began to show. There were times when the Wu would ask for some crowd participation, which ended unfortunately in near deafening silence. It wasn’t so much disrespect as it was just plain old ignorance.
For as massive as the crowd was, only a fraction knew the lyrics. And that was the challenge – to try and recreate a memory without it becoming a novelty. Even the most quotable song on 36 Chambers “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” didn’t illicit the response that it should have: [LISTEN]
The lack of participation was noticeable to the point where the RZA subtly called out the crowd, saying that “In Europe people were going twice as crazy.” It wasn’t a shot, just a last ditch effort to get the energy going – a valiant attempt, but one that ultimately failed. And almost right on cue, the weather began to nosedive.
It got cold fast, and after a few drops and a distant flash of lightning it was over. Within moments an announcement was made, that inclement weather was on its way and that fans should evacuate. The crowd flocked to the exits, indifferent and bored – unable to grasp the history that was on stage. It was an incredibly anticlimactic way to end what turned out to be a very subpar festival.