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The Best and Worst of Mamby on the Beach

The high highs and low lows of Chicago’s newest music festival

Photo: Max Herman

Chicago’s newest music festival Mamby on the Beach swung through Bronzeville’s Oakwood Beach this weekend, and for a fledgling electronic fest in an already-saturated market, it was…actually pretty awesome. The high highs and low lows of the new fest in town, below.

The Best

The multigenerational crowd

A range of artists from Royksöpp to Cashmere Cat left Gen-X club kids raving alongside new high school grads, the effect of which was a benevolent, respectful, and relatively sober crowd. An estimated 8,000-per-day attendance also confirmed my theory that no festival should ever be more than 15,000 people.

Hollywood Holt breaks the local stage

What started as a thinly attended DJ set by the Treated Crew emcee and recent G.O.O.D. Music signee turned into the weekend’s most bona fide rager, with a crowd stretching far beyond the beer tents buffering Mamby’s local stage.

Location, layout, and logistics

This may have been the first Mamby Beach, but it was clear that promoters React Presents have done festivals before (they also put on Spring Awakening and North Coast). Water stations abounded, beer and food lines steered away from high-traffic areas, and the festival’s three stages were close enough together to get between in minutes. That the festival was on a beach in the middle of July didn’t hurt either.​

The Tent stage

The indoor (ish) big top didn’t only boast nonstop DJs for clubby purists, but provided shelter during Saturday’s rain.

Passion Pit owns the genre

A personal peeve with live electronic music is how unclear it is whether a band is using a backtrack (Empire of the Sun, Cherub, and Robert DeLong all soloed over sequenced drums throughout the weekend). Passion Pit, on the other hand, dodged this magic-killer (or at least fooled me) by rolling four keyboardists deep Sunday night, the effect of which was a set you could probably hear from Indiana. Which brings us to…

The Worst

Passion Pit’s sound cut at least climactic possible time

That Mamby went dark at 10 p.m. each night was likely a legal obligation, but the festival could’ve lent some wiggle room for poetry’s sake. Instead, they cut Passion Pit’s sound at 10 on the dot, just as the band struck the final note of “Sleepy Head"—the least climactic festival finale of all time.

Empire of the Sun’s empty glitz

The Friday headliners’ stock pageantry was in full force (think lasers and intergalactic costuming), but did little to mask the band’s creative cavity.

No love for the locals

Props to Mamby for trying, but aside from Holt’s unforeseen rager of a DJ set Sunday, the locals-heavy Beach House stage remained populated with single-digit fans leaning against the barrier and half-alert nappers taking a break in the grass. Care, people!

Bronzevillers left high and dry

The collateral damage of any festival is a public space getting closed off to…the public. In this case, that meant a week of no beach access for 15,000 Bronzeville residents.

Cherub, in general

Unknown to me but clearly the worst people currently in music, the leather-clad Nashville duo peppered casual misogyny with cock-rock staples from bass solos to ubiquitous talk box. Puke.

Headdresses

How are these even still even a thing? Ban it, Mamby.

It rained.

At a Chicago music festival. Shocking.

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