Mamby On the Beach 2018: Best of Music
Over the last full weekend of June, I had the pleasure of attending Mamby on the Beach, Chicago’s only major beach festival. While the location on Oakwood Beach with its perfect view of the beautiful Chicago skyline from the main stage was already reason enough to go, I was originally intrigued by Mamby’s lineup. Mamby had a quality lineup despite the fact that it’s still a relatively new festival, celebrating its fourth year in 2018. Speaking from first-hand experience, I can see how it has emerged as one of the hottest summer festivals in Chicago so early in the game and anticipate that it will continue to draw high profile acts for years to come. Here are some of the standouts and surprises of the musical acts I saw this year at Mamby On The Beach.
Day 1: Saturday, June 23, 2018
I was already anticipating the set from tUnE-yArDs to be energetic and entertaining, but I was blown away by just how much groove band leader Merrill Garbus could squeeze out of her glitchy, percussive art pop in a live setting. I’d watched some of the past live videos of the group at large festivals, like Pitchfork, with a full set of backup singers and additional percussionists. I figured that the spectacle of that kind of ensemble alone would be worth seeing. When the band came onto the stage as only a three-piece, I was ready to be underwhelmed, but I will happily admit that I completely underestimated the power of loop pedals and a ridiculously tight drummer. tUnE-yArDs dazzled with cuts off of their newest record, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, as well as classic songs from older works such as “Water Fountain” and “Gangsta”.
Rising Louisville rapper Jack Harlow performed on the Park Stage in the middle of the day to a crowd that seemed mostly to gather for good spots for Cupcakke, but he certainly gained everyone’s attention with his tight set of no-frills trap. I can see him gaining a lot of traction in the scene over the next couple of years. His 2017 album Gazebo has some indisputable bangers that he pulled out on stage and had everyone bouncing.
While headliner Common closed out the Beach Stage on Saturday night, I checked out the Mixmag x Beatport tent, where British house DJ Duke Dumont was performing. I was struck not only by the tight set itself but also by the atmosphere of the tent and the audience. One of the things I commend Mamby on the most is that this lineup was clearly curated with an emphasis on which artists would complement the vibe of the festival or specific stage, rather than grabbing whoever had the most hype at the moment. This pick, as well as Richie Hawtin on Sunday, were certainly good examples of that. While I found this set to be particularly entrancing, any given time I stepped into the tent over the course of the weekend, the DJ sets were incredibly solid and paid respects to legends of the techno and house genres.
Day 2 – Sunday, June 24, 2018
While Atlanta rapper Bugus was one of the earlier performers on the Beach stage on Sunday, his energy dictated otherwise. For a relatively under-the-radar artist, he worked the crowd as if he was a headliner. His impressive flow and catchy hooks contributed to a memorable start to the day at Oakwood Beach.
I’m embarrassed to say that Moon Boots were completely off my radar for must-see artists at Mamby on the Beach 2018. They delivered easily my favorite set of the entire festival, featuring a seemingly endless supply of special guests coming onto the stage and some undeniable funky house grooves. These grooves got to the point that there was a man in the crowd performing what appeared to be very aggressive Tai Chi throughout the whole set and was quickly joined by other enthusiastic festival goers. It felt completely natural. Moon Boots’ set was the kind of pop performance I didn’t realize I needed in my life, but after it happened, I was kicking myself for not having known about them earlier. Needless to say, I’m glad I decided to check out their set based solely on their quirky name.
As expected, Chicago native Jamila Woods delivered a soulful and sharp set of her brand of R&B. Despite the fact that much of her music covers very serious and powerful themes and she doesn’t really make “beach music”, her melodic voice backed by an excellent band (particularly the keyboard player) complemented the environment of the festival well, similarly to the atmosphere Grizzly Bear created on the Park Stage the night before. In fact, it was a welcome change of pace from the energetic and playful sets that had taken the Beach Stage before her. She performed plenty of interesting arrangements off her 2017 album HEAVN as well as the Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment song “Sunday Candy”, on which she was originally featured.