July 8, 2018 / 7:30 pm

Mamby on the Beach 2018: My Experience

I was lucky enough to experience Mamby On The Beach this year over the weekend of June 23rd and 24th. As someone who tries to indulge and expose himself to as many summer music events around the city as possible, I have to admit that Mamby truly has a unique atmosphere and charm to it that I haven’t found at other festivals, even ones considered to be fixtures in the Chicago summer music scene. In the weekend I spent on the beautiful Oakwood beach, I not only got to catch some amazing musical performances, but also got to take in the many features Mamby had to offer, some by design and some not. Here are some of the main takeaways I had as a first-time Mamby On The Beach attendee.

Location, Location, Location

This may seem like an obvious aspect to consider due to the name of the festival, but the fact that Mamby is held on the beach truly gives it a different angle than your standard outdoor live event in downtown Chicago. First of all, it should go without saying that if you come into Mamby wearing white shoes, they will come out a faded light brown from the sand by the end of the day (and yet, this was exactly what happened to me). Unlike some festivals I’ve been to where it seems that dehydration is considered an essential part of the experience, Mamby kept beachgoers in mind with easily accessible hydration stations and shaded areas.

It was as much a beach party as it was a music festival, complete with huge water balloon fights and beach volleyball tournaments. In the case that one got tired of the beach, the park stage offered a spacious grassy area right next to all of the food tents. The actual territory of Mamby is pretty compact, which was very convenient in getting between the different stages and activities. The biggest selling point for me, though, had to be the view of the Chicago Skyline from the Beach Stage. Through sun, sand, and fog, it’s still easily one of the most memorable backdrops to a musical performance you’ll ever see.

More Than Music

While the beach activities offered at Mamby contributed to the festival’s atmosphere, there were other exciting non-musical additions through their More Than Music program, some of which really surpassed my expectations. Right as I walked through the gates into Mamby, I was approached by a representative of the Human Rights Campaign. They gave me constructive information as to how I could help support the cause of achieving full equality for the American LGBTQ population, especially in a state like Indiana. In an environment where a significant portion of both attendees and performers belong to that community, the fact that the HRC was emphasized right off the bat was very encouraging.

Further into the festival grounds, there were some other More Than Music additions that really piqued my interest. My personal favorite was the Advice Booth, sponsored by Mumbo Jumbo, which had professional comedians to provide (hopefully) helpful suggestions to festival-goers in a bind. It seemed like a really unique way to gather strangers together to share about their lives, which at the end of the day is really what festivals are all about. There was also a small tent sponsored by Ravinia, that gave attendees a chance to give impromptu performances during the breaks between sets on the nearby Park Stage. Again, I was witness to complete strangers getting together, this time to jam or stumble their way through a cover of “Free Fallin”. Overall, these More Than Music activities all contributed to what I surprisingly found to be one of the highlights of the festival: the crowd.

A Different Crowd

For most music festivals in the US, there seems to be a general perception that they are either filled with obnoxious high schoolers or pretentious hipsters. After my experience at Mamby On The Beach this year, I think this festival is an exception to that rule. Perhaps it’s due to the quality and range of the musical lineup, the draw of the unique activities offered, or some stroke of luck, but the strangers I found myself around this year were not only tolerable, but downright pleasant. My experience with the attendees at Mamby could best be boiled down to an interaction I had near the end of Day 1.

I had just finished watching a set by one of my favorite bands in the world, Grizzly Bear. I bought some food and sat down at a picnic table to eat quickly, so I could catch some of the headlining sets that were starting soon. A man who appeared to be in his early thirties sat across from me and quickly struck up a conversation. He asked if I would wait with him while his girlfriend was gone getting water. I was a bit skeptical, but I didn’t really have any other choice but to stay there and finish my food. Soon enough, his girlfriend really did return with water and immediately offered me free tacos. They told me all about their huge group of friends they came here with, who they could easily identify because they were all dressed completely in white. Before I knew it, I was at the Beatport EDM tent with a group of 20 or so people dressed in white, grooving to Duke Dumont as they each told me their life story. Were any of their stories true? Was I unknowingly recruited into a cult? I’m not entirely sure, but that’s beside the point. I’d like to think I was approached by extremely friendly people who completely fit the accepting atmosphere Mamby on the Beach created.

I’ve had plenty of shows from artists I love completely ruined by lackluster crowds, yet at Mamby, the crowd’s energy actually enhanced the performances of a lot of artists I either didn’t have high expectations for or wasn’t familiar with at all, such as Moon Boots or Whethan. In festivals with obvious draws like Mamby on the Beach, there’s usually some sort of catch, but I found that pretty much every checkbox I could think of was covered. As a rising and relatively new festival that started only four years ago, I look forward to seeing how React Presents continues to add to the already impressive experience that is Mamby on the Beach.