North Coast Music Festival Credit: Keith Griner

The average music fest can live and die based the strength of its lineup, but North Coast Music Festival is no average festival. Now in its ninth year, North Coast has found a sweet spot in our crowded music festival ecosystem by providing a place where veteran jam bands, rising rappers, electronic stars, and indie-centric pop acts can all intersect. Its organizers haven’t so much manufactured an audience as shown one the ways these worlds can—and sometimes do—naturally collide. Perhaps that unique character is the reason why it’s still able to attract and hook a big fish everyone is hunting. In 2015 that artist was D’Angelo, and this year it’s Sunday’s headliners, UK future-funk outfit Jamiroquai—one of the few stateside performances they’ve booked in 13 years (their top-ranked Coachella set last April was the first). But North Coast ain’t just top-heavy, and this year’s lineup has acts that light up several tiers—though new Chicagoland rap star Juice Wrld has rocketed to fame so quickly that his presence in his live act hasn’t caught up. As usual, North Coast has booked several key local acts; you can count on joyful rapper Ric Wilson, stylistically slippery Save Money MC Kami, and Zero Fatigue’s sound architect and DJ Monte Booker. The fest has also tweaked its smaller side stage, typically reserved for DJs, by inviting some of the city’s nightlife and cultural outlets each to curate a day; Aux Cord DJs, the monthly series where Chicago music figures DJ off their laptops and phones (full disclosure: I’ve participated), invited the members of Cool Kids to spin on Friday, and the folks behind Lyrical Lemonade follow their inaugural outdoor festival with a day featuring even more rising rappers such as Warhol.SS and Comethazine.   v