Wiz Khalifa WizKhalifa.com

The most appealing quality to North Coast (Chicago’s rising star in the festival circuit hosted this Labor Day weekend) is its lack of identity. Sure, last year’s festival had one foot in the electronic whirlpool just as the 2011 version does, but when you’ve got gypsy riot punks Gogol Bordello playing at the same time as turntable dynamo Benny Benassi, it wouldn’t be fair to say North Coast is more plug than play.

After all, a lack of identity is what can make a festival most compelling. It means North Coast is still growing and those infant stages are the best -- Lollapalooza was at its all-time weird in the ‘90s while Bonnaroo’s returning customers still think the first three years were the best years. To boot, North Coast is compact and easy to navigate, ensuring that you’ll be able to catch just about everything your musically-inclined hearts yearn to see.

So don’t blink -- you might miss that “unforgettable experience” your friends still won’t shut the fuck up about. And while we’ll hold your hand a little with our preview coverage, you might have to figure it out yourself -- just like North Coast is doing.

Wolfgang Gartner

7:30 - 8:30pm / Friday, Sept. 2 / North Coast Stage

This dude might’ve won a Grammy for his production work, but the American DJ hasn’t hung up his skills on the mantel and rested on his laurels. He’s continued to push the boundaries by pairing strange off-key and abrasive bleeps and bloops with rich, melodic samples.

Sometimes it happens so quickly that you barely have time to comprehend. But don’t worry; Wolfgang Gartner is a trained professional when it comes to transforming even the most close-minded music connoisseurs into bona fide believers.

 

Wiz Khalifa

9:00 - 10:00pm / Friday, Sept. 2 / Red Bull Grove Stage

A year ago, you would’ve been able to slide by with calling Wiz Khalifa an up-and-coming rapper. But with the help of the Stargate-produced “Black & Yellow,” Wiz Khalifa’s major label debut “Rolling Papers” shot to #2 on the Billboard 200.

Just last month, he took home the Best New Artist award at the 2011 BET Awards. To be certain, Wiz has arrived -- and his live show has followed suit. Expect this Pittsburgh emcee to easily ride the line between pop radio hook machine and hard-hitting rap realisms.

 

BBU

5:45 - 6:45pm / Saturday, Sept. 3 / Magic Hat Local Stage

Another feather in North Coast’s cap is its dedication to local talent. Take Chicago’s BBU for example. These dudes are far from soaking up the limelight, but with a prime timeslot during Saturday’s festivities, these socially conscious (yet not afraid of the dance floor) hip-hop dudes will have a chance to win over your heart. And if you’ve got some juke left in ya, they’ll do just that.

 

Major Lazer

6:00 - 7:00pm / Saturday, Sept. 3 / Red Bull Grove Stage

All you got to know about this one is that Major Lazer is the collaboration between Diplo and Switch. It’s raw as fuck (but not as raw as Eddie Murphy). It takes a note or two from ‘70s Jamaican dancehall, and when these two forces link up, they’ll bust up an ass cheek or two at this year’s North Coast. Make sure to wear an extra pair of underwear.

 

The Budos Band

3:30 - 4:30pm / Sunday, Sept. 4 / The Named After Groupon Stage

Let the funk be free! This particular brand of Budos Band funk is the type of “funk lava that scalds your ears.” So, you know, make sure you wear some lava-proof earmuffs. Indeed, the Budos Band is about as brass-tastic as they come. In fact, if they were together in a different era, they’d easily be the most sought-after group to soundtrack every Blaxploitation movie made after 1971. ‘Nuff said.

 

Thievery Corporation

8:30 - 10:00pm / Sunday, Sept. 4 / Red Bull Grove Stage

First off, these festival-closers are anything but road warriors, so when you’ve got a chance to witness Thievery Corporation live, don’t let it go to waste. Secondly, when they do take a jaunt across North America, they bring a full-fledged live show in tow.

They may just be two producers on paper, but the stage is where they let their musical fantasies take shape, enlisting an endless array of percussionists, singers and multi-instrumentalists to see to it that their decibel daydreams become realities for the audiences lucky enough to share in one of their live performances.

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