Mamby on the Beach isn’t just a festival – it’s a refuge. Beautiful people, unending music and two days of sunshine served as the perfect backdrop for a pseudo-vacation from the grime and chaos of Chicago.
I seriously needed a vacation, too. I drank beers with my toes buried in the sand, did yoga under the trees, watched fireworks under the stars, and danced until my calves were sore. I laughed with strangers and, most importantly, watched some of my favorite performers from just a few feet away.
Sometimes you just need to spend a few days on the beach to remember the importance of good music and good people.
After buying an insanely expensive bandana from the Akira tent (the beach is wonderful, but it’s also dusty), the sounds of Small Black drew me to to the Park Stage.
Lead vocalist Josh Kolenik cracked a few jokes about the woes of being an opening band and thanked everyone in attendance for arriving early. Those who did weren’t disappointed.
The group has a floaty, psychedelic feel that holds surprising complexity and maturity. Heavy synth and the airy vocals on“Boys Life,” a single from their 2015 album Best Blues were contrasted by the rhythmically driven “Breathless,” a song that Kolenik stated was about “a time I almost got killed on my bike and it made me think about my life.”
Dedicating their final song, “No Stranger” to a friend that takes care of them when they’re in Chicago, Small Black was met by an emphatic roar of approval from the steadily gathering audience.
I’ve you’ve ever wanted to quit your job, sell everything you own, and run away to California, then you’ll love LANY.
LANY’s performance was early on (2:15 PM) in the festival, but frontman Paul Klein managed to draw in a notable crowd with his decadently smooth vocals, blissfully poppy tunes, and marked determination to deliver a memorable performance.
Although at times the lyrics seemed a little trite, (“You are my number one baby, I like you lots,” and “turn up/turn it up”) LANY proved that inventive lyrics aren’t required to transmit a feeling of nostalgia for the simplicity of youth and the brevity of reckless love.
The trio played through a flurry of songs from all of their EP’s, including “Hot Lights,” “I Love You So Bad,” and a favorite from kinda, their latest EP, titled “Where the Hell Are My Friends.”
It’s no surprise that Miami Horror cites Prince, Michael Jackson and E.L.O. as some of their largest influences. This bright indie/electronic Australian band boasts addictive, up-tempo tunes with a flirtatious, in-your-face performance style.
Festival goers pranced around in their swimsuits amid streams of bubbles as Miami Horror played “Holidays,” a funky song that perfectly paired with the beachy vibes of the festival. Singers Aaron Shanahan and Josh Moriarty traded off vocals throughout the set for songs like “Real Slow,” and “Sometimes.”
During their final song, “Summersun,” Shanahan hopped off-stage and into the crowd. He briefly disappeared until throngs of people flooded forward to lift him onto their shoulders. After running offstage, Shanahan, fully clothed, went and hopped in Lake Michigan to cool off. I snapped this photo of him:
I was fortunate enough to catch the beginning of Wild Belle’s set, a band created by Chicago natives Eliot and Natalie Bergman. The formidable 5-piece group was dressed in beige, which, despite their Chicago roots, gave them a distinct southern charm.
The presence of a saxophone player complimented Natalie’s characteristically soothing voice as they played “Mississippi River,” and “Dreamland.” Her feathered hat tipped from side to side as she gently strummed the guitar. She seemed to find it difficult to connect with the crowd, but the music itself sounded sublime.
I adore Animal Collective. There’s something about their intricately layered screeches, drums and hypnotizing harmonies that I just can’t get enough of. That being said, I had never seen Animal Collective live, so their performance at Mamby was something I was insanely excited for.
You can imagine, then, my reaction (and the reaction of those around me) when they opened their set with “Kids on Holiday,” a song off their 2004 album, Sung Tongs. Don’t quote me on this, because I could be wrong, but rumor has it that this is the first time they played this song live since 2006.
“Kids on Holiday” was followed by “Golden Gal,” “Lying in the Grass,” and “Daily Routine.” Rather than simply ending one song and starting another, the group used long transitions to delicately meld one song into the next.
Sonically, the group was phenomenal.
Animal Collective played 8 songs in total, 7 of which were off of their new album, which left a lot of people disappointed – myself included. With over 10 years of music to choose from, it seemed a little limiting. When the last song “FloriDada” ended, the crowd was left pleading for an encore until finally realizing that Animal Collective wasn’t coming back. It was a little sad.
Chicago-based group Monakr hit the Beach Stage at 1:30 PM. While there were few people in attendance, they delivered a raucous performance to the enthusiastic staff at the beer tent. The poor attendance isn’t a reflection on the band itself; I’m guessing everyone was still recovering from the sun and fun of the previous day.
With a relatively small discography, Monakr spent a small portion of their set performing a cover of Massive Attack’s instantly recognizable hit, “Teardrop,” jokingly introducing it as their “international smash hit.”
Their lack of discography doesn’t imply that the members of Monakr are new on the music scene, however; members Saam Hagshenas and Jonathan Marks are former members of the indie pop band Hey Champ, and it’s likely that you’ll recognize Daniel Brunelle from Gemini Club as well as singer-songwriter Matthew Santos.
If you live in Chicago then you may have recognized their final song, “Diamond,” a fierce mashup of pop, electronic and the bluesy tonality of Santos’ voice. Their music possesses the characteristics of cinematic greatness and felt too large for the modest attendance at Mamby.
Starting his set off with the heavy, rumbling beats and layered synth of “I Gotta Cry,” musician and producer Jeremy Malvin easily drew a crowd for his set at 2:15 PM.
What was at first a show in attendance by a handful of people soon swelled into a sea of moving bodies, pulsing to Malvin’s strangely entrancing sound.
At one point Malvin requested that “someone please lock the stage in place,” because he was moving around, an oversight that probably was made more noticeable by the cool breeze whipping across Lake Michigan.
The set itself was played in an arc; as time progressed, the pace quickened and the weight of the music increased. In his interview with Chicago Music, Malvin stated that he hopes his fans are given a live performance “that lives up to their expectations – and maybe even exceeds them.” He didn’t disappoint.
Despite not spending an inordinate amount of time in the DJ tent, I did manage to sneak to make time for one of Chicago’s most formidable performers – Derrick Carter.
Covered in a thin film of sweat, dust, and oftentimes stale beer, the audience relentlessly bounced to the iconic underground house DJ. In short: it was insane.
Carter’s ability to continually tease the audience left everyone breathless and the Mamby staff generously passed out water bottles to the wide-eyed, thirsty fans in the front row. He played through a wide variety of his discography, ensuring that everyone listening was given something memorable from the performance.
Chromeo oozes charisma. Alone, their sexy, suave, funky music is enough to drool over, but when paired with the intoxicating smile of David (Dave 1) Macklovitch and Patrick (P-Thugg) Gemayel’s ability to make women scream, there was nothing left to be desired.
As is typical for any Chromeo performance, the show began with the crowd chanting, “Chromeo – oooo – oh.” Soon the polished duo dove into “Night by Night,” an iconic song from their 2010 album, Business Casual. They rolled through the most popular Chromeo hits; “Hot Mess,” “Somethingood,” “Side by Side,” and “Tenderoni” were followed by “Come Alive,” “Bonified Lovin,” and “Sexy Socialite.”
Before starting “Over Your Shoulder,” Dave 1 urged the security to be lenient, asking that the crowd get as many beautiful women as possible to be seated on someone’s shoulders. I grabbed my friend, threw down my notebook, and jumped on his shoulders (as did hundreds of other fans). I got a great snapchat video and I’m pretty sure I made eye contact with Dave 1, even though he was wearing sunglasses and I couldn’t see his eyes. Just kidding. Maybe.
Chromeo closed out the set with “Old 45s,” “Fancy Footwork,” “Jealous,” “Fall Back 2U,” ending with a request for everyone to two-step before they left the stage. I could have watched them all night. Chromeo – oooo – oh.
I was only at Chet Faker for two songs, but the consensus seemed to be the same; it was chill. After a powerful set at the Beach Stage by Chromeo, Faker struggled to maintain their energy. After two songs he declared that he was “warmed up.” Curious as to why Faker wouldn’t have done that prior to jumping on stage, I decided to go to Santigold instead.
Santigold doesn’t just deliver a live performance; she delivers an entire production. Costume changes, props, and constant communication with the crowd gave her the ability to motivate exhausted, drunk, sunburnt festival-goers to dance their asses off.
Santigold’s pristine voice sounded identical (if not better) than her work produced in the studio; her backup duo was dynamic and, at times, comedic. During “All I Got” they spun large yellow arrows reading “We Buy Gold,” and during “Go!” they pushed around shopping carts while wearing white sweat suits with Santigold’s face on them. As they performed “Can’t Get Enough of Myself,” the crowd was bathed in a thick sheet of bubbles pouring from the stage. Everyone shrieked and danced harder.
Prior to “Unstoppable,” Santigold pointed at someone in the crowd and pulled her forward. “I saw you walking in the street wearing a towel this morning, and now you’re here!” she exclaimed. She asked the woman’s name and then asked if she would like to come up on stage. She then smiled and said, “On second thought, why don’t a bunch of you come up here?” Throngs of people began surging towards the front of the stage as the song began. Although it looked like a recipe for disaster, ended up being the pinnacle of the performance.
As the song ended, a nice man handed me one of his extra unopened beers, and fireworks lit up the Chicago skyline. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to close out the second brilliant year at Mamby on the Beach.