Author Archives: Derin Alemli

North Coast Music Festival 2017 Festival Review

North Coast2

North Coast Music Festival, now in its eighth year since premiering in 2010, does unfortunately always mean that summer in Chicago is coming to an end. It does however usually deliver with a solid lineup at an affordable price, and this year was no exception.

Location, Accessibility, and Layout

Since its inception North Coast has called Union Park in the West Loop home, which is an accessible location for a variety of transit options. Cabs were still available outside of the festival, while the Green and Pink line drop off right at the park, so from a convenience factor North Coast always delivers. Cost wise it was also affordable, with single days going for $45 the week of and even more discount on a three day pass. The layout is a little small, with the two main stages centered on the open air north side and trading timeslots, and the secondary area with the Coast Stage to the south in a tree-covered area of the park. There was definitely some sound bleed between the stages and during the main sets in particular, but if you were close enough to the Coast Stage it wasn’t a problem. All in all, you could generally bounce between areas, vending, and bathrooms pretty easily, although lines at the bar were long all weekend.


For the most part North Coast lucked out with good weather for Labor Day weekend in Chicago. Friday was a little chilly, as was Saturday which also had a bit of rain in the late afternoon, but Sunday was gorgeous and there were only a couple hours of precipitation all weekend.

North Coast 6

Crowd and Atmosphere

While I’ve really enjoyed the crowd at the other Chicago festivals this year, I wasn’t a big fan of North Coast’s, which I partially blame on the fact that this festival is all ages. Friday in particular felt unruly, perhaps brought on by the weekend’s strongest daily lineup, but the situation seemed to improve as the weekend wore on. Overall the atmosphere was pretty rowdy but without major incident.

Music Highlights

Day 1

Friday had by far the deepest lineup, and I even had some pleasant surprises relative to my expectations. I got in and pretty much stayed planted at the main stages, catching the second half of Autograf’s set to start off the night with their dreamy, live music blended electronic sound. Lettuce is always a band I love to see live, as they shredded their way through an hour long set of their funky jam music. Far exceeding my expectations, Lil Dicky proved to be a fun performance that showcased actual rap talent from a guy largely considered to be a comedy rapper. He had a great DJ who knew how to work the crowd, and his antics seemed as natural as can be considering he eventually stripped down to his underwear and, when called upon to actually rap, it seemed Lil Dicky had the skills to do so.

North Coast 1

The headliners for the evening were who everyone definitely came to see: Deadmau5 b2b Eric Prydz. When it comes to Deadmau5 I always wonder which Mau5 I’m going to get to see that evening, but the set had a banger vibe more on the Pryda side of things and that was definitely what I was hoping to see. I closed out the night with a little bit of Gucci Mane who, despite a solid DJ and playing most of his hits, did not impress me as a live rapper at all. I love his work in the studio but he rapped maybe 20% of his words on stage.

Day 2

Admittedly I got a slow start on Saturday, and only made it to the festival in time to catch STS9 at 7:45. This is one of my favorite live bands and they did not disappoint, but I would not call it my favorite Sound Tribe set either. I did enjoy Big Boi on the Coast Stage, Lucious Left Foot always puts on a good show including his and Outkast’s hits. I am personally not a fan of Carnage, so we ended our night chilling with a smoke filled crowd over at Damien Marley.

North Coast 3

Day 3

I was introduced to my first experience with Electric Guest early in the day, which I definitely enjoyed. They had just driven 20 hours direct from Boulder to play their upbeat electro pop, but even then they had such a happy-to-be-there attitude that you couldn’t help but have fun. Little did I know that up next would be the highlight of the day at just 5 o’clock – Chicago natives The Cool Kids, after dropping thirty minutes of their own hits, brought out fellow Chicago native Chance The Rapper for another thirty minutes of the Lollapalooza headliner’s hits including “No Problems” and “I’m the One.”

North Coast 4

I was initially really excited about Hippie Sabotage, whose music always has a fun, chill vibe to it, but that expectation was farther from reality than I expected. The DJ played a solid set that was more hip-hop focused, but for whatever reason the attitude of the Saurer brother that was the designated hype man was far too aggressive. While they weren’t quite as bad as their reported incident from What the Festival in 2016, it was still rather unexpected.

Bob Moses played a great live set of minimalistic electronic rock that had power despite being low key. I will however say that “Grace” is a new staple on my playlist after that show. I was most excited for Primus, a bucket list band for me that opened with “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver” and closed with “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,” so they clearly knew exactly what I wanted. We closed our festival with a bit of Tipper, who dropped a bassy set of grimy UK hip-hop.

North Coast 5


Music – 4.5 out of 5

I am a huge fan of music diversity, and on that front North Coast is always doing things right. Electronic, rock, jam bands, hip-hop – you name it, there was genre representation all over.

Experience – 3.5 out of 5

I’m probably biased from a year of relatively respectful crowds at festivals like Movement, but I saw a lot more disrespect to fellow patrons happening around me than I cared to witness. I still had fun, but in general I felt like the crowd was hard to be around at times, and especially on Friday which was the most crowded.

North Coast

Value – 4.7 out of 5

You won’t see a full three-day festival for this close to $100 these days, and for that reason North Coast should always be under consideration for anyone with an eye on value.

Overall – 4.2 out of 5

For the price this festival is almost always worth it, and each day had someone that I would have cost the same as a full day just on their own. North Coast is here to stay, and will always be a great option for Labor Day fun in Chicago and the entire Midwest region.


Mamby On The Beach 2017 Festival Review

Mamby skyline2

No city loves summer more than Chicago. After months of winter this town just can’t wait to shed the layers and get out into the sun for our brief dance with shorts-and-sandals-weather. With miles of beaches lining Lake Michigan, it only makes sense that there’s at least one festival that takes place upon its shores. Now in its third year, Mamby On The Beach is the only festival that can boast such a location.

Location, Accessibility, and Layout

Oakwood Beach offers an extremely scenic location for a festival, with hundreds of yards of shoreline and an idyllic view of downtown Chicago. While transportation to this south side venue is not typically ideal, React Presents did an admirable job of providing shuttles to the nearest Green and Red line EL stops as well as creating a separate pickup/drop-off area for cabs and ride shares. I took an Uber to the festival both days that only cost $13, and took advantage of the shuttles to the red line for a trip home that only took 45 minutes via public transit.

Mamby skyline

The vibe overall at Mamby was perfect for a beach setting, as attendees entered through a long corridor of artistic setups including live painted graffiti murals, segueing into a yoga workshop area and the silent disco. The grassy areas was also home of a wide variety of food and beverage vendors as well as the south Park Stage, while to the east the layout opened up to the beach with the main Beach Stage as well as the Mixmag Tent. There was definitely plenty of space to move around at all stages, though with this being a public beach port-a-potties were relegated to areas that felt like a substantial walk from the bigger main stages.

The sound and production at each stage was on par with what can be expected from React, though more subdued than the bombast of some of their bigger festivals like Spring Awakening. Sound bleed did not seem to be an issue except in the middle of transition areas between stages, and the three stage setup fits the space nicely.


While Spring Awakening proved to be extremely hot for its time of year, the weather was much cooler for Mamby’s weekend just two weeks later. Saturday was a truly perfect Chicago summer day with temperatures in the low 70s and sun shining a plenty. Sunday, however, was manic with on-and-off cloud cover that had me putting on and taking off a hoodie constantly, but such is Chicago weather and locals know what to expect and how to deal with it. Still, temperatures were very comfortable for an outdoor festival and thankfully there was no precipitation throughout the time the festival occurred.

Mamby Grass

Crowd and Atmosphere

This being a beach festival with a wider variety of genres of musical representation, there was a risk for the crowd going in a variety of different directions. Fortunately, the vibe was definitely more on the chill side of things overall rather than the rage fest one might see at a Lollapalooza, Spring Awakening Music Festival or similar event. I noticed a lot of people taking full advantage of the ample open spaces on the festival grounds, lounging in the sun on blankets, and except for the headlining sets I never felt like the stages were too packed to get a good vantage point.

Music Highlights

Day 1

I arrived at the festival just in time to see Saba represent some local Chicago hip-hop on the Park Stage. After that I really enjoyed Will Clarke’s set at the Mixmag Tent, where he was pushing out some very danceable progressive house that was well made for the beach vibe. I caught most of Justin Jay’s set, which was pretty chill for his standards before heading over to check out Marian Hill at the Beach Stage, who played a very enjoyable set with a live band and performed hits including “Down” and “One Time.” My favorite set of the weekend was definitely Miike Snow, who I had seen previously in DJ sets but never as a live band. Their 10 minute rendition of “Animal” to close their set was a wonderful ender. After that I caught a bit of The Magician’s banger set over at the Mixmag tent, an artist I was unfamiliar with but will definitely be checking out in the future. The only disappointment of the day was MGMT, who to me seemed to be phoning in their hits from the early 2000s while pushing their newer psychedelic rock of which I am personally not a huge fan of.

Mamby MGMT

Day 2

My day started with STRFKR, playing in full astronaut gear and crowd surfing their way around the audience during a light hearted synth-pop set. I just saw the last bit of Lee Foss’s set at Mixmag tent as MK came on to lay down a very smooth deep house performance that felt great for the lakeside setting. I then popped over to catch a little bit of Australia’s Cut Copy performing a very upbeat electronic live band performance. I cut back to end my night first with Justin Martin playing mostly what you’d expect from the Dirtybird veteran, including his hit “Don’t Go,” although I enjoyed the drum and bass interlude he dropped just before his close the most. The evening concluded with Green Velvet playing a rager of a tech house set to his hometown audience, arguably the craziest moment of the entire weekend.

Mamby Mixmag tent


Music – 3.8 out of 5

For what it was, the music was excellent. Perhaps we are spoiled here in Chicago though, because relative to other festivals of both React and others in the city it was definitely lacking on some bigger names and unfamiliar depth across the stages. In particular I felt the Beach Stage headliners were a little weak, but I still enjoyed most of what I heard throughout the weekend.

Experience – 4.6 out of 5

It’s hard to mess up a beach festival in Chicago in terms of experience, and Mamby once again did not disappoint. Aside from a long walk to the bathrooms, the vibes were good and the setting was great, making it absolutely impossible to not have a great time.

Mamby justin martin

Value – 4.5 out of 5

With VIP tickets available for just $160 the week of, this is one of the most affordable festivals in the Chicago market. I did feel as though drinks were a bit pricey with Corona cans costing $8 each, but I credit Monaco with picking up the slack and marketing their $10 ready-to-drink mixed cocktail heavily, which was a great deal as it equated to a full two drinks per can.

Overall – 4.3 out of 5

Mamby is missing only a few upgrades in headliners from being a true “can’t miss” festival in the Chicago market. It’s a great location with a great atmosphere, and it comes in at a price tag that’s very affordable for anyone looking for a great festival weekend.

Spring Awakening Music Festival 2017 Festival Review


I will be the first to admit that I was very skeptical after Spring Awakening moved away from Soldier Field, an iconic venue in Chicago with amazing cityscape views, last year. However as our writer found in 2016, the new location did not deter React from producing one of the biggest EDM festivals in the Midwest. I had skipped last year’s affair but was eager to check out what 2017 had in store. I had already seen that the lineup looked diverse across genres and the schedule looked deep with interesting acts throughout the day, but I was highly impressed with the production value that went into the experience to boot.

Location, Accessibility, and Layout

Addams/Meddil park looks to be the home of Spring Awakening for some time to come. Located on the southwest side of the city of Chicago, the park actually provides convenient access for a variety of transit options. Parking is available for pay in many of the neighborhoods around the area and at parking garages, while an Uber ride to or from downtown was averaging around $20 each way with surge pricing. One thing I always think important is the access to public transit as well, and here the park was accessible via three different El stops within a mile. Truly, if you were in Chicago, there was a reasonable way for you to get to this show. Entry was a bit stopped up come the heart of the weekend, but overall not bad.

The city view from Addams/Meddil park was gorgeous

The city view from Addams/Meddil park was gorgeous

The layout benefitted greatly from the extra space, and relative to the Soldier Field iteration getting between stages was a relative breeze with the stages well situated in different pockets of the park with the center area reserved for vending as well as quite a few carnival rides. I think the carnival ride theme can be a little played out at times these days, but with major rides such as a tilt-a-whirl that elevated what appeared to be 50 feet off the ground this was not your garden level kiddy ride carnival here!

My only critique on the setup was that beverages of both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety took some time to acquire. I found myself waiting 10 minutes or more for bar lines on average, but the line for water looked like it could have taken an hour at least.



The après piece that React always excels at due to their heavy nightlife resources is after parties. This year was no exception as each night boasted five or more across the city each night, with all genres getting some sort of opportunity for individual showcasing.


This weekend was a hot one in Chicago, with temperatures hitting the high 80s and low 90s during the day. I definitely sought some shelter in the shade during the day, but at night it felt perfect to be outside in the city.

Crowd and Atmosphere

Going to 18+ was a big upgrade for the Spring Awakening experience, and it’s a change I’m very glad they made over recent years. This is still a major EDM festival, so you’re still going to see all the staples that you’d expect there – glow sticks, hoopers, booty shorts, shirtless bros with camelbacks, and a lot of skin – but it felt like a crowd that could handle itself. Except for a few exceptions I didn’t see too many people completely out of control, and where I did the medical staff was quick to help in a preventative, non-punishing way.

Benny the Bull crowd surfing during Louis the Child

Benny the Bull crowd surfing during Louis the Child

As such, the atmosphere was exactly what you’d expect from that kind of crowd. Not to sound too cliché, but the vibes were good and everyone seemed to be having a good time while being respectful of their fellow music fans.

Music Highlights

Day 1

Due to work obligations I wasn’t able to get to the fest until a little after 6 pm, but headed straight over to see Louis the Child at the Equinox stage. I really enjoyed the upbeat style of his set, which showcased his sound of uplifting hip hop. Having been a little overdosed on Afrojack and Marshmello over recent years I opted to hit up Bingo Players at the branded stage, that day playing a Dancing Astronaut showcase, followed by Sander Van Doorn, who may have played my favorite set of the weekend.

Sander Van Doorn at the Dancing Astronaut Stage

Sander Van Doorn at the Dancing Astronaut Stage

I haven’t seen a traditional trance set go off like that at 140+ BPM for a full hour in quite some time, and it was a treat to see. I stuck around to see a bit of Benny Benassi, the venerable veteran who never disappoints, and finished the night with Armin Van Buuren, who ventured a bit between his “old school” Armin and “new” Armin sounds but ultimately impressed me more than in other recent sets of his that I’ve seen.

Day 2

After our amazing experience listening to more of the underground at Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit, I had to check out Jody Wisternoff to get a bit of house into my life. After that I ventured back into the main stream with an upbeat set by Robin Shulz, but I just had to check out Zhu at the Equinox stage after being blown away by his set at Mamby in 2015 and he did not disappoint. Paul Oakenfold dropped a crazy psy trance set in the Electric Beach dome before his full set at the trance arena, and Armin Van Buuren threw down a legit ASOT set at the same stage as both artists gave the audience multiple sets and sound styles to hear over the weekend. Unfortunately Axwell^Ingrosso didn’t make the festival due to a passport theft at a previous show, but set times were increased for the main stage artists throughout the day. Closing the night was Diplo, the festival mainstay who I expected to play a banger set of trap-meets-dubstep on the most crowded night of the festival, but disappointed me a bit and bordered more on pop due to recent Justin Bieber collaborations than I would prefer from his earlier sound.

Day 3

I kicked off Sunday Funday with What So Not over at the Equinox stage, who played a fun daytime set which included his hits “High You Are” and “Jaguar.” From there we stuck around for half of a Duke Dumont’s set that I can only describe as a very dancy deep house sound, which may sound contradictory but it most definitely felt right. I had to check out Jauz for a bit and liked how melodic his dubstep-meets-trap sound was on this day, whereas I’ve found he could be too far on the dub side of the spectrum for my tastes in the past. My favorite set of the day though had to be Die Antwoord. These crazy South Africans are as weird as ever, sporting bizarrely dressed dancers, NSFW screen animations, and more costume changes by Yolandi than I have in a week, and I loved every second of it. I caught a bit of Eats Everything into Gorgon City over at the Sunday School stage before closing the night with GRiZ. I really enjoyed this GRiZ set, which fell on the funkier side of his sound rather than the glitchier. As GRiZ rocked his sax throughout the set, he had Muzzy Bearr shredding on guitar, and it made for a great way to end the weekend.

The Main Stage did not skimp on production, with fireworks, flames, confetti sprays, and smoke machines all a common sight

The Main Stage did not skimp on production, with fireworks, flames, confetti sprays, and smoke machines all a common sight


Music – 4.6 out of 5

With a diverse lineup showcasing a variety of sounds, I thought the musical selections were on point throughout the weekend and I never felt like there were gaps where I was bored with the artists playing at that time. There was something for everyone throughout the weekend.

Experience – 4.5 out of 5

It was easy to get to and from, and all in all I had a great time during the festival. If taking it in as general admission I definitely would have not enjoyed the lines for water and drinks, but otherwise the experience was more enjoyable than I had recalled in previous Spring Awakenings.

Value – 4.0 out of 5

The price tag was definitely steep come later in the year, with single day tickets going for over $100 day of the festival. If you think you want to go to this festival I definitely suggest jumping on the early bird opportunities. But with that steeper price tag comes a well produced, diverse electronic festival, so the price tag is worth it.

Overall – 4.4 out of 5

This festival isn’t going anywhere, and will be around in a big ways for years to come. React has not been skimping on artists or production, and the final product definitely shows.

7 Ways Summer Set Music Festival is Doing It Right

Summer Set is quickly becoming a mainstay in the Midwest festival circuit. Just in its fourth year, SSMF has elevated itself to a can’t miss on the summer schedule. Located about 45 minutes east of Minneapolis in Somerset, Wisconsin, the festival is situated on an enormous campground that’s ideally suited for this many people to gather for a massive festival. Here’s seven things this festival is totally getting right:

1. Layout – This was the first year where it felt like SSMF maximized the space they had at their disposal. They added a fifth stage and with the way they had them spread out, you were never more than a small walk from another one whereas in years past the trek between the Grove and the Main area was always daunting. That hike was still a hike, but The Big Top and Meadow stages were close enough to any of them to provide an oasis in between.
2. Diversity of Music – I love EDM as much as the next person, but it’s nice to have a change of pace over the course of three days. While not lacking in DJs, I really enjoyed the hip hop and electro-pop interludes with acts like The Weeknd, Thievery Corporation, Purity Ring, and Boombox on top of the festival staples like the electronic-focused headliners.

The Weeknd - photo courtesy of Summer Set Music Festival

The Weeknd – photo courtesy of Summer Set Music Festival

3. Big Name Headliners – Bassnectar. Big Gigantic. The return of Deadmau5. It doesn’t get much bigger than those names for the marquee slots, and all three delivered fantastic sets for their 90 minutes.

Big Gigantic - photo courtesy of Summer Set Music Festival

Big Gigantic – photo courtesy of Summer Set Music Festival

4. Music All Night – With after parties on both Friday and Saturday going until 3 am featuring GRiZ, Haywyre, The Floozies, and Tone Loc, you could be listening to music for 12 hours a day. The after parties did cost a little extra, but it was a reasonable price. Those in the VIP campground were even luckier, as there was a special after hours just for them that started each night at 2:15. Artifakts played Friday, but Saturday night that camp was treated to a special set of Carnage b2b Manic Focus b2b Jauz. The prime location of the VIP camp really gave the extra expenditure some value.
5. Water, Water, Everywhere – The ample availability of water could not have been more necessary this year. With temperatures over 90 early in the weekend with humidity to match, the abundant free water stations and roaming teams of H20 ambassadors were absolutely needed. Kudos to Summer Set for taking a proactive approach to the health of their patrons.
6. Daytime Activities – Between the carnival rides and the lazy river at Float Rite, campers had a lot of options to kill some time before the music got going in the early afternoon. Float Rite also helped many stay cool as temperatures soared on Friday and Saturday.

Carnival Rides at the Main Stage - photo courtesy of Summer Set Music Festival

Carnival Rides at the Main Stage – photo courtesy of Summer Set Music Festival

7. Partnering with DownBeats – Summer Set also listened to the growing demand for hearing protection by working with us to deliver custom DownBeats cases to their fans. Between those available at the merch tent and for the VIP campgoers, we distributed 500 pairs throughout the weekend and had people begging for more as we tore down our setup at the end of the weekend. It was great to see so many people embracing their hearing health, and a major festival like Summer Set supporting it.

The custom Summer Set cases were a hit

The custom Summer Set cases were a hit

Another Summer Set has come to a close, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing how this festival improves yet again next year. See you in 2016 Wisconsin!

The Full Moon Party: Your Guide to Craziness in Thailand

Welcome to Haad Rin Beach, Home of The Full Moon Party

Welcome to Haad Rin Beach, Home of The Full Moon Party

With the exception of Mardi Gras, there is rarely a party I go to these days that has been going on longer than I have. Yet somehow, the Full Moon Party on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand, has been trucking since 1983. As the story goes, a group of friends gathered under the full moon and started a fire, followed by an inevitable guitar and drum session. They loved the experience so much they came back the next month. And then the next month. And the month after that. And, well, you get the picture.

Now, I’m not sure what the Full Moon Party looked like in its early days, but in its current incarnation it is unlike just about any party I’ve ever seen. It’s pure debauchery, and I wouldn’t call it a music festival or event so much as a celebration of depravity. Seven stages playing all manner of music from psy-trance to drum and bass? Check. Hundreds of people passed out on the beach come sunrise amongst a proverbial sea of beer bottles and lost sandals? You’d better believe it. Flaming jump ropes? Got that too. Oh, and let’s not forget the bar that sells shakes that (supposedly) have magic mushrooms in them. Since I was going to be in Asia anyway and had friends going already, I might as well see what this shindig is all about…

With all that being said, this party is not without risks – financial, legal, and particularly, physical. So with one trip to Koh Phangan under my belt I am here to help you make sure your first or next Full Moon Party goes off without a hitch.


The Logistics Step one in this party is getting there. Koh Phangan is an island off the southeast coast of Thailand, and the most direct way to get there is a ferry from Koh Samui, another Thai island to the south of Phangan. You’ll have to fly into Koh Samui, and the odds are you’ll connect through Bangkok on the way there. This is likely to be the most expensive part of your journey here, as my flights from Hong Kong to Koh Samui ran around $700 total. To put that in perspective, my flight from Chicago to Hong Kong was only $800. Keep a lookout for booking one ways or one-off round trips to save some money. In my case, for instance, separate roundtrips connecting Hong Kongtod Bangkok and then Bangkok to Koh Samui were substantially cheaper than booking from Hong Kong to Koh Samui. There are multiple ferries but the easiest routes from Samui to Phangan is to either take the high speed catamaran from Maenam Pier, or the Haad Rin Queen Ferry which takes slightly longer but costs about half as much. Both are a short taxi from the airport and the taxis on Samui are actual cars and reliable, though I would suggest pre booking on the catamaran if traveling at peak times. The Haad Rin Queen doesn’t really do pre booking except on site. The advantage to the Queen is that it drops you off at Haad Rin, right where the action is, while the catamaran requires a 15 minute taxi ride to Haad Rin. The last ferries run around 5 pm and start again in the morning about 8 am.

The Pool at Tommy's Resort - A Great Spot to Access the FMP

The Pool at Tommy’s Resort – A Great Spot to Access the FMP

The next question is going to be where to stay. The great thing about Thailand is that while the plane tickets might be pricey, once you’re there everything is incredibly cheap. Most hotels require a five day booking through the FMP but even the best resorts are very affordable. My group stayed at Tommy’s Resort, which for location I cannot recommend enough. It’s right on Haad Rin beach and three of us fit easily into a bungalow for only $600 over those five days. With an awesome party pool and a front row seat to the action you can’t go wrong. You can certainly stay elsewhere on the island or even on Koh Samui, but when you get into intoxication land figuring out transport will be the last thing you want to deal with – especially since most cabs are either the back of a scooter or a bunch of random people piled into a flatbed truck, and ferries don’t run again until daylight. Lest you forget, you’re off the beaten path here.


The Fun Stuff Don’t think that the FMP is the only night that you want to be here either. The night that precedes it usually has a jungle party that is exactly what it sounds like, and that is another experience that is hard to duplicate. I recommend arriving a night or two early to get the most out of your time here because once the FMP gets going all the other perks of being on the beach will be harder to get motivated to do and/or get your friends to do with you. You have a variety of options at your disposal, including jet skis, jungle tours, and dirt cheap Thai massages.

Once the actual FMP party gets going, all bets are off (except for the Thai local who schooled my group in Connect Four. Seriously, how is anyone that good at Connect Four? Oh, the person who does this for a living and preys on tourists like us. Right). There are roughly seven stages arranged on the beach and all the pools will be roped off for safety. The beach itself then becomes a madhouse of people in all manner of intoxication. Beer bottles are strewn everywhere, along with lost sandals and as the night progresses to dawn, passed out people as well.

Welcome to the FMP

Welcome to the FMP

The music itself isn’t filled with big names at all, but the variety and ease of access was a nice touch. I for one like styles like psy-trance and drum and bass but find it hard to access them in the states, at least good quality and with minimal hassle. Here you can pop in and out of those, house, funk, or hip-hop easily and at your leisure. Just try not to step on any passed out people while you’re bouncing around between these stages. The day after isn’t on the same level when it comes to organization and music, but with so many people having booked five days on the island it was just as fun as the Full Moon Party itself, if not more since many people leave Haad Rin for their respective hotels on or off the island. The pool at Tommy’s Resort pictured previously was going crazy and we met some extremely cool people from all over the world. Kiwis, Aussies, Americans, Irishmen, it was really a melting pot of adventurous party goers. With beers running less than $3 USD you can imagine how much fun this group was having.


The Risks Here’s the part that I have to caution everyone on – this is Thailand, medical assistance is not great or easy to come by, and there are a LOT of potential risks to your health going on here. From car accidents to burns I saw far more injuries than I expected. Be careful on any scooter you hop onto to get around, particularly if you’ve been drinking and you’re the driver. Three of four of our bungalow neighbors had been in a scooter accident and had the bandages and limps to show it, and that was before the FMP even actually started. You’ll also see lots of fire entertainment in the form of jump ropes. It amazed me how many people got into the flaming jump ropes considering the abundance of people going before them that had been struck by these blazing hazards. I at one point saw five people in a row try and fail to navigate them. I can only imagine the mental conversation went something like “I know I’m wasted here and those people all hurt themselves, but THIS time will be different!” Uh, no thank you. There was also word from some veterans that the Thais operating the jump ropes have a deal with the hospitals to intentionally send them patients, so really I would suggest avoiding this entirely.

This Is Why You Shouldn't Jump The Fire Rope

This Is Why You Shouldn’t Jump The Fire Rope

The other major risk is how much glass and other sharp objects are floating around on the beach as the party progresses. There’s no such thing as glass prohibition on the beach or pools and more than one person we talked to had a bad foot injury by the time the party was over. I highly recommend wearing real shoes as opposed to sandals the night of the Full Moon Party to avoid that risk.

Aside from just generally getting injured, be aware that drug laws in Thailand are incredibly strict. You definitely don’t want to end up in Thai prison so be careful with what and from whom you procure your intoxicants, and remember that customs and undercover police are on the lookout for exactly that activity. Added to that is that many of the locals, while friendly and helpful, are there specifically to take your money. From bogus upcharges on your hotel bill to fake or harmful drugs, you’re just another tourist to them. There have even been reports that locals will sell tourists drugs and then report them to police (who are looking for their kickback to get a cut of that drug trade), so you can’t even fully trust the guy breaking the law to not turn you in.

While I have heard from many people that mushroom mountain had high quality shakes in previous months and years, this time around they at best had a chemical downer in them. When confronted about it, the bartender literally just walked away. They don’t care about you, so you had better care about yourself. The final risk I will mention is really one of personal preference, but you must be aware that there is a very real culture of “lady boys” in Thailand. I personally have no judgments on anyone’s preferences with sexuality, but if you think you might not enjoy realizing the Thai girl you were making out with is actually a man, be sure to look out for the signs and even ask politely if you’re unsure. Of course if that’s your thing, you’re in the right place.


The Verdict If you live in the States as I do, this is not an easy place to get to. It took me 32 hours of travel and a couple thousand dollars to get there from Chicago. It’s fraught with risks, but the payoff can be tremendous if you do it right. I had an amazing time with friends I already had and we made a dozen others in our time there. If you like to travel, like to party, and most importantly, can handle yourself in crazy situations like that, I highly recommend it. Just don’t be the guy we saw having a bulldozer rake the beach around him two mornings after the Full Moon Party. Nobody wants to be that guy.

The Spirit of Mardi Gras Music

When I tell people that I’m going to Mardi Gras, it seems like they always have the same vision of my trip. It’s the public image of the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and swarms of massively drunk frat guys bartering beads for a flash of boobs.  While I can’t deny that I have experienced that part of Mardi Gras, that is the part of New Orleans I am looking to avoid during Carnival season. No, what keeps me coming back is the music, and it always sounds better in New Orleans.


Rebirth at the Howlin' Wolf during Mardi Gras 2015

Rebirth at the Howlin’ Wolf during Mardi Gras 2015


While Mardi Gras technically has a fuller season of over a month before the start of Lent, the final weekend before Fat Tuesday is where the action reaches its peak. It’s right here at the heart of Mardi Gras that some of the best bands playing in New Orleans funk can be seen all over town. Just about every year you can expect to see the likes of Trombone Shorty, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, G. Love and the Special Sauce, or Galactic’s well renowned Lundi Gras show that rocks until sunrise. No matter what though, I always try to make it to the Howlin’ Wolf for three nights of free shows – two from the Rebirth Brass Band, and one from Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. Playing to a New Orleans crowd during Mardi Gras always has a funkier feel to it, and the bands seem to know it. “It’s the spirit and vibe that Mardi Gras brings to the city everyone in the band was born and raised in,” Ivan and Ian Neville of Dumpstaphunk said.  “We can’t help but have some overflow of all that music, energy, culture, and everything else that makes up New Orleans and Mardi Gras.”


For Rebirth, it all comes back to the audience and how they interact with the band. “Every set has it’s own identity,” they said. “Most of that is centered on the crowd. We don’t do set lists, so we’re able to adjust to each audience. No matter where we are, we live for the chance to feed of the emotions of our fans. There is no bigger high in the world. Except maybe when we won the Grammy.”


In this world of musical commercialization, it certainly made me wonder why they would keep giving their product away for free for over 10 years. The answers are the essence of New Orleans. “Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the biggest free rager of party to be found anywhere.  Not much in life is free but this is one of those rare treats.  Free party and free funk.  Can’t go wrong.  They go hand in hand,” said Ivan and Ian Neville. Rebirth had similar sentiments, saying, “We’ve always been pretty busy during Mardi Gras, so this was a perfect way to hit a late night crowd already in a good mood. That we get to do it in a great room like the Howlin’ Wolf is even more of a bonus.”


You can’t really go wrong with three nights of free shows from bands with those kinds of attitudes. They’re still in this for the audience, and that’s the most amazing part.

DownBeats + Incorrect Music Team Up On Groove Cruise Miami

Incorrect DownBeats_smaller_black

The Groove Cruise really is something unique. I haven’t personally been on any of the now many competitors, but from what I have heard Groove Cruise more than any other festival or music experience really has a family vibe to it. The word “family” gets thrown around a lot in the dance scene but I don’t use it frivolously. Groove Cruise Miami was my third (although the first not departing from LA), but I can assure you that it won’t be my last.


After returning to Chicago from Groove Cruise LA in 2014, I was still day dreaming about Anthony Attalla’s amazing sunrise set, in addition to the rest of the Incorrect Music after hours. It really made our team think that Anthony was a forward thinking musician who was focused on his fans’ experience. Sharing the same home of Chicago, we eventually crossed paths and started to get to know each other more personally. Almost immediately after we began talking with him, it was apparent that our similar missions made for an ideal collaboration. From there it clicked almost instantly – let’s do a limited run of 300 co-branded cases for Incorrect Music and give it away at the after hours during Groove Cruise Miami, where the Incorrect Army is always out in force. “It’s a great way to give back to my fans, so that they can enjoy the experience even more,” said Anthony Attalla. “Hearing is so important and most people don’t realize they’re losing it until it’s too late. I get my hearing tested regularly because I want to keep doing this forever. I’m sure my fans do too. This partnership was a great way to spread that message while as a bonus promoting the Incorrect Music Label.”

Team DownBeats was out in force for Anthony Attalla

Team DownBeats was out in force for Anthony Attalla

As you can imagine, it did not take much convincing to get me on another Groove Cruise. After spending four nights at the Incorrect after hours distributing our high fidelity hearing protectors with the DownBeats team, I have to say that all of our families grew on this trip. I met more cool and new people than I ever expected, and Anthony did an amazing job of helping out with distribution himself. The appreciation on so many people’s faces was amazing to witness in person. That’s really why I started this business in the first place – I’m just a fan myself, hoping to help other fans enjoy music now and forever.

Anthony Attalla and Cocodrills aboard GCMIA

Anthony Attalla and Cocodrills aboard GCMIA

If you are an Incorrect fan and didn’t get a pair of these custom cases, we do still have a few left that will be given out during the Incorrect Music showcase at Winter Music Conference. Anthony has a few himself as well, so if you happen to catch him on tour you might be in luck. Thank you so much to Anthony Attalla and the Incorrect Army for embracing us. See you all on a Groove Cruise soon!

Ringing in the New Year, Dirtybird Style

Confetti Flying from Paradigm Presents

Confetti Flying from Paradigm Presents


I’m going to come out with a (potentially) unpopular opinion: I usually hate New Year’s Eve in Chicago. I’ve dabbled with the different types of events that the city has to offer, from the $250 hotels black tie hotel parties down to dive bars with no cover. It’s cold, it’s hard to find a cab (or not pay 8x Uber surge pricing), and I invariably feel packed like a sardine in whatever setting I’m in, struggling to get a drink.  If there’s an expensive cover, I’m certainly hating that most of all.


With those as my typical options, I was extremely excited that Paradigm Presents was putting on a Dirtybird Records party on New Year’s Eve that hit all the points I wanted. Early bird pricing was only around $50 per person and included three drink tickets and a champagne toast – an incredible value for this holiday in Chicago. The location also boded well for a fun evening – Lacuna Lofts, south of the city close to Chinatown, is a huge 15,000 square foot space with plenty of room to move around, along with a second room for local artists. Best of all it went until 6 am, giving us ample time to get past that surge pricing and get a cab for a standard rate.


My group arrived reasonably early around 11 pm, and the door staff seemed well prepared to get us in and get us in quick. Considering it was less than 10 degrees we distinctly appreciated the hustle. Although the coat check line had a pretty long wait, after that the evening was superb. The large venue gave plenty of room to move around, and the bartenders were quick to get drinks made. There wasn’t much on the menu besides standard liquor with mixers, which certainly helped, but I was happy with the service regardless.


In terms of music, Christian Martin was already going as we walked in and Justin Martin jumped on the decks at midnight to play a full three hour set. His set was hitting the Dirtybird sounds hard, and he dropped in a couple of his well known tracks like “Don’t Go.” The “Baking Soda” song he dropped in the middle of his set was especially funny considering how long the lines at the bathroom were – clearly the stalls were a bit over occupied in this crowd. J. Phlip then came on at 3 am, although we bowed out shortly thereafter.

Justin Martin on NYE

Justin Martin on NYE


My only complaints on the evening were that the lines for the bathrooms were exceedingly long as I just mentioned, and the coat check was a little bit of a mess. One of the bars holding a set of coats collapsed at some point so that definitely gave the staff some trouble, but overall the folks serving us partiers were friendly and had a positive attitude. That was definitely an issue that caused some delays, but the Paradigm Presents staff handled it well.

7 Groove Cruise Pro Tips


Welcome to Groove Cruise

Welcome to Groove Cruise


Another Groove Cruise LA is in the books, and I have to say that is one magical boat ride. If you don’t know already, it’s pretty simple – 72 hours of electronic music on a full sized cruise ship, with all the perks that come along with that. As a veteran of two of the LA voyages now I have just a few pro tips that can help you have the best Groove Cruise, Holy Ship, or whatever music cruise you take:

1. Don’t be Carlos – This will sound obvious, but before the trip even begins make sure you don’t have any outstanding warrants or excessive amounts of narcotics in your bags. This is an international trip, so your information will be run against criminal databases and drug dogs will likely give your bags the once over. Several guests, most notably Carlos, were being called to the front and delaying our initial departure for hours for these very reasons.

Don't Be Carlos

Don’t Be Carlos

2. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint – Even if you’re a festival veteran, Groove Cruise is truly unique in the total party nonstop. There is music going somewhere on the boat from before departure until we arrive at the port on Sunday morning. Don’t be the person that rages so hard on Day 1 they can’t finish the weekend. Trust me, you’re going to want to see some sunrise sets – Anthony Attalla’s four and a half hour set on Friday night was definitely worth the effort. A pair of DownBeats will also help your ears last the weekend, and we gave out 500 pairs to early boarders to help.

Anthony Attalla Played An Amazing Sunrise Set

Anthony Attalla Played An Amazing Sunrise Set

3. Eat at the dining room – if you’re hungry between 5:30 and 10 pm, don’t waste your energy at the buffet when finer dining is available. All cruise ships have virtually limitless options in the formal dining rooms and usually with no dress code, so you can walk right down from the pool to a five course meal. Do you want three steaks or just want to try a bite of the escargot? Go for it! Cruises are for treating yourself and that’s all included.
4. Order Room Service Alcohol – If you want the cheapest booze that you didn’t bring, buying from room service is a great way to save some money. A 375 mL bottle of Absolut was available on this boat for just $19, or $38 for a full bottle, compared with $200 at the pool.
5. Explore – With seven stages there’s a lot to take in, but take some time to get around the boat a bit. The Electric Jellyfish Lounge was one of the coolest areas I’ve been to and was worth the voyage to find it, and I would never have gone if I didn’t make the effort for it.
6. Be Cool – I would have hoped this would go without saying, but be a nice person to your fellow Captains and they will be nice back. Not to get too PLUR-y on you, but I heard too many stories of stolen and/or lost phones, purses, and wallets, and not enough tales of good Samaritans. Turn in that wallet because you never know when it could be your turn to lose something. It’s Karma!
7. Don’t Worry About Room Quality – You won’t be spending much time there anyway, so if you’re on the fence about spending the extra money don’t sweat it. The interior rooms are much easier to sleep in any way as they are darker and quieter than the exterior cabins. There were some reports of people climbing over balconies to get access to other exterior rooms too (see #6).

Hopefully these help on your next music cruise. I will most certainly be going on another in the future as it’s just too much fun not to. If you get the itch yourself, Groove Cruise Miami is just a few months away…

Festival Review – North Coast 2014

NCMF Wolfgang

Wolfgang Gartner on the 630 Stage Sunday

with contributions by Paul Dorsey and Andrey Shashin


Now in its fifth year, North Coast Music Festival in Chicago bills itself as Summer’s Last Stand. With only Riot Fest on the horizon here in the Windy City it’s definitely the last opportunity for an eclectic mix of artists spanning genres and including electronic music acts. Last does not mean best, however, as a smaller venue and high prices left me questioning its value.


North Coast is held in Union Square in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago, easily accessible off of the Green Line and with plenty of buses dropping off right outside as well. A cab ride was not expensive to get there, although finding one to leave could take some effort.


The entry line situation definitely left something to be desired. Lines at both of the entrances on Ashland and Ogden were fairly long and I heard of wait times of up to an hour. Once at the front it was general chaos as men and women then had to separate at the end for gender-on-gender searches and a separate line for bag checks. One day my ticket wasn’t even scanned, it was simply taken and ripped so that copy couldn’t be used again. With everyone having a smart phone now I’m certain that there were a lot of duplicates emailed to friends upon entry.


The space that React Presents (now a subsidiary of SFX) has to work with is probably the biggest challenge with this festival. Union Park is not a huge area – just 13 acres total, and probably only 12 of those usable for the festival. The good news is that getting from stage to stage isn’t hard. The bad news is that putting five stages in such a small area creates some tight areas for moving or viewing, not to mention the sound bleed that we’ll touch on later.



Despite forecasts earlier in the week for consistent rain throughout the first two days, the weather held off and it was clear if not sunny for most of the weekend. Friday did start out a little damp already but the grounds held up well. Although humid, we definitely lucked out on the precipitation.



The crowd was as expected for a Chicago festival – lots of jerseys repping Chicago teams (particularly the Bulls), neon, tank tops, furry boots with skimpy outfits, kandi, etc. It was an all ages event so while the crowd did skew younger, I think the variety of music offered also drew an older crowd.  What was really odd to me was the crowd’s involvement throughout the weekend. It seemed at several points like I was one of the few people around my group paying attention to the music onstage at all. At Bassnectar on Friday, for instance, I was not far from the stage on the left side and it felt like I was one of the only people participating while everyone around me was spectating. Those around me were invested in conversation, laying down, or some variation of that, which was disappointing to see at one of my favorite DJ’s sets.



As the space was limited, sound and production were bound to have problems. The main stages were fine on both accounts, although compared to React’s Spring Awakening the presentation was definitely a step down. Sound bleed was an issue for any of the crossover areas between stages, such as the right side of the 312 stage picking up sound from the 847 and 630 stages. The sound at the 630 stage was not balanced well either, with low bass overpowering the highs all over the crowd but particularly behind the sound tent. The 847 stage, by virtue of being in the back of the venue, had some of the best sound of all despite being the fourth billed area.



Day 1 – Friday


What So Not at the 630 Stage on Friday

What So Not at the 630 Stage on Friday

I got in just in time to catch a few minutes of What So Not dropping some trap music before heading back to catch the tail end of Keys n Krates at the 847 stage. They were already working hard with their chill trap sound as “Clique” was playing when I walked up. They then worked in “Goooo” by TNGHT before playing their own “Treat Me Right” and a dubby remix of Waka Flacka’s “Go Hard in the Paint.” I started making my way over to Lettuce as they were closing up with “I Just Can’t Deny.” Lettuce is one of a few bands I like to see but hardly ever play recorded at home. That live funk sound is just wonderful.


We caught a bit of Showtek before Bassnectar and I was largely unimpressed. It was a lot of chart toppers and the sound at the 847 stage, as I mentioned before, was not great. I was excited for Bassnectar as the main act, and largely I was not disappointed. He played a lot of his hits old and new as well as some covers, including a mashup of “Cozza Frenzy” and “Now” featuring Rye Rye as well as a remix of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” I liked his transition from “Lost in the Crowd” into “Vava Voom” a lot, and it seems like suddenly Lorin will be playing “You and Me” at every show. It was a bit dubbier than I prefer my ‘Nectar, and showing him to a friend for the first time he rightfully pointed out that his transitions brought things down a bit much. But my real complaint was the crowd – I was way too close to the stage for people to be chilling on blankets, let’s dance people!


Day 2 – Saturday

The DownBeats crew arrived at North Coast just in time to catch J Phlip start her set. While all of us at DownBeats are pretty huge Dirtybird fans, none of us could successfully identify any of the tracks that she played during her one hour bass session. The vibe at the stage was absolutely stunning though, as everyone there was eating up every drop and beat that J Phlip threw down.


From there we relaxed for a moment before seeing Cashmere Cat take the stage. His future bass beats had the whole crowd vibing to his sound for his entire set. He also teased the crowd with a Jersey club remix of Migos’ “Hannah Montana”. His set eventually climaxed with his rendition of Miguel’s “Do You”, which had much of the crowd belting out the lyrics and grooving to the bass.


After Cashmere Cat finished, we made our way to see Grandtheft throw down a high energy set fusing hip hop and big room house. His remix of Drake’s “0 to 100” was played early in the set and boosted the energy in the crowd considerably. From there, he transitioned from festival staples like Major Lazer’s “Jah No Partial” into hip hop jams like Schoolboy Q’s “Studio” which kept the crowd on their toes dancing.


Finally, we ended our night at Kid Cudi. While there was a brief interruption due to Cudi’s fainting during “Pursuit of Happiness”, Cudi finished the night strong playing his hits like “Day N’ Night,” keeping the crowd singing along and dancing til the end, making up for his mishap earlier in the evening.


Kid Cudi, pre-fainting

Kid Cudi, pre-fainting


Day 3 – Sunday

Sunday of North Coast featured a wide variety of artists as usual, but skewed a bit towards the funky side of music. I arrived around 4PM and caught about 15 minutes of the Emancipator Ensemble, who played a great downbeat set to a growing crowd in the bright afternoon sun. It was hot, so exploring the festival and finding ample shade was the primary need upon entry. Bisharat was just finishing his set on the local 708 tent, and Blue Sky Black Death was getting ready to take over. Bisharat has been playing all over the city for quite a while, including his Pool House Sunday residency, and his early set attracted a solid crowd. We saw the very beginning of Blue sky Black death, and their ambient, very relaxed down tempo music was a welcome warm up.


While most of the acts playing around the 4pm time were relaxed, the 847 stage on the basketball court featuring Midnight Conspiracy had absolutely no chill. Another well-known Chicago DJ duo, MidCon is known for their heavy electro and dubstep mixes, however their multi genre set, including Gessafelstein’s “Control Movement,” kept everyone’s attention and definitely brought the party early to the festival. Closing out the fest with some heavy dubstep, my attention was turned to the next DJ, Wick-it the Instigator.


Wick-it, a southern DJ with a massive following on sound cloud and in real life, came on the 847 stage immediately after Midnight Conspiracy. His mix of trap, hip hop, and old southern trap (think Three 6 Mafia), kept the crowd at overflow. His remix of Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” was the last tune I managed to catch before I walked over to the 630 stage.


Venturing over from Wick-it’s set, I was directly behind and to the right of the tent for Riff Raff. He came on a bit late, but performed as expected. There isn’t much to say, if you like Riff Raff however you would’ve loved his performance. The crowd was a mix of Riff Raff aficionados and early comers for Griz attempting to get a good spot towards the front, which provided some interesting people watching to say the least.


I ventured back towards Wick-it to catch the end of his set. As is quickly becoming tradition in this city, I got to hear the Ignition Remix, which Wick It closed with. Ookay followed up and quickly turned the tempo up; he’s known for his mash-ups, and energy throughout his set. I stayed for a bit as the crowd ate up every drop, but the big room sound that Ookay played was a bit too similar to others and wasn’t doing it for me. Regardless, it was approaching the time to head back to the 630 stage for one of the best performances Sunday would offer.


Griz is proof that not everything coming out of Detroit happens to be techno, but it definitely has soul. Griz enjoys a massive following in Chicago, as evidenced by the immense crowd that was building at the 630 stage. His blend of saxophone with electronic music – electro soul if you will – was possibly the highlight of Sunday. The crowd got down to all of it, whether it was “Shout”, “Superstitious”, or his remix of “Gold Dust”. Griz was definitely a fan favorite of the day in every sense of the word and he acknowledged that fact.


Wolfgang Gartner followed Griz, and despite wanting to stay, I was drawn towards Zeds Dead (and also just to wander the fest), and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Zeds Dead, best known for heavy dubstep, followed the same cues as previous acts and threw down a wide variety of genres and songs, my favorite being their remix of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, along with “Call It What You Want.” Their set certainly kept my attention throughout.


Closing out the fest was Snoop DoggThe Floozies, and Dada Life. Snoop’s DJ started the performance with “California Love,” and the party was on. I made it to his performance of “The Next Episode”, and while in my opinion he was smooth and the song selection was on point, it left a little to be desired. Regardless, I decided to end my night with the Floozies, and it was definitely the best way to close out the fest. The Floozies, Kansas natives, are on Griz’s “Liberated Music” label, and so naturally they bring the funk and an eclectic mix of remixes featuring live guitar and drums. The set was a nice mellow mix to close out the fest, featuring their song called “Assthem”, a remix of the famous “Fat Bottom Girl”, and of course the night wasn’t complete until Griz joined them on stage to close out the set with about 15 minutes to go. They closed the set with their remix of “Space Jam”, and like that another fun NorthCoast weekend was wrapped up.



React does a great job throwing after parties at their festivals, and North Coast is no exception. Acts of all sizes had shows around the city, including Lettuce, Keys N Krates, Nicky Romero, Adventure Club, STS9, and Dada Life, amongst others. I only made it out to MK with Kevin Saunderson and J. Phlip at Transit on Sunday, but it was a packed house.


STS9 Played at a House of Blues After Party

STS9 Played at a House of Blues After Party



Music – 4/5

I liked the variety of music at North Coast as it allowed me to pick and choose my vibe, but there didn’t seem to be more than one big act that drew me in (Bassnectar, in my case). Kid Cudi and Snoop Dogg aren’t great headliners, in my opinion.

Experience – 3/5

I enjoyed the acts that I saw for the most part, but the crowd combined with lackluster sound in places was not ideal.

Value – 2.5/5

Three day passes were running $220 for the last month and single day passes were $80, which is comparable to Lollapalooza in price but doesn’t deliver on the same level.

Overall – 3.2/5

North Coast is a decent festival but has gone from React’s only festival five years ago to its third best in 2014. Plan to get early bird tickets for under $100 towards the end of this year if you plan on going next year and you will be thanking yourself come next Labor Day.