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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.