Mamby on the Beach 2017 recap.

I had never attended an electronic-themed music festival before my wife and I went to Chicago’s Mamby on the Beach at Oakwood Beach this year.  They’ve been running this festival for a few years now, and I’ve been meaning to get to it since it’s practically in my back yard.  This was also the first time I’d been to a beach in a long while.

The weather was good, although the wind did whip across the beach and adjoining park now and then.  This was especially cold on Sunday night, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the first things we discovered upon entering the festival is that large bottles of sunscreen aren’t allowed inside it.  “You can put some on before you come in,” said the man checking our bags.  He let me keep a small keychain bottle of it, but they were apparently worried I might be smuggling drugs or booze in my new bottle of SPF 30 lotion.  Heaven forbid I try to take sunscreen to a music festival on a beach.

We cheered up when we saw the “Silent Disco.”  It’s a clever idea.  Everyone gets a pair of wireless headphones and the DJ’s set is live streamed to them.

It looks weird at first, because it appears to be a bunch of people dancing to nothing.

It looks like a bunch of people suffering from dementia, but it’s actually a fun dance party.

I like the idea, as did a lot of others.  I thought I might have to try this when I get my DJ skills up enough to do such a thing.

We arrived early enough on Saturday to catch most of Ravyn Lenae‘s set at the Beach Stage.  It was an adjustment to go from our usual “dancing in clubs” to “dancing on sand,” but we managed well.  Ms. Lenae had a fun time performing in front of a hometown crowd and put down a nice R&B set.  Her cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was delightful.

Rayvn Lenae

We headed to the MixMag Tent to see British DJ Will Clarke after that.  He had a great set and seemed to be having a good time.  It was inspiring for me, as my digital turntables have gone ignored for months while I’m finishing a book on disaster movies.  I later Tweeted that his set inspired me to dust them off.  He replied, “Do it.”

After a nice snack of Leghorn chicken sandwiches and free Vitamin Water, we went to see electro trio Marian Hill play at the Beach Stage.  They turned out to be the best band we saw all day on Saturday.  They were funky, sexy, and even a bit trippy at times.

Marian Hill

Crowd favorites Miike Snow were on after them, and they had a lot of us singing and jumping as the night got cooler and more people got higher.  For the record, other people must have been allowed to bring in more than sunscreen because there was a lot of weed being blown at this festival, more than some of the Levitation festivals I’ve attended and those are psychedelic rock shows.  We had to move to different places in the crowd multiple times to escape so much MJ smoke.

Miike Snow

We ended Saturday by checking out part of Tchami‘s “future house” set at the MixMag Tent.  It was big, bright, and booming.


It was also packed.  The crowd couldn’t fit under the tent and extended well beyond it onto the beach.

So…much…house music!

We got back to our Air BNB place tired, sandy, and a bit sunburned, but ready for Sunday.  We spent most of Sunday morning and early afternoon at Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade with friends, but then headed back to the beach in time to see STRFKR play a fun set of dance rock that came complete with dancing and crowd-surfing astronauts.


We had time for some steamed chicken buns and turducken sausages before moving to the Park Stage for the first time all weekend to see Thundercat play a wild jazz fusion set that left some people confused and others (like me) wowed by the virtuosity of it.

Thundercat on the loose!

We zipped back to the Beach Stage to see Cut Copy, who delivered the best rock set of the whole weekend.  They came to kick ass and apply sunscreen, but they were denied the sunscreen.  The whole crowd was bumping, and beach balls and rolls of toilet paper (“I feel bad for anyone who ends up sad in one of the port-a-potties,” said my wife) flew in every direction.

Cut Copy

We ended the night, and the festival, with Flying Lotus.  I’d been keen on seeing him for a while, and it was worth the wait.  The sun had set and the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees from the start of the festival into the low 60’s by the time he started his set.  Mandy was wrapped in a blanket and a lot of us were huddled in the crowd like penguins trying to stay warm off each other’s body heat.

It was a great set, full of stunning 3-D visuals and great mixes of both dance tracks and deep trip-hop stuff.  One beautiful moment was when he mixed in Angelo Badalamenti’s theme to Twin Peaks.

Is this Laura Palmer’s eye?

The whole set was a mind trip.  I wish I would’ve had 3-D glasses, but when I mentioned to a guy behind me how the visuals were 3-D he said something along the lines of, “I’m glad I’m not seeing it in 3-D. That would probably freak me out.”

It was a good time.  Mandy summed up a lot of the crowd well.  “It looks like a lot of people missing Greek culture over summer,” she said.  Don’t get me wrong.  We didn’t run into any douchebags.  We did bump into a lot of trashed people, however.  One woman was sobbing as we all left the venue.  I stopped to make sure she was okay.  She hugged me, told me I was “a good soul,” and then disappeared into the crowd.

Will we go back?  We might, if the dates work out and the lineup is good.  I sure wouldn’t turn down a press pass!

My Mamby game is strong.

Keep your mind open.

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Nik Havert

I've been a music fan since my parents gave me a record player for Christmas when I was still in grade school. The first record I remember owning was "Sesame Street Disco." I've been a professional writer since 2004, but writing long before that. My first published work was in a middle school literary magazine and was a story about a zoo in which the animals could talk.

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