Mamby on the Beach, React Presents’ indie-leaning beach festival, faced the telling third-year test: while many buzzy festivals hit logistical bumps in their third go-round, Mamby passed with flying colors, even surpassing my own expectations that had been garnered by two solid years of fun. It seems that many Chicagoans had caught on as well; Oakwood Beach was noticeably busier than it was last year, especially on Saturday. Mamby’s crowds tend to be on the older side, as reflected in the lineup (Cut Copy and MGMT, aka blog staples of the mid to late aughts) and the plentiful number of bars.
Seriously, if all Chicago festivals could get their bar game to be more like Mamby’s, it’d be amazing. There was a large selection of alcohol, the bartenders were prompt and friendly, payment was quick and easy, and I discovered the joy of little single-serve glasses of wine stacked in a tower.
Also noted was React’s focus on reducing the environmental impact of the festival, which included forgoing print-out maps and schedules. While I appreciate the efforts to be more sustainable, I would have liked some sort of large poster of a map at the entrance of the festival that guests could take photos of. I didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be a physical copy of a map or schedule at the festival until I was inside, and with the speed of my mobile data on the grounds, downloading the Mamby On The Beach app was out of the question.
However, I mostly remembered the lay of the land from last year, and found a friend with a screenshot of the set times, so I was good (and resourceful). Musically, this was one of Mamby’s most diverse years; each stage had their own special vibe, but my favorite spot was the Mixmag Tent. MK’s set was magical, and not just because he is one of the most beautiful men in the entire universe and I sort of fell in love with him while watching his performance.
Other highlights included an actually interesting bass-house set from Tchami, Justin Martin’s dreamy brand of house, Lee Foss’s “I don’t give a fuck that it’s mid afternoon, I’m playing late-night German techno on a beach” style, and Green Velvet’s iconic performance celebrating the 25th anniversary of Relief Records.
The Beach Stage had some great acts as well, including the electro-pop group Marian Hill, as well as Miike Snow (my other new boyfriends). I hit the Park Stage when I needed a break from dancing, and caught snippets of BJ The Chicago Kid and Thundercat during my downtime. The Park Stage was a better stop later in the day, when there were more people in the crowd to absorb some of the sound; while the acts were awesome, the stage’s sound was a little on the loud side, depending on where I stood. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it made me realize that I should probably start wearing earplugs when I go to festivals if I’d like to hear past age 30.
After three ever-improving years, Mamby On The Beach has been cemented as a Chicago festival season staple, and I can’t wait to see how the fest continues to top itself.