In its third year, Mamby on the Beach once again boasted some of the best city views offered at a Chicago music festival alongside a thoughtfully curated lineup Saturday and Sunday at Oakwood Beach. An eclectic cast of bands, electronic-based musicians and hip-hop artists — from homegrown artists including Saba, Sir the Baptist and Green Velvet to album-charting acts including MGMT and Walk the Moon — complemented the fest’s theme of chill, danceable vibes.
According to organizers, an estimated 30,000 fans attended over the weekend. Conceived as a boutique festival, Mamby included beachfront stages and free activities including yoga sessions and wellness workshops. Each day, the musical lineup generally progressed with relaxing grooves that melded into more anthemic fare. “I kind of look at it as providing a soundtrack for a person’s day,” React Presents’ Matt Rucins, one of the three Mamby bookers, said of the programming philosophy.
The sonic landscape also showcased a bevy of strong Chicago talent. Saturday’s lineup included recent high school graduate Ravyn Lenae’s sultry, old-soul vocals mingled with romantic yearning on her jazz-tipped numbers such as “Blossom Dearie.”
Rapper Saba’s fiery set spanned his collaborative efforts including performing Chance the Rapper’s “Angels,” which Saba is featured on, and he brought out his brother and fellow Pivot Gang member Joseph Chilliams for turns at the mic for songs including “Westside Bound 3.” Saba also dedicated his moving “Church/Liquor Store” to his late cousin and Pivot Gang member John Walt, who was stabbed to death in February.
Rapper Smino was a guest during both Lenae and Saba’s sets, and Joey Purp made a surprise appearance during producer oddCouple’s slot. BJ the Chicago Kid injected his smooth R&B, which included “Roses,” into the afternoon during an abbreviated performance.
The city was well-represented Sunday, too. A couple of dozen-strong Dexter Walker & Zion Movement gospel choir members ushered in events with “Oh Happy Day,” and Sir the Baptist took the crowd to an alternative church where playful swearing in songs and onstage was forgiven. His rousing set included “Heaven,” and “Creflo Almighty Dollar.” Gospel great Donald Lawrence joined in a cameo as Sir the Baptist and his talented artist congregation ventured into the audience for a reprise of “Raise Hell” for the set’s finale. Later, Green Velvet brought the worship of house to the fore with a dance party that closed out the DJ tent.
Danceable grooves dominated both nights’ programming. On Saturday, Miike Snow kicked the dance party into full gear with “Genghis Khan” and “Animal” before headliner MGMT delivered hits such as “Kids” alongside new songs including “James.”
On Sunday, Cut Copy’s buoyant set had beach dwellers kicking up sand for “Lights and Music,” and the band gave a shoutout to Chicago Pride weekend before delivering “Meet Me in a House of Love.”
Thundercat thrilled fans with his awe-inspiring bass-and-falsetto-buoyed, funkified R&B jams, which included “Friend Zone.”
Mamby culminated with Walk the Moon, Green Velvet and Flying Lotus. Those looking for singalong hits seemed to migrate to the former and the club crowd to Green Velvet’s overflowing tent. Flying Lotus displayed the most intriguing visuals of the weekend. Flanked by two video screens displaying trippy visuals and lights, he delivered a vibrant, experimental mix, which included him live rapping on songs such as “Dead Man’s Tetris.”
Althea Legaspi is a freelance critic.
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