Photography by Mark Corece

I’ve spent the better half of this year lamenting my youth gone by. As my friends and I tread grudgingly closer to our thirties, we are beginning to nest; cohabiting with our significant others, getting married, focusing more on having actual careers than just jobs. Our once raucous nights out are getting fewer and farther between, more likely to be a few drinks at dinner than a night of barcrawling.

The one thing we’ve managed to continue as we mature is our summer concert tradition. Year after year, we make the trek out to Northerly Island, to Grant Park, and occasionally all the way up to Alpine Valley, to hear the music we love while basking in the hot summer sun. But after a sweat and mud soaked three days at this year’s Lollapalooza, we all took a little longer to recover than we did in years past. It seemed we were even starting to outgrow the one part of our youth we were still desperately holding onto. It seemed almost silly for me to put myself through another 3 day festival, as  my old bones were still a little weary from the first.

But as I stepped through the gates into Union Park on Friday afternoon, I found my fountain of youth. It’s name was North Coast Music Festival.

The nostalgia from my younger days was everywhere. The neon tank tops and tights under sneakers I was so fond of wearing in grade school, adorning the bodies of teenagers ready to rage. The layers upon layers of candy raver necklaces and bracelets I took to wearing in my junior high years, now worn by a new generation of girls in fishnets, tutus and fur boots. My Saturday morning heroes and old school video game characters adorning the tops of sticks, bobbing up and down to the heavy bass. Lurky, Megaman and Pac Man seemed to enjoy the music as much as I did. There were even some old school Macs that wanted to get down, taking the stage with The Hood Internet as a mash-up of Matt & Kim and The Beastie Boys blared onstage. I must have missed the command for those kinds of moves when I first learned to type on them back in ’94.

My feeling of rejuvenation went much further than reminiscing about the pop culture of my past, though.  If all it took to feel young again was remembering obscure cartoons I enjoyed as a kid,  I’d be a Google search away from eternal youth. It was the music, the music that made and  everyone around me want to bob our heads, jump up and down and essentially lose our shit, that emboldened me with a zest I don’t remember feeling at a concert in at least the last 4 or 5 years.  I’d be lying if I didn’t  admit I sometimes take myself too seriously at shows, refusing to sing along to a song that’s seen too much mainstream play, or not allowing myself to enjoy an artist because their particular genre of music is so last year. But there was not a single artist at this festival that didn’t put out the kind of energy that made me want to fully lose myself in their music.

See a slide show of North Coast Music Festival 2011 on Flickr »

As I stood in awe of the intelligence and brilliant lyricism of BBU, I felt reignited by the political fire that was ignited in me the first time I saw Rage Against The Machine at the age of 14. Engulfed in a sea of my peers, trying to rhyme along with every verse Common uttered made me reminiscent of the days I’d save up babysitting money to buy albums on CDs and memorize every lyric, just to be able to sing them back the loudest when the artist rolled into town. Cheering with my friends as Fatboy Slim played the songs we listened to as teenagers reminded me of a time when I didn’t roll my eyes at an artist playing their latest hit single. Mouthing “This is awesome,” as I experienced Bassnectar for the first time, in complete awe as he mixed Nine Inch Nails “Closer To God” with “Misirlou” from Pulp Fiction, I remembered a time before  music blogs and Google, when I’d actually have to go to a concert  to hear a new band.

Maybe it was knowing that the weather would be cooling down by the end of the festival, making me want to make the very best of our few days left in the sunshine. Maybe it was the excitement of discovering new music. Whatever the perfect storm of variables was at North Coast Music Festival, made me feel like maybe I’m not as close to being old as I thought. And next year, as I’m one year older, I can’t wait to feel young there once again.

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