Mamby on the Beach in Chicago was a standout event in a summer packed with festivals of all types and genres. Mounted by promoter React Presents at Chicago’s Oakwood Beach on the Southside, the festival channeled its 90s origins when Mamby was a classic Chicago house party, mixed in with a taste of Ibiza’s sunshine and sea, and the summer of love vibes of the hippy era—all in a non-pretentious, endlessly enjoyable, weekend of bliss, good music, good vibes, and good people.
Electronic dance music ruled the Mixmag Tent, with a lineup of artists that was sequenced to perfection, representing a variety of sub-genres fitting for beach. On Saturday, Sam Feldt was truly entertaining, playing in the sun and sand with so many crowd-pleasing tracks that the tent was packed. It would’ve been nice to hear more of his own material, but a live trumpet and sax player turned electronic beats into joyful art. His set was arguably the best of the day. However, when Tchami closed out the night as the sun set into darkness, the beach turned into an all-out rave. His future house set was a dark fusion of deep house, techno and bass music. The crowd was dancing as the night closed with a dazzling fireworks display—accompanied by the thumping beats… it was a truly transcendent moment.
Sunday was less crowded, so the crowd really could dance with freedom. Fire artists, hoopers, and shufflers were moving to the music. With minimal beats, MK came on before Justin Martin. Martin’s deep house veered from dark and techno-like, to thumping and dance. The real highlight of the whole festival was Chicago’s own Green Velvet. The house legend is never defined by genres, blending funk, soul, house, and dance into a frenzy of beats that make dancing a requirement. Live vocals, synchronous lighting, and his big personality made the set not just mesmerizing from a musical standpoint, but hugely fun. In Green Velvet’s set, Ibiza came to the Windy City as he transported the crowd back in time to when Chicago was producing the best funky house music.
Mamby is not just electronic dance music. Indie and electronica acts like MGMT, the poppy Walk the Moon and groovy Lotus Flower occupied the stages. A standout was Cut Copy. Their disco and new wave sound reminded us of Giorgio Moroder and New Order, and was just as funky as any DJ in the tent. Lead singer Dan Whitford had a stage presence that mixed mid-2000s indie with glam rock. And if music wasn’t enough, Mamby’s yoga garden provided health and relaxation. The food ranged from fairground items to more foodie-type fare, including a selection of gluten free and vegan items.
The festival was not plagued with seriously long water lines, making the water refill station a breeze. The only criticism is the hired-out event staff gave misleading comments about the availability of the VIP bathrooms and bar the first day, only to provide the correct information the second day. However, the VIP area itself utilized the best of the park and beach, with trees bedecked in colorful lanterns, a generous drink selection, and comfortable cabana-type seating, not to mention great views of the Beach Stage. It felt like California.
Mamby’s mission statement included a fitting mention of using the festival to highlight nature in Chicago, something a few attendees disrespected by littering on the beach: the availability of more trash-cans might have deterred from this incongruous activity, but Mamby on the Beach doubtlessly left a strong impression of the city on the many international visitors were seen caped in their country’s flag. The blue waters of Lake Michigan, the summer sun, the skyline a glittering jewel in the background, and the refreshing breeze fulfilled Mamby’s environmentally conscious mission. For the 30,000 attendees at Mamby this year, its was all good vibes. Summer in Chicago is priceless, and Mamby on the Beach only served to increase its value.