Another Northalsted Market Days wrapped up this past week, and as a columnist who's complaned off page and smiled on for years, this year I was blown away by the escalated level of talent booked. Not just icons like Olivia Newton-John, Pointer Sisters and Sheena Easton, but the newer, more youthful vibe of Pussycat Dolls' Jessica Sutta, dance prodigy Wynter Gordon, hunky George Michael-esque Matt Zarley and of course chart toppers Karmin, all of which brought a new relevance to Market Days that all previous fests have lacked. With that said, I'm never satisfied.
Like a lot of music geeks I go through fests with a critical eye, always wanting to love, but silently judging, like a mother. Conditional love. With that, I have a few suggestions, in case anyone is listening.
1. You'll notice there's usually just one stage that's really hopping. This year, like most, it's North Stage, with some nods to Roscoe. If you cruise the others stages, often times you'll find great artists but with only a handful of folks grooving to the their beat. It's not that there is anything wrong with these artists. I've seen some great acts playing their asses off but there were too many distractions. Whether it's the time of day, cruising hot boys, dancing at the Hydrate station or just a great act at another stage, often these acts are booked, just to get lost in the shuffle. Solution, take away one live music stage.
2. Each stage a theme: You've got your DJ area (not stage, just an area), your drag stage (the former two always packed from start to finish, thank you Hydrate), you've got a small shaded smaller live band stage leaving room for a larger-acts-only stage.
3. Go bigger. Not all acts are created equal. We've got three massive stages, but very few massive acts. Taking #2 into consideration (and you always should), funnel more sponsors and more area into one larger stage for the big name acts. This includes ample space for the attendees. I know this puts a crimp in the style of the booth layout, but look to the structure of Pridefest and have the stage at the head of the street. This way, even if you can't get near ONJ, you can see and hear her from afar. Every big fest, bigger than ours even, does it this way vs. our off-street staging which creates "kinks" in the viewing.
4. And finally, in the spirit of the Sheena Eastons of the world, here are some artists I think we should be vying for who are JUST THIS side of a booking at Market Days. I'm really just being selfish, and I'm aware these aren't totally original, but while I've got your attention: Paula Abdul (it could happen), Brandy, Pat Benatar, Belinda Carlisle or Go-Go's, Bonnie Tyler, Marc Almond & Soft Cell, Cazwell, and darling of every Pride-like fest but ours, Jonny McGovern.
Like a mother, I'm not complaning. I love you Market Days, and all of you who are involved in planning and executing one of the biggest street festivals in the U.S. I just want what's best for you. <>. 'Til next year.