Compared with its older and more established festival siblings in the city, North Coast is a fringe darling. With an oddball—and oddly successful—formula of combining rage-ready EDM, psyched-out jam bands and eclectic hip-hop acts, performance-artists-turned-dance-punk quartet YACHT still seemed like an outlier. A well-received and refreshing one, but an outlier nonetheless. As fronting duo Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans took their places and bassist Bobby Birdman plucked out the first notes of set opener "Paradise Engineering," I never thought non-synthesized bass could sound so good. Even with big-name jam headliners like STS9 and Umphrey's McGee, YACHT's "typical" band set-up was a rarity this weekend.
Bookended by banners of the group's signature smiley-faced triangles set atop pedestals, Evans was a sight with her bleach-blonde, close-cropped hair, white Doc Martens, white mic and spandex yin-yang-speckled shorts. Bouncing around the stage with bird-like gestures, she asked the crowd about its fondness for aliens before the band moved into "Beam Me Up." Steeped in the day glow of neon, the crowd was obviously into it. But Evans can't receive all the credit for delivering YACHT's unique musical brew. Originally a one-man band, Bechtolt was just as busy on stage, playing his own game of musical chairs as he moved between instruments and delivered his share of the vocal duties.
YACHT's latest, Shangri-La, is full of themes about society, paradise and dystopian futures, all set to more-or-less dance beats. I couldn't help but think of the Clash as the band unleashed care-free antics, social commentary, disco sheen and punk grit in equal measure. One moment Evans is introducing "Waste of Time" by saying, "this one's for dancing—and beach-ball throwing, conveniently," as a variety of inflatables soared overhead. The next she's chanting "the earth, the earth, the earth is on fire," along with the slow-mo Italo chug of "Dystopia." As the controlled chaos of the set's danciest moment, "Utopia," unfolded, YACHT's ability to marry opposing forces was in full view. It would appear that the yin-yangs Evans was sporting were no coincidence.