Photos by Geoff Henao.
After a long year, Riot Fest finally returned to Humboldt Park last Friday, and with it was an unseasonal chill and rain that attempted to damper the good mood that spread across the crowd. The move to the Northern end of the park was necessary for the festival to grow, adding a couple more stages to the festival grounds. Unfortunately, this also meant trampling through muddier grounds that weren’t covered by baseball field dirt. Nevertheless, the fatigue and callouses that formed on Riot Fest attendees’ feet were more than justified by the amount of talent that performed at the three day event. Here is Geoff and Brynn’s recap of Riot Fest 2014: Day 2. Check out the rest of Geoff’s photos from Riot Fest 2014: Day 2 here.
My day started off with The Pizza Underground, Macaulay Culkin’s The Velvet Underground cover band that replaces choice lyrics with ones about pizza. I admit, I was curious to see what they sounded like, as were many in the crowd that showed up just after 11am to catch their set. Unfortunately, our dedication and time commitment wasn’t justified with anything good. The band is, obviously, a one-joke gimmick band, which can be find so long as said band has talent (re: Aquabats). The five-piece is aware of this, however, and if you could take yourself out of the pretentious moment for a second and accept that the band really is nothing more than a joke band singing The Velvet Underground songs about pizza, then maybe a small piece of you could appreciate what they’re doing. I was not one of those people, and probably may never be one, but at least it was good to see Culkin have a legitimately good time on stage with his friends. – Geoff Henao
Saosin was at the top of my “must sees” for Saturday so I jetted over to the Rock Stage to catch their set, hoping to get a decent spot. Anthony Green hasn’t performed with the band much since he quit back in 2004, and although there are rumors he’s back for good, I didn’t want to risk it. Luckily I got there right when “Translating The Name” started, the title track off of Saosin’s first and only studio album with all original members. Green continuously thanked the crowd for sticking around, confessing that “It’s nice that people still give a shit about this music… it’s overwhelming, really.” After a few classics, the band strutted out their new material and seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, I had trouble really focusing on anything but my burning desire to hear “Seven Years,” along with pretty much everyone else there. Unfortunately, when Saosin eventually did get around to playing it, it was pretty disappointing. I understand that crowd participation is a big deal at festivals but do not decide to give up the best part of the song and bow out on the screech-tastic high notes we all know and love. It really just seemed like Green was phoning it in while he watched the crowd mosh and rage in front of him.. All though the lack luster presentation of my jam kind of ruined it for me, I suppose their overall show was a success, but I probably should have taken Green’s advice to go see Die Antwood a few songs in. – Brynn Bixby
Saturday, in a way, was a ska revival day for me. The first band up to task? RX Bandits. Granted, they’re not really a ska band, and they ultimately didn’t play any ska songs. However, with their humble beginnings as a ska-punk band (before going the prog-rock route), a small part of my soul hoped and prayed they would play something with an upstroke. I guess the band technically did as they didn’t shy away from playing songs from The Resignation despite the lack of the band’s horn section. While the absence of horns was noticeable, the songs still hold up on their own, especially my personal RX Bandits song “Decrescendo.” It’s funny to see a ska-punk band evolve and develop into a prog-rock band, but if ever a band were to do so with a modicum of success, it would be them. – Geoff Henao
I was feeling a little detached from the spirit of Riot Fest early Saturday afternoon due to the fact that I had missed the first day of the festival, was not happy about the ridiculous muddy disaster that was Humbolt Park, and had an almost dead phone so early in the day. All annoyance was forgotten as soon as Matt Pryor took the stage and announced The Get Up Kids would be playing their fan favorite album, Something To Write Home About in its entirety. The large crowd full of die-hard fans (everybody else was at Wu-Tang) screamed along with Pryor as The Get Up Kids plunged into “Holiday,” the first of twelve nostalgic tracks off their sophomore album. This set really just reinforced how much I love this band and this record. Every song is packed with sincerity and heart-breakingly emo lyrics that get your stomach in knots at the memory of how alive you felt as an angsty teenager driving around in your car and listening to these songs. Towards the middle-end of the set, Pryor slipped up and went out of order, playing “I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel” a song too early. “What can I say, I really wanted to play Dottie,” said Pryor after being called out about his mix-up. Most times when a band plays mellower tracks, they lose the attention of the audience, but even when the keyboardist began the soft melodic piano intro of “I’ll Catch You,” the crowd was right there, singing-along. “Somebody better have just gotten engaged up on that ferris wheel” joked Pryor, “that was the most emo shit ever.” The band was having a blast, passing around whiskey and rocketing through their hits like they just put out the record yesterday, exclaiming that “getting old doesn’t have to suck.” The Get Up Kids finished their set with one of their best tunes, “Don’t Hate Me,” which may have received the loudest sing-along of all. – Brynn Bixby
My “ska revival” continued immediately after RX Bandits’ set with Streetlight Manifesto, one of the most musically-gifted ska bands ever. The band played with a fierce energy that I haven’t seen at a show in years. I’ll admit, I even skanked (briefly) for the first time in seven years thanks to hearing one of my favorite bands live for the first time in so long. The horns were so tight and powerful in the way a ska-punk band should be, while singer Tomas Kalnoky’s machine gun delivery never skipped a beat. One complaint: They didn’t play “Point/Counterpoint,” arguably the best and most popular song from the band’s debut, Everything Goes Numb. Nevertheless, it was great to experience a band that meant so much to me 10 years ago with my friends, both old and new. – Geoff Henao
This was my first time seeing The Flaming Lips live and their performance went above and beyond any of my expectations. With epic lights, people dressed in mushroom and rainbow costumes, and the non-stop energy and whimsical demeanor of front man Wayne Coyne made for an unforgettable performance. I can’t over emphasize the insane light set-up for this set, it was truly spectacular and caused the only complete power outage on the Roots Stage just minutes into The Flaming Lips’ set. The crowd stayed put while Riot Fest production got the power up and running and the band took another stab at starting “Yoshmi Battles Pink Robots Part 1.” Coyne conducted collosal crescendos of sound and full band hits like a madman, instructing the audience to join in on the fun. After a dynamic cover of The Chemical Brothers’ “The Golden Path,” the band played some of their best originals including the larger than life single “Do You Realize,” a tune that surely everyone at Riot Fest could appreciate. Coyne entranced festival goers with every word, preaching love and understanding, while hypnotic rainbow visuals pulsed in the background. The set ended with an explosive cover of “Lucy In The Sky WIth Diamonds,” a preview of what is to be expected from The Flaming Lips’ upcoming release of “A LIttle Help From My Fwends, a tribute cover album of The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Either you cover The Beatles spot on and exactly how they performed it, (to the best of your ability) or you re-create the song, producing a new and interesting version. In this case, The Flaming Lips accomplish both approaches, delivering the tune in their own style while staying true to the greatness of the original. I would definitely describe seeing The Flaming Lips live as a religious experience. – Brynn Bixby
“Ska Revival 2014” continued with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, one of the pioneers of the ska-punk subgenre/sound. Personally, I never much cared for the band, but given the fact that the band doesn’t tour much, I had to at least check them out. Imagine my surprise when I found the band had a hype man – that’s not something you see much these days outside of hip hop, let alone for a ska band. It was also nice to see the entire band clad in the red Mighty Mighty Bosstones suits, as well, adding an extra element to their stage presence. Outside of that, I honestly couldn’t say much about their set. – Geoff Henao
Immediately after the Bosstones’ set, I made my way to the Radical stage to see one of my new favorite local bands, The Crombies. I absolutely fell in love with the band during last month’s Midwest Ska Festival thanks to their stage presence, covers of ska/2-tone standards, and all around amazing sound. Or it could just be because their guitarist resembles Tim Armstrong, both physically and musically. Nevertheless, The Crombies is made up of veterans of the Chicago ska community, and their ability to focus in on what makes ska so fun to listen to is what separates them from other ska bands. – Geoff Henao
It was a long day of mud and rock ‘n roll, so when I was notified that The National was running ten minutes late due to traffic, I was not thrilled. However, it was worth enduring the cold and the wait to witness The National conquer Riot Fest with a striking performance Saturday night. Though they were not necessarily everyone’s favorite choice for the headlining spot, they brought something different to the lineup, surprising first time listeners with their old hits and new tracks off their latest album, Trouble Will Find Me. Trouble has gotten a ton of buzz and has pushed The National even deeper into the spotlight. After lead singer Matt Berninger was done apologizing for their tardiness, (apparently they got stranded in Canada… blame Canada) the band charged into “Don’t Swallow The Cap,” which honestly isn’t my favorite track off of Trouble due to it’s lack of melody in the verses, but the longer they played, the happier I became. “Blood Buzz Ohio,” a tune off of The National’s fifth studio record, High Violet was played early on and the lovely but bloody visuals on the screen behind the band were the perfect compliment to the tragically beautiful song about debt, loss, and devastation. The band pulled out a few more tricks that night with a fantastic performance of “Fake Empire” with a horn section, and a heated performance of “Mr. November” which lead to Berninger jumping off stage. I intended to leave before the set was over because I couldn’t feel my toes, but as soon as a song started, I found myself singing along and never wanting to leave the sound of Berninger’s chilling and seductive baritone voice, until it was over and I didn’t have a choice. – Brynn Bixby
To end my night, I waited more than an hour after The Crombies’ set to catch the Descendents‘ headlining set. The wait was more than worth it. Frontman Milo Aukerman came out and played up the whole school/teacher thing, introducing the rest of the band (including original bassist Tony Lombardo!) to play their pivotal punk rock debut album, Milo Goes to College. Right off the bat, listening to “Myage” live for the first time was mesmerizing. Honestly, the hour-long wait for the photo pit was worth just hearing Milo screech “She don’t need no one” only a few feet away. What I lacked in terms of photos from the band (there was little to no lighting illuminating the band), I made up for with memories. – Geoff Henao