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 are Geoff and Brynn’s recaps of Riot Fest 2014: Day 3. Check out my Flickr for more photos.
I began my final day at Riot Fest with Laura Stevenson and the Cans. I admit, my knowledge of Laura only comes from her collaborations with Bomb the Music Industry! and Brynn’s preview piece on her band. Their soft indie rock was the perfect way to start the final day of a long weekend and set the tone for a very relaxed, yet hectic Sunday. – Geoff Henao
Known for his multi-instrumental talents, producing, stellar song-writing, and collaboration with musician and songwriter Adam Granducie in the indie rock duo The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and the Violators were a top pick for this year’s Riot Fest. The sun was shining and the weather was fairly fantastic as Kurt Vile & The VIolators took the Riot Stage Sunday afternoon and opened the set with “Wakin’ On A Pretty Day,” from his latest albumWakin’ On A Pretty Daze, which received big ups from critics and fans. Vile’s music is spacious evolutionary rock that is technically impressive and genuine, and man-oh-man can he play the guitar. The set was littered with blistering guitar solos and flashbacks to Vile’s earlier albums; Childish Prodigy and Vile’s fourth studio album Smoke Ring My Halo. Electrifying, noisy, yet melodic, Kurt Vile and The Violators brought rock n’ roll to Riot Fest, and I would love to see them again. – Brynn Bixby
Netherfriends was the second act I saw on Sunday. As RH readers will know, I’ve been following his career somewhat closely since last summer, so it was great to see him get some recognition in the form of a Riot Fest slot. He made the most of his time, playing a lot of songs from this year’s P3ACE, and also brought local Chicago rapper Monster Mike on stage to collaborate on a song. From what I could tell, the crowd was really feeling his style of indie rock-infused hip hop beats, especially when the closer “Uptown Boys” began to play. – Geoff Henao
Immediately after Netherfriends’ set, I made my way out to see one of Chicago’s most pivotal post-hardcore bands, Naked Raygun. My first Riot Fest back in 2006 was to see Naked Raygun, so it was kind of like an anniversary of sorts. Their set featured the full rundown of their debut, Throb Throb, but also included a special Riot Fest 10th birthday cake/celebration for festival founder Michael Petryshyn. – Geoff Henao
The acts I most look forward to at Riot Fest are the emerging local artists who are over the moon to be a part of Chicago’s best (in my opinion) music festival of the year. Chicago’s very own original dude bro Clinton Sandifer aka ShowYouSuck has been waiting years for the opportunity to perform at Riot Fest and had no qualms about sharing this information with the gigantic crowd that accumulated around the Radical Stage Sunday afternoon. “Wow… I never thought there would be this many people here! It has been a dream of mine to play Riot Fest… I made it!” I’ve seen ShowYouSuck perform over a dozen times and it has been both rewarding and impressive to watch this artist top his performance every time. Fans got a taste of a variety of deep cuts, old and new, but ShowYouSuck had the crowd in the palm of his hand for pretty much the entire set. The set kicked off with “Big Gulp,” a track off the last installment of the three-fold One Man Pizza Party Series. Sandifer bounced around on stage in front of a giant cut out slice of pizza, hyping up the crowd with his signature call and response, “show is so awesome, show you suck!” At one point, Clinton parted the sea of people telling everybody to just “love each other” and on his command, the crowd charged at each other, creating complete chaos and catching the attention of onlookers in line at street vendors who were missing out on all the fun. ShowYouSuck introduced “80s Boobs, a quirky and oddball tune off his latest EP Dude Bro. “Get your hands up if you’ve ever loved someone no matter what they look like, that’s what this song is about…” and by the end of the song Sandifer had people cracking up as the rapper joked, “I just made you think about your mom’s boobs… you’re welcome.” At the end of the set fans were rewarded with literal slices of pizza that were launched into the crowd by ShowYouSuck and hype man/fellow Chicago rapper, Auggie The 9th. ShowYouSuck will be touring Europe at the end of the month and keep an ear out for his upcoming Bummer EP which Sandifer promises will be out “soon Bro.” – Brynn Bixby
Following ShowYouSuck’s set, I ventured out to the Rock Stage to listen to the Blue Meanies, another band whom I hadn’t seen in years. Despite being more or less inactive for years, they sounded amazingly tight. Their style of carnival-esque ska/punk fit the entire Riot Fest ethos to a T. As the last remaining ska band of the festival, they left rude boys and girls with a lasting memory by playing through the bulk of their album, Full Throttle. It’s performances like the one they had this past weekend that makes me wish they’d reunite for good and return to playing shows consistently, even if it’s only in the Chicagoland area. – Geoff Henao
After some baller Chicago deep dish pizza I made my way over to the Roots Stage to see punk rock masters Social Distortion. The crowd was ravenous and ready for the band who launched into their set with “Through These Eyes,” off of White Light White Heat White Trash. Frontman Mike Ness reminisced about punk rock in the 80s and fans ate it up, listening intently and respectfully. “We were in the 1 percent and the 99 percent was telling us we were shit,” confessed Ness continuing the underdog story that was going around Riot Fest this weekend. “I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me not to do it, I do it 1,000 times.” The audience embraced the set, rocking out to tunes off of Mommy’s Little Monster and Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, including a Mike Ness original, “Misery Loves Company.” This band has been around the punk scene forever and by the powerful cut-throat show they put on, I can see why. The set ended with an upbeat power-chord charged cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” which was a interesting choice to end the show, but a good one at that. – Brynn Bixby
Primus served as my second-to-last band, but they might as well have headlined. I’ve never seen Primus (or Les Claypool for that matter) perform live, but getting the chance to watch one of the most talented bass players to ever pick up the instrument was a long time coming. They had one of the most interesting stage setups I saw all weekend with two large, inflatable astronauts at the back with an image of a man peering through the visor. Claypool announced that this was a satellite image of Primus drummer Tim Alexander, who was unable to attend due to health issues. Playing in his stead was Danny Carey, the drummer for Tool. The Tool connection didn’t end there, as Primus covered “Aenima,” which sounds just as amazing as you would hope it would with Claypool’s singing. – Geoff Henao
I still can’t believe that I witnessed Weezer play the Blue Album Sunday night at Riot Fest. What an amazing way to end a killer weekend of great music. I snuck backstage to try and get a good view of the guys for their set but no one was allowed anywhere close so I braved the massive and somewhat terrifying crowd, and inched toward to the stage. I had a moment if panic when the band started the first song and it was “Back To The Shack,” but then my senses kicked in and I realized of course they will play some of their other hits before diving into the Blue Album. After a seven song mini-set that included “Beverly Hills,” and some tunes off the Green Album, it was finally time to journey back to 1994 and get weird. As soon as the familiar guitar riff in “My Name Is Jonas,” blared over the speakers, the crowd went insane. I was still pretty far out from the stage but literally everyone was singing along and as Weezer burned through each track, the crowd cheered and screamed for more. Rivers Cuomo’s performance was fantastic and I still can’t get over how spot-on he was vocally, it was just like listening to the record… with thousands of other fans. This performance reinforced the sheer fact that the Blue Album is pure genius and this band is legendary, although there was a bit of disconnect between the band and crowd at times, seemingly because of some technical difficulties. But between the angsty chorus of “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and the tight knit harmonies on my favorite song “Holiday,” I was in garage punk rock heaven. In my eyes, this set perfectly captures the whole point of Riot Fest — to rock out with a thousand of your closest strangers and re-live the music that made you who you are. – Brynn Bixby