Why hello there. Nice to see you again!
Me? I’m the dude who’s covered Riot Fest for the past 2 years. Seriously.That, and all the other articles, and you don’t remember me? Wow, that cuts deep. Whatever. So I moved to sunny North Carolina about a year ago and slacked on my dick joke duties for MBQ. I’m sure my absence was deeply felt (EDITOR’S NOTE: it wasn’t).
But this September, I got my happy ass on a Chicago-bound plane to visit the old hood and partake in the ritual known as Riot Fest. Without further ado, let’s get on with the merriment!
1) Welcome to sunny Douglas Park! This former needle repository turned festival ground will be home to the huddled masses of Riot Fest for the next three days. After dealing with a conniving alderman and an eleventh-hour shakedown, it’s a welcome relief that there’s a fest to go to at all. As far as the park goes, the general consensus is that this is the best layout Riot Fest has had to date
2) A word on VIP tickets. After being corralled into a park for upwards of 10 hours a day and deprived of the most basic of human necessities, the “very important” part of that acronym comes to stand for things like “shade,” “chairs,” and “clean restrooms.” Which is why your boy here was rolling in VIP style: a place to sit that wasn’t the cold ground, though that also happened.
3) Of course it rained. It’s not a Riot Fest without the mud pits. More on that later. Let’s get to the music
4) Bayside was the first act of the day for me, and did a completely serviceable job. You always know you’re gonna get a good time with them, and hearing their first album in it’s entirety was a special surprise.
5) Everytime I Die is apparently the perfect time to bust out the hacky sack.
6) Ah, fuck it. I love Atreyu. I know they’re not real metal, or real hardcore, or whatever any of my more musically refined friends would say, but I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t give a shit.
Here’s a giant chicken running at me.
7) The highlight of the evening is undoubtedly Faith No More. I managed to get an excellent spot, and in the entirely middle aged crowd, keep it. I really can’t say enough good things about this band.
8) No Doubt were crap, which was a huge disappointment. On the flipside, Ice Cube did a great job of promoting the Ice Cube brand. Did you know there’s a film called “Straight Out Of Compton?” That’s okay, Mr. Cube was kind enough to play the ENTIRE TRAILER for it in the middle of his set. Okay, so far so good Riot Fest. Two more days to go!
9) Oof. It rained a lot overnight. Like, a whole lot. Coupled with the kind of weather where you’re freezing in the shade and in taint sweat defcon 4 in the sun. This should be fun.
10) Sure enough, the entire park has been turned into a massive mud pit. And sure enough, this helps harken the return of last years headliner:
11) In Dante’s Inferno, Purgatory is described as a place where it’s deziens are “forever running behind a banner and eternally stung by hornets and wasps. Worms at their feet eat the blood and tears of these beings.” Much the same, we are confined with no escape, chasing the promise of a good time while pursued by bees. Riot Fest truly feeds on the suffering of those who enter its gates. But you know what makes it worth it?
12) Fucking Lifetime and The Movielife, that’s who. Two of the mainstays of pop punk/emo/whathave you showed up with their game faces on. If you missed The Movielife, you missed the best set of Saturday. Just saying.
13) Local boys Sleep On It showed up and repped Chicago pop punk to the fullest. I highly recommend ya’ll give them a listen, and this glowing endorsement in no way has anything to do with my friendship with all of them or that their drummer gave me a full glass of Jameson. I believe in impartial journalism. Also, they’re dashingly handsome.
14) Who actually tries to fuck at a festival? I don’t understand. We’re covered in mud, some of us are going into anaphylactic shock, the sun is beating down on us and the scent of carnival food and Dos Equis hangs heavy on our breath. We are a foul race of creatures who deserve to be wiped from existence.
I only say this because there are some attractive looking ladies and fellas who are apparently impervious to the elements and just strut it around in front of you. For real, how does that damn rockabilly guy keep his hair immaculate?
15) As the sun went down, things got scary. There was little lighting provided at the main stage, where it looked like pretty much everyone had gathered for System Of A Down. I watched their set from about 800 feet back, standing on a piece of plywood that served as solid footing. That is, until they stopped their set because people were getting trampled. It looked like something out of a nightmare. So I cut out early in time to get to the aftershow.
16) This show. Holy crap. In stark contrast to what I saw throughout the day, Alexisonfire came out ready for war. With no hyperbole whatsoever, this was one of the top ten shows I’ve ever seen in my life. No backdrop, no light show, no barricades and no security: just a bare bones backline and some Canadians ready to mop the floor with you. I would have flown to Chicago just to see that.
17) Ah, the weather is perfect and helping to make the grounds more navigable. Today’s lineup was stacked kinda lite, so I took my time getting there. Feeling pretty rotten from 2 days or bad food and worse drinking, there was not a seat left in the coveted VIP section.
I found a nice shady tree to sit under and fart my brains out while the sounds of Damian Marley accompanied my own personal orchestra. At this point I’m feeling like the grossest, saddest dude in the world and in that moment God decides to reaffirm that by having fucking rockabilly dude and his gorgeous girlfriend walk by.
18) Whatever. Time for another Dos Equis and a churro.
19) Cypress Hill was pretty great. The crowd? Well…
20) After some more moseying, the sun is down and it’s time for Snoop Dogg to come out and perform “Doggystyle” in its entirety. This was a massively important album in me becoming the upstanding individual I am today, so I’m just a little excited. So much to my chagrin, he took the stage half an hour late, went through a medley of songs, most of which weren’t on “Doggystyle” and then got the power cut on him so Modest Mouse could play.
21) Feeling defeated, I gathered up my things and got ready to trudge off to some bar to get shitfaced. But as I walk through the festival, I hear an old yet familiar sound: “I’m the firestarter! Twisted firestarter!”
22) Holy shit that’s right! The Prodigy is playing! And lemme tell you, it was amazing. Great crowd, awesome energy, and all around the type of experience you look for from these big ticket festivals. So there I stood in the ruins of Dougulas Park on a beautiful Sunday evening, listening to a techno band from the 90’s at a punk festival.
23) And that’s the greatest trick Riot Fest pulls. After all the bullshit that is part and parcell with something of this scope, you get a handfull of moments that just leave you with a big dumb smile on your face. Being deyhdrated, fatigued and massively stoned might play a part, but I’ll just chalk it up to the magic of music. See you next year!