Riot Fest Chicago 2014 recap: Day Three

Phil Collins - September 25, 2014

The Menzingers

The third and final day of Riot Fest began at 11:45 a.m. sharp. The ground had miraculously hardened in most areas overnight. The muddy patches were few and far between. The Menzingers, supporting their new album "Rented World," were first up. Sometimes at festivals the crowd is light in the early going, but a considerable number of people got up early and showed up in time to catch The Menzingers. The Philadelphia punk rockers got the crowd moving right away with their new single, "I Don't Want to be an Asshole Anymore." That song has a hilarious video, which you should probably watch now if you have not seen it yet. The Menzingers played mostly newer songs, including the best two songs off 2012's "On the Impossible Past" ("Good Things" and "The Obituaries.")

Bouncing Souls

The Menzingers were followed by Bouncing Souls, on the same stage. The New Jersey punks have been at it for longer than 25 years now. Without question, they have been a huge influence on punk during the last couple decades. They played a wide range of songs spanning their career. "That Song" – the opener of "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" – is one of my favorite songs of theirs so I was thrilled to hear them play it. They also played the classic one-minute track "East Coast Fuck You!" as well as one of their biggest hits "Anchors Aweigh." I checked out The Hold Steady next, who I had never seen before. Craig Finn's poetic style provided a unique experience at the festival. Not many bands dabble in the spoken word arena. The Hold Steady more or less have this type of music cornered. The only similar artist I can think of is Australia's Courtney Barnett, who hit it big with three EPs in the last couple years.

Next up was the prototypical Chicago punk band Naked Raygun. They played their classic debut album "Throb Throb" in full. Naked Raygun often plays "Rat Patrol," "Metastasis" and "I Don't Know." Those are always set highlights. It was a blast to see them play "Surf Combat," which is just as classic a track in my mind but they never seem to play it. Same goes for "Only in America," which they did have a saxophone player for on stage. The surprise in this stretch of the set, which should not have included many surprises because they played the album in order, was the song "On." "On" appears on "Throb Throb" backward and I never paid much attention to it. I expected Naked Raygun to just skip it during the performance, but they played it forward. The lyrics to this song go something like "I don't want a pretty girl, I just want a horny girl." This was, as lead singer Jeff Pezzati said, worth the price of admission in itself. They also played "Vanilla Blue," "Wonderbeer" and "New Dreams." All Rise Brewing, run by the co-founder of Riot Fest and Cobra Lounge, was onsite with plenty of Wonder Beer to go around.

I watched the majority of Tegan and Sara's set, albeit from a distance. They put on a fun show, but I had to stay back and duck out early to get in position for Dropkick Murphys. I pushed my way up front and got in on the action. Dropkick opened with "The Boys Are Back," the first track of their 2013 album "Signed and Sealed in Blood." They also played "Rose Tattoo" and Prisoner's Song" off that album. They launched into "Citizen CIA" second, which they almost always play and is almost always the craziest song of the set. "Blood and Whiskey" was the only old song they played, off their second album "The Gang's All Here." They also played "Going Out in Style," "Cruel," "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya," "The Walking Dead" and "I'm Shipping Up to Boston."

Blue Meanies

Blue Meanies, a third wave ska band from Chicago, put on one of the most energetic performances of the festival. The band had not played a show, with the exception of the Riot Fest aftershow the previous night, since 2006 but they looked like they had never stepped off stage. Blue Meanies have a uniquely aggressive, oddball choppy rhythm. Lead singer Billy Spunke delivers vocals lightning fast, with a discernible edge. Blue Meanies, seen above, played my favorite song of thiers: the nineties rager "Smash the Magnavox." Social Distortion played near the end of the night, playing a polished set worthy of a headlining slot. The Cure, of course, were one of three bands in the end-of-the-night set times. They were the only ones to occupy a 2-plus-hour set time, however. I caught the first few songs of their set, during which the band said nothing at all to the crowd and were masked in stage fog. After the first song, they started to sound a little more like The Cure, but it was not enough to convince me to stick around. I had to go see Weezer.

I was not the only one who had to go see Weezer. Far from it. I got there 15 or 20 minutes ahead of time, thinking that would be early enough to get a spot with a decent sightline. I was not going for a spot real close up, just a spot in the ballpark. I made the mistake of trying to slide through on the side, where the carnival attractions were set up. I ended up in a moshpit of people trying to get in and out of the crowd. Weezer definitely should have been on the Rock stage. They had a bigger crowd than The Cure and I am sure they had a bigger crowd than Bring Me the Horizon, who were actually on the Rock stage. Weezer played the blue album in full, which naturally was neat to see because it is one of their two classic albums. They also played "El Scorcho," "Perfect Situation," "Beverly Hills," "Island in the Sun," "Hashpipe" and their new song "Back to the Shack."