Riot Fest Chicago 2014 recap: Day Two

Phil Collins - September 21, 2014


The skies had cleared but the residue of the rains from the night before remained apparent. It was, after all, 14 short hours after Friday night's festivities concluded that Saturday's began. So, it was no wonder that the sun shined down on muddy, messy fields. It would be another sloppy day in the pit. The cheesy songs of The Pizza Underground could be heard on the way in through the North Avenue entrance and by 12:25, one of my most anticipated bands of the day kicked things off on the Rise stage. Anti-Flag, pictured above, played a fairly even spread of songs spanning their 20-plus-year career. They closed their set with "Power to the Peaceful" off 2003's "The Terror State." Drummer Pat Thetic set up in the crowd for the last song and was joined by the rest of the band for the most energetic part of the set. Anti-Flag also played "Fuck Police Brutality," "Die For the Government," "This Machine Kills Fascists," "Cities Burn," "Turncoat," "I'd Tell You But..." and "Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C." They opened with "The Press Corpse" and played two songs off their excellent 2012 album "The General Strike": "Broken Bones" and "This is the New Sound."

The Orwells

I quickly made my way over to the Riot stage after Anti-Flag finished to catch as much as I could of The Orwells' set. I managed to see about four or five songs, which was as much as I could have hoped for given the timing. I am glad I stopped by, because they put on a bouncy, fuzzy, entertaining show. The Orwells, seen above, gained traction pretty quickly after their debut album came out in 2012. The band, from Elmhurst, released their second full-length, "Disgraceland," earlier this year.

Next up was one of my favorite bands, Streetlight Manifesto. Their album "The Hands That Thieve" made it to the semifinal of Change the Rotation's Best of 2013 bracket. Streetlight is done as a regular touring band, but they still book the occasional festival date and short tour. When I saw them at the House of Blues last October, I thought it might be years before I would see them again. I am exceedingly happy that I was wrong about that. They played a solid variety of selections from their three albums. "Somewhere in the Between" is my favorite song to see them play at this point. It is triumphantly bouncy, the lyrics are poignant and when it kicks into double-time, there is nowhere I would rather be than in the eye of the storm. They opened with "We Will Fall Together" and also played "The Three of Us," "With Any Sort of Certainty," "Mephisto's Cafe," "Watch It Crash," "Here's to Life," "A Moment of Silence" and "A Moment of Violence."

Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones represented one of the few major ska bands I had not seen yet. The Boston band, seen above, have been at it since the 80's but I never got around to catching them live. After their set at Riot Fest, I am sure I will be on the lookout for a chance to see them again. Dressed in matching red suits, with one band member who did nothing but skank for the entire set, the Bosstones had the look down. Lead singer Dicky Barrett maintained a commanding stage presence. People skanked away, although it is difficult to skank in the mud, as I learned during Streetlight's set.

Immediately following the Bosstones, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes played at the next stage over. Me First is the punk supergroup/cover band featuring members of NOFX, Lagwagon, Swingin' Utters and Foo Fighters. They played covers from a wide variety of genres and did gags, such as bringing Eric Melvin of NOFX out to play bass on a song, only to have him stand there smiling with a cardigan on and a bass on his shoulders, not hitting a single note. It was, in other words, what it was supposed to be. I caught a little bit of Wu-Tang Clan's set next, which should have been at the Rock stage (the biggest stage.) The Roots stage was absolutely mobbed by the time I got over there. I was able to get into good enough position to see, however, and was not disappointed. These are artists who have been at it for many years and they put on a performance that displayed their prowess.

Cock Sparrer

Many of the older bands at Riot Fest showed not just that they still had it, but that they could put on a show to rival anyone at the festival. Cock Sparrer, pictured above, were a prime example of this. Cock Sparrer, from London, predate the initial explosion of punk into the mainstream in 1977. They do not come through very often these days. I was lucky enough to see them when they played Riot Fest in 2009, when it was still held at the Congress Theater. They were great then and their pointed oi tunes were just as sharp five years later. They opened with "Riot Squad" and kept blasting through stomp after stomp. They were among the festival's top sets this year. The Descendents started immediately after Cock Sparrer, playing thier classic album "Milo Goes to College" in full. Lead singer Milo Aukerman, a biochemist by day, shouted out lyrics from his typical aggro-savant posture. "I'm Not a Loser," "Myage, Suburban Home," "Parents," "Van," "I Like Food," "Everything Sux" and "I'm the One" were all highlights.

Samhain, the darker, heavier project of Glenn Danzig, closed out the night. The band was only active for a short time in the 80's, but have done occasional reunion shows. For this one, Samhain played their 1984 debut album "Initium" in full. Samhain is not a band that I listen to a whole lot, but it was cool to see them. Danzig is one of the outsized personalities in this genre. He mostly kept his head about him and put on a good show. Randy Blythe of Lamb of God came out to do vocals on one song toward the end of the set.