Riot Fest Chicago 2014 recap: Day One

Phil Collins - September 20, 2014


Riot Fest hit Chicago last weekend and this year it was markedly bigger. The festival moved from the south side of Humboldt Park, its home in 2012 and 2013, to the north side of the park. This gave Riot Fest roughly double the amount of space to sprawl out on. The number of stages increased to seven. The number of ferris wheels increased to two. The number of conflicts in set times increased to ... a lot. Naturally with more bands, more stages and a longer walk between stages, there were more opportunities for set times to conflict. Nevertheless, I saw 27 bands in three days, almost exactly the same amount of bands I saw last year. I had a blast. ALL, pictured above, kicked things off on Friday evening. This is the offshoot of Descendents that formed when Milo had too many professional commitments to play with the band regularly. I listen to Descendents a lot more than I listen to ALL, but I thoroughly enjoyed ALL's set. Their more hardcore songs were the best ones, without a doubt.

Stiff Little Fingers

Stiff Little Fingers, seen above, were up next. They opened with their biggest hit, "Suspect Device," which got the crowd into it right away. Another highlight came when they played their cover of The Specials' "Doesn't Make It Alright." Lead singer Jake Burns said the band had actually attempted to release their cover of this song before The Specials got the original recording out. The Specials beat them to it by about five months.

NOFX was the first band of the festival to play one of their records in full. Riot Fest asked 10 bands this year to play one of their classic albums in its entirety to help celebrate the festival's 10th Anniversary. NOFX played "Punk in Drublic" in full, in true NOFX fashion. They chopped it up so it would not be a track for track duplication of listening to "Punk in Drublic" on wax. They opened with "Perfect Governement" and ended the "Punk in Drublic" material with "Don't Call Me White." Naturally, they didn't remember every part of every song. However, some of the songs that they hardly play were some of my favorite to take in, such as "The Quass" and "Dying Degree," which they did play back-to-back. NOFX delivered a lot of their famous banter between songs, so much so that I was not sure they would have time to play anything else when they finished with "Punk in Drublic." They did, somehow, have time leftover and promptly blasted through "I Want to be an Alcoholic." They then did the unexpected and began to play their 18-plus-minute opus "The Decline." They got about three-quarters of the way through it before they hit the end of their time slot and had to stop mid-song. Only NOFX could pull something like that off.

By the time Gogol Bordello started, the rain had picked up to a steady roll. The fields were starting to get messy, but the show would continue on. It was never a threatening thunderstorm, just a persistent shower. Gogol Bordello played a lot of their hits: "Not a Crime," "Start Wearing Purple," "Wonderlust King" and "Immigraniada." I was a little surprised that they did not play anything from their newest album, 2013's "Pura Vida Conspiracy."

The Offspring

The Offsping, pictured above, did "Smash" in its entirety. "Smash" is by far their best record. The fact that I had only seen this band once before (about nine years ago) combined with the fact that the setlist would pretty much be my ideal Offspring setlist, got me to push through the rain to the front. I was in the pit for the whole of "Smash." I most enjoyed the odder songs toward the end of the album: "Killboy Powerhead" and "What in the World Happened to You." "Nitro," "Genocide" and "Bad Habit" were also a lot of fun. The Offspring mixed up the order on "Smash" as well, saving "Self Esteem" for last. After the album's conclusion, they had time to play "Why Don't You Get a Job?," "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)," "All I Want," "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid" and "The Kids Aren't Alright."

Rise Against closed the night out on the Rock stage. Their set drew heavily from their 2006 album "The Sufferer and the Witness." They played a song or two off their new album, "The Black Market," as well as "Give It All" off "Siren Song of the Counter Culture." Fat Mike of NOFX came out to do some vocals on a cover of The Ramones' "Teenage Lobotomy."