Riot Fest recap: Day OnePhil Collins - September 18, 2013
Entering the Riot Fest grounds in Humboldt Park on Friday, it felt like it had only been a few days since last year's festival. Most everything was set up in the same locations as last year. There was an immediate sense of familiarity and excitement for the weekend that was just getting started. The Flatliners kicked things off on the Rock Stage at 4 p.m. Friday. I got into the festival early enough to stuff my face before they played, knowing full well that since Friday was a shorter day, I had no plans to eat anything once the bands started playing. Local eateries were well represented at Riot Fest, providing a far greater variety in food options than one would expect at a festival. I had a slice of vegan pizza from Dimo's, an establishment on Clark St. not far from Wrigley Field.
The Flatliners, from Toronto, blasted through their half-hour set. They play Chicago every now and again and, being big hockey fans, are quick to congratulate us on the Stanley Cup victory. Their new album, "Dead Language," dropped on Tuesday on Fat Wreck Chords.
Flatfoot 56 started just after The Flatliners finished, so I had to hurry across the pavement, passed all the food vendors from the Rock stage to the Rise stage. This was a common theme throughout the weekend. I often had to decide whether to leave a set early to get in position for the next band, or stay for the full set but risk missing the beginning of the next band. In this case, it was still early in the day so getting into decent position was not a problem. Flatfoot 56 was one of many local bands to play the festival. It was great to see such a healthy representation of Chicago bands at Riot Fest. The highlight of the set came when the band called for a Wall of Death and the pit subsequently doubled in size.
Smoking Popes, another Chicago-area group, were up next for the biggest crowd of the day so far at the Roots stage. This band has been around for quite a while but this was my first time seeing them. Josh Caterer has such a cool voice. Imagine R.E.M. as a pop punk band. As I was getting to know Smoking Popes, I had a hard time telling if his lyrics were sarcastic on songs like "That's Where I Come In." Having listened to more of their albums, it's pretty clear that there are a lot of songs about girlfriends and women and I think they are pretty sincere, after all.
On Your Marx made for the third consecutive local band on Friday. They played on the Rebel stage, which hosted many of the local bands during the weekend. Last False Hope had played just before them on the same stage, but they played at the same time as Smoking Popes. I would have loved to catch Last False Hope's Riot Fest set, but having never seen Smoking Popes, I had to choose them. A good crowd turned out for On Your Marx, and skanked away for a lot of their set. Things really got moving when they played "Confusion," their fastest and craziest song.
Bad Religion was prbably the band I was most excited to see on Friday and they delivered. They played some songs off their successful new album "True North" along with some classics. I was thrilled when they played "Sinister Rouge," an older song I was hoping they would play but did not think there was a very good chance it would happen. The only other time I have seen Bad Religion was at the Warped Tour in 2009. They are looking a little older now but they killed it just as hard. At this point in the day, it was starting to get colder. I only wore a T-shirt, so I ended up caving in and buying a zip-up hoodie after Bad Religion's set. I then got into good position and waited for Sublime With Rome to come on. Say what you will about this band carrying on all these years later without late lead singer Bradley Nowell. No one thinks this band is the same thing as seeing Sublime 20 years ago. It started with the two remaining original members of Sublime and now has just one original member, Eric Wilson. Still, I enjoyed their album "Yours Truly" and I had a great time watching them play on Friday. They performed a handful of songs from "Yours Truly," but mostly played Sublime songs.
Since I stayed for Sublime With Rome's full set, I had no expectation of getting anywhere close for Danzig. The Rise stage is a significant walk from the Roots stage. The way the space around the Rise stage is set up, when there is a large crowd there it is difficult to push forward. However, there were enough people leaving or moving back during the set that I was able to get into good enough position to see what was going on. This 25th anniversary Danzig set was originally scheduled to happen at the Congress Theater, but was moved to Riot Fest when Congress shut down. Danzig did about half a set of solo material before Doyle came out to play guitar on some Misfits songs. Among others, they played "Skulls" and closed with "Die Die My Darling." I was still in pretty good shape by the end of the first day, and ready for two more days of mayhem.