Tales of a Riot Fest DropoutD. Brawlins of Don't Panic, It's a Distro - September 27, 2014
I’d like to say I didn’t go to Riot Fest this year for some profound reason like my concerns over the gentrification of Humboldt Park, or because corporate sponsored events don’t belong in punk rock or that I didn’t go because it’s been a threat to the DIY community in years past. Although these are all pretty big concerns of mine, I was really just too underwhelmed with the line up to justify shelling out the cash. Instead, I decided to see what else Chicago had to offer.
Friday night, I did not see NOFX, Offspring or Slayer; I went to someone’s basement… although I’m not sure if anyone actually lived there… and saw the vegan power violence band, Punch. First off, I asked the wrong punk for the address and ended up in Little Village, leaving me to walk a mile in the rain to the right house. When I arrived, there was a dude in a studded denim vest smoking a cigarette on the stoop; I gave him a nod and he motioned for me to come in. I went down to the dark and musky basement, looked around and noticed people were drinking, “cool,” I thought to myself. I went back out in the rain and picked up a six pack, tall boys of course. Got back to the show to catch the openers which was a similar experience to being repeatedly hit in the head with a brick, only with more positive results. The opener that really stood out to me was a poppy hardcore band called The Wrong, who had a fierce trans front woman with the loudest and most beautiful scream I ever heard. She was very aggressive and brought a ridiculous amount of energy to the crowd.
Punch came up shortly after and got the crowd moving almost immediately. They flew through their minute long songs with little delay; the longest being when someone pulled themselves on top of the crowd and busted the cord runner causing the band to take five while someone, very half-assedly, duct taped it all back together. Once the ceiling was mended, Punch powered through another ten minutes of violent noise. People lingered for a little after the show but I picked up a copy of their new LP and dipped out. It was after midnight, I was on the opposite end of Chicago and I was out of beer.
The next night, I went to the National Antifascist Show and Convergence at ChiTown Futbol. Weird name for a DIY space? No, weird space for a DIY show. ChiTown Futbol is an indoor soccer complex tucked back in the industrial district at the southern-most part of Pilsen. It was a little weird walking to get there but it got even weirder walking through the place. After seeing a group of punks hanging around outside, I figured I was at the right place, so I walked in. The entrance way is a large, winding ramp with murals covering the walls. When I got through the main doors, I instinctually turned left. It just so happened that I walked into a Quinceañera. There were all these nice looking people dressed in formalwear and here I was, wearing tight jeans, boots and a studded belt. So I turned around and walked through an arcade full of kids and a soccer field with a game being played on it. At the other end of the field, I could hear what sounded like screaming. I walked toward it.
On the next field over, Mandatory Abortions had just started their set of heavy, droning blackened crust. As they powered through their set, I looked around. The walls of the soccer field were lined with tabling antifa organizations… and a bar. I grab a drink and make my way down the row of tables. Sitting at the Warzone Distro table was a kid I met on the L coming back from the Punch show the night before. After talking to him for a bit, Latino hardcore group, La Armada, was about to start their set. I had seen La Armada once before opening for Hellmouth. They are one of the most furious bands I’ve seen in Chicago! A few songs in, the mosh pit picked up. Let me tell you, there’s something slightly terrifying about a mosh pit when people have a couple yards to pick up speed before knocking into you. None the less, I made it through both La Armada and Krang’s set unscathed.
At this point, my buddy, who attended Riot Fest, showed up looking like he was going to die if he didn’t get some caffeine in him. We cut out early, regrettably missing Appalachian Terror Unit and headed over to the Steak and Egger for some of the best hash browns and worst coffee Chicago has to offer. What do you expect from a 24-hour diner located in the industrial district of Pilsen?
All in all, I had a really good time with Chicago’s DIY scene. Rather than spending $100some on tickets, I donated about $20 toward a touring band’s gas tank, political prisoners (thanks to the south side’s chapter of Anti-Racist Action) and the DIY community as a whole. There’s a lot this city has to offer outside of what you’ll see advertised on buses, newspapers and most websites; you just have to ask around. Oh, and the Steak and Egger was cheap as shit! But I’ll stop talking before this turns into a Yelp review.