There’s a certain kind of unity that can only be found when lyrics, harmony and rhythm come together and are paired with appreciation. These are called music festivals. I’ve been to many music festivals and concerts in my lifetime, coving most, if not all genres. Music has the ability to transcend commonality and defy cultural norms. Riot Fest 2014 in Chicago, Illinois was no exception. Riot Fest is a three-day event that is much, much more than a music festival. It is a celebration of individuality, rock and roll and great music. It is a place where you are free to be who you are and where authority has no presence.
Celebrating its 10th birthday on September 12th -14th, Riot Fest had its biggest bash yet. Headliners included Jane’s Addiction, The Cure, Weezer, Wu Tang Clan, and Taking Back Sunday. This lineup was something I would have thought would only appear in my idea of heaven…until the weather of the weekend emerged on the first night of the festival. I felt like the rock and roll Gods were challenging the fans to see who was the most dedicated of the bunch to survive the torrential downpour rain, making the grounds of Humbolt Park one giant mud pool (which I wouldn’t normally care about, but when you’re wearing a crop top in fifty degree weather…that is a whole other story.
However, my Riot Fest weekend didn’t start on the 12th, it started the day before on Thursday, September 11th when I attended a Stephen Perkins drum clinic at Vic’s Drum Shop in Chicago with my friend who is one of the most loyal music fans and an amazingly talented drummer, himself. Even though I personally have no musical ability, I was pretty stoked, to say the least. Perkins is one of the greatest drummers to emerge from the Sunset Boulevard scene of the 80’s. He is among the likes of Tommy Lee of Motley Crue, Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Philip Fisher of Fishbone, amongst others. These guys grew up together, played shows together, and eventually influenced modern alternative rock of today. Perkins achieved his fame from playing with Jane’s Addiction, along side Perry Farrell, Chris Chaney, and Dave Navarro. The quartet appeared for the close of Riot Fest on Friday night. For guys who hardly play or practice together anymore, who have heartily fought addiction, and have aged quite a bit, not a single one of them seemed to lose a step from the height of their fame at Chicago’s very first Lollapalooza.
Lucky for us fans, this tenth anniversary of Riot Fest offered us something special. Jane’s Addiction played their 1988 album, Nothing’s Schocking in full. Perry Farrell’s vocal delivery very clearly demonstrated how powerful this album was to the band and fans alike. Literally, nothing is shocking. Every fan in the muddy, cold, rain-soaked crowd stayed for the entire set. If this was any other band, I probably would have left, as my hands no longer functioned. I could have cared less if I ever felt my toes again as I stood in ankle-deep mud puddle. Navarro, Chaney, Perkins, and Farrell delivered one of the best sets of the weekend. Farrell entertained us with his increasingly eclectic behavior, at one point announcing he was already “Drunk as fuck.” I don’t blame him, that party was fun! Once through the album, Jane’s sent us home singing “Been Caught Stealing” and “Stop,” two killer Jane’s songs to close an intensely emotional and challenging night (you try walking through ankle-deep mud puddles for 5 hours). If it wasn’t for being such a fan of Jane’s Addiction’s music, I would say the highlight of my night was being forced to watch strippers hang from ropes, connected to them by human sized fishhooks through the skin of their backs, dance and wiggle in mid-air to “Stop;” however, I just didn’t and still can’t find that appeasing in any way.
Prior to the unPERRYllel (get it, parallel, Perry, HA!) performance that ended Friday night, I had the amazing opportunity to spend most of Friday afternoon interviewing artists at the Press Lounge. Artists include GWAR, Ali McMordie from Stiff Little Fingers, and Jean-Paul from Clutch.
For those not familiar with the almighty GWAR, they are an American, thrash metal band that started in 1984, that now consists of four band members. Without their concert “getup” they are probably unrecognizable. However, they were easy to spot for me as they were in their distinctive and intricate (some might say) costumes. The core concept of GWAR surrounds a science-fiction, extraterrestrial, themed tradition. The band members depict barbaric-like, alien warriors during their shows, albums, and the nature of what GWAR is. They are traditionally an outspoken bunch, always incorporating political and crude humor into their sets.
I then got the chance to interview the drummer, Jean-Paul Gaster from the American rock band, Clutch. Formed in 1990, they have released ten studio albums and are now signed to their own label, Weathermaker. I had a wonderful time interviewing Jean. I learned he is much more than a brilliant, music talent. His appreciation for music goes much beyond playing the drums and which drummers he most looked up to. He spoke of his history of where his musical ability started to how the group formed.
My Friday interviews ended with bass guitarist and founding member of Stiff Little Fingers, Ali McMordie. Stiff Little Fingers is a punk-rock band from Northern Ireland. Immediately after introducing myself to Ali, it was obvious that this was going to be a fun interview (his accent had NOTHING to do with it, I swear!). Formed in 1977, the band had split up a few times, McMordie rejoining recently in 2006. Even though he has been back with the band for 8 years, McMordie’s excitement for the festival was evident. He mentioned how big Riot Fest has become and how dedicated the fans remain.
I left night one thinking that there was no way that anyone musical artist I was going to see could top Perry Farrell’s performance.
That is until Saturday morning rolled around. After a ten year departure, filled with other musical ventures and ear-piercing vocals (of course in the enjoyable sense of the adjective), Anthony Green has reemerged with Saosin, the post-hardcore giant of the first decade this century; and what a coming-out party it was at Chicago’s Riot Fest! Saosin have already played a few shows earlier in the year, but nothing close to the magnitude of Riot Fest. The Saturday-afternoon delivery of this band has only become better over time. It seems as if the four-year hiatus, after the departure of Cove Reber (lead vocalist after Green’s absence), has reinvigorated this prodigious band. Not only has Green been gone for ten years, but Translating The Name (the band’s first EP) is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. That sunny set delivered punch after punch of mature riffs and clockwork-tight drums, swaying the crowd and igniting the fire that once burned through every angst-ridden soul in that crowd. Of course, I was right with them, jumping, hitting every beat. Saosin not only played the whole EP, but debuted new music.
Anthony Green, known for his interaction with the crowd, continued to feed off of the energy. The band has not released new music since 2010, and has not even named their songs, yet. When Green announced we would be hearing a “Demo,” the crowd erupted. Then, the song received its name. Green noticed one fan smashed up against the rail, dressed in a puppy costume. Needless to say, as this is the most logical thing one could think of, the song is now called, “Death to Puppy.” Seems quite appropriate. Green’s antics help drive the band’s energy. Note after note, song after song, Saosin delivered a potent set. If you were there, you’d know you received your well more than your money’s worth at this festival.
I left Saosin to make my way back to the Press Lounge to finish up my interviews of the weekend with Chicago native, rapper, Show You Suck, and the rock and roll band, Team Spirit.
Clinton Sandifer, better known as his rapper name, Show You Suck, is an American rapper from Chicago, IL. This was his first time performing at Riot Fest and I was impressed with his maturity, eagerness to perform and love for the festival. I have heard of Show You Suck before the interview, as he is wildly popular in the city. He noted in our interview that he gets stopped on the streets all the time by fans, but noted the how important it is stay humble and give fans the opportunity to share in his musical journey. Show You Suck started in 2010 and has been gaining popularity in the last four years.
My last interview was by far my favorite. I had so much fun learning about the band, Team Spirit. Composed of four awesome, dudes, Team Spirit comes all the way from New York City. As a huge Passion Pit fan, I knew Team Spirit’s lead singer, Ayad Al Adhamy started out as Passion Pit’s percussionist. Turns out after chatting, I saw him perform when I was in New York City back in 2010. Team Spirit’s LP Killing Time comes out on September 30th and the band has been named one of the ‘20th most anticipated bands to watch in 2014” by CMJ. My favorite thing about Team Spirit is their drive – their main goal of making music seems to surround the fact that they love what they do and they want to make feel good music. They are chatty dudes that want to crack open a beer with you and just jam. I have no doubt this band is going to have wild success.
For me, Saturday night was easily my favorite night of Riot Fest. I have always been a huge fan of Taking Back Sunday, but never had the opportunity to see them live. Their performance was out-of-this-world fantastic. Despite their performance being held at the furthest stage possible, the crowd they drew easily showed the dedication we all had to see the band perform. By this point, my legs were soaked with dirty and sticky mud, my fingers were numb from the biting cold, but my spirits were without a doubt high.
The band opened with “You Know How I Do” off their album “Notes from the Past”. I was immediately impressed. I was almost convinced they press ‘play’ and were letting the audience think they were playing, when really it was coming straight from the radio itself. Singing like a fan girl that I am, I was shocked that my friends stuck by my side – until that is I realized they were geeking out themselves. The band did not disappoint with their set list one bit. They continued to play ALL my favorites. I actually left saying to my friends that there was not one song that I wish they would have played, but didn’t. They proceeded to play “Number Five with a Bulllet”, “A Decade Under the Influence”, “Liar (It Takes One to Know One)”, “Flicker, Fade”, “ You’re So Last Summer, the all time favorite “Cute Without The E (Cut from the Team)” and ended the night with the crowd going wild with “MakeDamnSure”. I left the Rock Stage with legitimate tears and a Taking Band Sunday high. My voice was gone from singing and my legs were hurting from jumping. Taking Back Sunday proved to me that they have been around for a while for a reason – they know how to put on a show and their vocal and instrumental talent is one to be feared. I am already looking into seeing when they are coming back to Chicago.
Sunday was the most relaxing of all three days. After some pretty terrible weather the first two days, the music festival Gods finally gave us a beautiful day for frolicking from stage to stage to see some pretty dope bands. My favorite of that day had to have been Dropkick Murphy’s. This band still has it even after being around since 1966. Originated from Boston, this band knows how to show their fans a good time. Of course, I was looking forward most to hearing the notorious “I’m Shipping up to Boston” and they didn’t let me down. The moment I heard the bagpipes and the infamous introduction, my feet found themselves lifting off the ground and I almost, ALMOST, moshed.
All in all, a wonderful weekend that will definitely go down in my music festival history as one, if not the best weekends of my life. I was able to see musical talent that I have only dreamt of seeing, while being introduced to bands and artist that have been around for generations and will continue to be around for much, much longer. If I were to leave you with one final wrap up of how the weekend was, I would say, it was a true experience that is unlike any other. If you’re looking to enjoy good music with people who are truly there to have good vibes and a good time, Riot Fest is definitely the place to go. There was no drama with the crowd and despite the weather being nothing short of bipolar, everyone continued to have a positive attitude. See you next year, Riot Fest.
By FestPop Staff Writer
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