“This next song is a song by my favorite band to ever come out of Boston!” yelled the idiot from the stage. He was wearing a pink and blue ruffled shirt with a bow tie, maroon pants, and a fucking corduroy blazer even though it was a billion degrees outside. “It’s by The Pixies!” and of course he immediately started playing “Where is my Mind?”. I rolled my eyes almost out of their sockets. Our plan to show up late to miss Beach Slang had failed. Hard.
The good news was we had made it just in time to grab a drink and watch a band I was actually excited to see, the always excellent Hot Water Music. They were back again, releasing their newest album, entitled Light It Up, just two days beforehand. Despite this, they managed to throw in a decent amount of older hits to the flannel-wearing crowd.
After they finished, I ran over to the Rise stage to see Dessa. I expected them to be part of the way through their set, but instead I saw several disinterested musicians standing behind keyboards and drums backed by a big old red screen that simply read “main screen output.” Apparently, they were having technical issues and were running late. Eventually Dessa herself came onstage and jumped into the crowd, telling everyone to circle around her. She hopped onto a security guard’s back and gave a pretty damn good speech about hip hop, it’s main stream commercialism, and how being an independent artist allows her freedoms she otherwise wouldn’t have. She showcased this halfway through her second song when she asked the crowd if anyone had asthma and, without missing a beat, grabbed a strangers inhaler, took a puff, and just kept fucking going.
After Dessa’s impressive set, I met back up with Kendra. We had a gap before the next band we wanted to see, so I convinced her to go see The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black with me over on the Heather Owen stage. I had no idea who this band was, but sometimes you just have to go with instinct and the band’s ridiculous name. Passing the Ferris wheel, we could hear them mid-set.
“Is that a fucking theremin?” Kendra asked.
Turning the corner and looking at the stage, we got our answer. Yes, yes it was. Joining the disinterested Goth version of Draco Malfoy on theremin was a leather clad woman playing bass, a lady completely painted red screaming about “going to fuck island,” an older Japanese man shredding guitar, the tallest woman painted bluish-green that I have ever seen wearing the biggest wig I have also ever seen, and just some guy playing drums. Probably named Jeff. This was 100% not what we were expecting to wander over to, but I am very very glad that we did.
How do you follow up one of the most bizarre shows you have ever seen live? The Menzingers, duh. Now, contrary to popular belief, I actually like The Menzingers. I know it’s shocking to hear, but you can actually be a fan of a band while not being stoked on every album they release. Weird, right? I have seen them play a handful of times, but today, for some reason, they sounded like shit. I could only listen for a few minutes before I had to leave. And that was fine, because it was time to head back to the Heather Owen stage for The Flatliners, who were awesome as always.
After their set, Mat and I headed back to the press tent to interview Scott Brigham and pound some more drinks. As we were passing the Roots stage, Mat turned to me and jokingly said, “This band is an amazing Pennywise cover band!” only to look over and see the giant Pennywise banner on stage… Crushin’ it!
After talking to Captain Canada for about half an hour, Mat and I wandered back to Heather Owen to see Gwar. As Mat disappeared into the photo pit, I tried to find a decent spot to sit and watch the shit show. The tiny area was packed to the brim with people and the only clear spot to stand was directly behind the sound tent, which cast a shadow of grass between the sea of people in the rapidly darkening evening. I watched a song and bailed. I was fucking starving.
I staggered over to the food area with minimum funds in my pocket, stopping briefly for Prophets of Rage because I was confused as to why they were playing “Jump Around” by House of Pain. Luckily, the first food tent I stumbled on was the Riot Feast tent. They had discounted all their food to just $5. I got myself a really, really good pulled pork sandwich and gobbled it down next to the trash can like a starving dog who hasn’t eaten in a week. All of the sudden, I felt a rumble in my stomach letting me know that a storm was brewing. I ran to the nearest port-a-potty only to find it was out of toilet paper. I ran down the row of toilets checking each one, looking for the most suitable. Finally, about 30 or so portable toilets later, I found one with TP and got ‘er done in complete darkness.
Feeling like a new man, I stopped by the Rise stage to catch a couple songs from M.I.A. before standing as far back as possible for Jawbreaker. Which was far. Very, very far. I watched them play “Boxcar,” “Sluttering (May 4th),” and “Want” before they started their forth song, which I didn’t know. I like Jawbreaker, but I’m in no way a mega fan. So I used this time to go over and catch a few minutes of both Paramore and Andrew W.K., who were both somehow playing to pretty sizable crowds. How many fucking people were at Riot Fest? I started to get very very tired, and decided my best course of action was to head back near the press area, lay in the grass, and just take in the sounds of Jawbreaker. I was actually drifting off a little bit, with “Accident Prone” and “Million” as my sleepy time soundtrack, when Lindsey and Amanda finally found me and woke my ass up.
As Jawbreaker was winding down, I decided to do a final count on my drink tally. Sunday’s total was 15 ciders. I added up all the days, and realized I was at 39 total for the weekend. Not wanting a weird odd number to be my final count, I sprinted back into the press area and begged for one more cider to bring me to an even 40 for the entire weekend.
Let’s look at some facts: 40 Strongbow Ciders at $9 a cup means I alone drank $360 worth of cider. It also means I ingested roughly 1,200 grams of sugar and 11,800 calories. But it was for science! Drinking science! I exceeded the drink count equivalent of a 3-day VIP ticket! I was going to attempt to get into the Hot Water Music after-show, but I was so fucking exhausted I decided my time at Riot Fest was at it’s end. Not bad for my first year at Riot Fest Chicago. Not bad at all.
Mat’s Weekend Tally:
- Drink Count – 35
- Steps – ~65,000
Kendra’s Weekend Tally:
- Ciders Consumed – 27
- Steps Taken – 51,448
You’ve seen the best, now take a look at the rest! Although Kendra didn’t have a pass to formally shoot bands, she used her camera to take in the sites, sounds, and smells of the weekend: