“He’s got a carcass… in the basement… and it’s high time he found a replacement…”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Direct Hit! was on the stage across a field from me playing “Buried Alive.” No, no, I don’t have time for this. Keep it moving, idiot. I had just seen them play the official kick off show the night before at Chrome in Logan Square. I forced myself to turn my back on them and hustled past the carnival to the furthest stage set up in Douglas Park. Chicago’s Blood People had just started playing, and as I stood there watching them, I could feel the skin on my legs and shoulders burning from the afternoon sun. I stood my ground instead of retreating to the nearby shade. Blood People are that good, and I’d rather start my Riot Fest off sunburned and pink than miss a single second of their set.
As soon as they were done though, I was in the press area ordering a Strongbow and applying sun screen, both thanks to the wonderful Chel. I didn’t have a ton of time to spare. Lagwagon was over on the Rise Stage playing Let’s Talk About Feelings in full, also known as the album that got me into punk music in the first place. When they got to “May 16th,” I had an “oh shit” moment, and remembered Fat Wreck Chords had a special limited edition repress 10” version of the vinyl of this album on sale at their merch tent I really wanted. So I ran across Douglas Park and bought the last one they had in stock. Crisis adverted.
I dropped my present to myself back off in the press area, refilled on Strongbow, and made my way to the Radicals Stage to catch some of Pussy Riot’s set. I watched them do their thing for about fifteen inutes before I headed back to the Rise Stage for The Aquabats. I have somehow never even listened to them, but my girlfriend loves them and they seem like a pretty fun band and they were right there so why the hell not, you know? I had to leave before they played the only song I was sort of vaguely familiar with, “Pizza Day,” to go back to the press area to do some “press” stuff. If you have been paying any attention to our Riot Fest coverage so far, you have seen the ‘Bad Libs’ we asked bands to fill out. Fuck interviews, only Bad Libs from now on.
Our goal was to catch a few songs from Sum 41 then head back to the press area to conduct some mother fucking business. We stood in the massive crowd and waited. And waited. And waited. Oh good. We had our first rock star diva showing up late to the stage. Of course it would be the shitty “punk” band most famous for their songs about being a bunch of young assholes and dating Avril Lavigne. We had a hard 4:45 cut off time. So when that came, we fought our way through the restless crowd. Of course as soon as we reached daylight on the other side, those fucking puds decided to come out onstage a solid 20 minutes late. So fuck Sum 41, especially Deryl Whebber. I know it was you, rock star poseur.
From the press area we could hear the Roots and Radicals Stages perfectly. While conducting our business, we were serenaded by K.Flay and Matt & Kim, neither of whom I was familiar with. When we were done with our website business, we went to go get some food, passing by the Rise Stage now featuring Flogging Molly. The crowd easily tripled in size from earlier. I’m not really into the weird bro Irish punk music thing, but what I am into is burritos. We moseyed on past the giant crowd and I made way to the closest Mexican food booth. Kendra wisely left to go find the Reggie’s booth with the veggie burger, but mostly to avoid me complaining about my burrito, which of course I did. It sucked. Chicago burritos suck. It’s a fact. (Editor’s Note: This is exactly why I left.)
I was hungry though, so I basically inhaled the shitty burrito, then made a break for the Radicals Stage for Atmosphere. I used to listen to them in high School, but never had an opportunity to see them live. So this felt like I was making up for that. Speaking of bands I listened to in high School and never saw, I took off early to run back to the Rise Stage to watch some Taking Back Sunday. They opened with the only TBS song I knew, “Cute without the E (Cut from the Team).” Look, that song came out like sixteen years ago, and it shows. Adam Lazzara is pushing 40 and sounded less like the Emo prince of 2003, and more like Matt Caskitt if he warmed up his voice by screaming until it was gone. Maybe that’s what Taking Back Sunday sounds like now or maybe he sounded better as the set went on. I wouldn’t know. They played the only song I cared about already, so I bailed back to the press area and had a couple Strongbows while listening to Young the Giant.
Weezer closed the night out on the Riot Stage. Look, I’m not a huge Weezer fan, but I was surprised by how many songs I knew. I was also surprised they were kind of just blowing through all their hits seemingly as fast as they could. They were scheduled to play for an hour and fifteen minutes; how deep into their discography would they eventually have to go to fill the time? The answer was not deep at all. Eventually they just started to kind of play cover songs. I knew this meant the cover of Toto’s “Africa” was coming, so I took the opportunity to beat the crowd out of Douglas Park before I was subjected to that overrated song. It didn’t take a lot to drag me away from Riot Fest, and on the hike back to my car I was blessed with the drums echoing through the night.
“I guess it rains down in Africa.”