One would think that with years of experience comes perfection. But you’d never know it watching the RFPC (check out the Day 1 coverage for the meaning behind this acronym along with stories about Riot Pop, Bad Libs, and more) trying to drag their 30+ year old asses to Douglass Park by noon on Day 2 of Riot Fest. The plan was to get there early to catch the first band on the Rebel stage, cumgirl8. Curtis has heard good/interesting things and we all initially had the same thought when we saw that band name on the lineup. It clearly had to be a joke and some sort of placeholder. Nope. Mat and I used our super secret entrance to get in ASAP and we ran to the stage just in time for Mat to sneak into the photo pit during song #2. Curtis and Alex showed up right after us and we all got to enjoy a little cumgirl8 who were just as good, interesting, entertaining as we were told!
The crew headed over to the Press Area where I loaded up on my daily dose of 0% Riot Pop and prepped for the first Bad Libs of the day. When Riot Fest announced that they teamed up with System Seltzers to provide 2 different seltzer flavors (cherry and mango) in three different ABV amounts (0%, 5% and 8%), I was stoked. As someone who is just relearning what it’s like to go out in public and not drink, being presented with an option that makes you feel ‘normal’ in a drunken crowd setting is more than welcome. But the mango flavor had been missing all weekend and the stories were spinning. The first tale I heard about the missing mango was that something got into the batch and all the mango flavored seltzers, no matter the ABV, were tainted! The second story was that the 0% ended up not really being 0% and they had to scrap the batch or else a ton of designated drivers would be cheersing to ‘feeling good all the time’ and meeting up with the CPD on their way out of the festival.
There may not have been mango, but there was cherry and it was delicious and it had electrolytes. It was just what I needed to get my shit together for my first Bad Libs with Surfbort. The band had come on my radar months before via a non-festival related PR email. It was one of those ‘read, recognize I will like, write down the name so I don’t forget’ kinda moments. But just like when Amyl & the Sniffers came on my radar months and months before they made it big, I forgot the last step and had to re-discover them along with everyone else. So… Surfbort, if you don’t yet know, now you do. They’re insanely good and they’ve been good for a very long time. Plus I got to spend a bit of time with them while they wrote out and read their Bad Libs, and they’re hilarious to boot. Here’s a video for their song “Open Your Eyes” that they did with Tony Hawk. See? I told you that they were great!
I promised Mat I would meet him back at the Rebel stage at 1PM. As I made the seemingly never-ending journey across the park, I stopped dead in my tracks as I passed one of the stages. There was an artist onstage, Mothica, who (and watch me sound old and weird af right now. I’m sorry Gen Z!) was dressed like some ethereal pixie. She was speaking openly about depression, about suicidal ideation, and about her journey into sobriety which saved her life. It was… one of the most empowering things I’ve ever experienced at Riot Fest and I hadn’t even heard her music yet.
Now, if you read my Day 1 write up, you know that this year I’ve been feeling all the feels. After 2 years of COVID hiatus, I am trying to reintroduce myself back into the world with less judgement, more empathy, and as many positive experiences as I can cram into every waking moment. Hell, I even sat on the grass and just listened to a band yesterday, becoming one of the festival people I’ve always hated and mocked! But our whole crew talked about it all weekend long – we couldn’t put our finger on exactly what it was, but there was something very different about the tone of the festival this year. Maybe it was the change in the political climate. Maybe it was because we’re older. Maybe it was because so much is at stake now whenever you’re in large gatherings, from viruses to gun violence. But the group mentality seemed more ‘live for the moment but also take care of yourself and others’ than ever before. And I was all about it.
I made it over to the Rebel stage just in time to catch No Trigger with Mat. Another amazing band brought to the masses via the Rebel Stage. The Massachusetts-based Punk band has just released a new album, Dr. Album, and it’s… so… good. Somewhere off in the distance, FEAR was singing about how much they love living in the city. I wished I could find my friend Joe Dana in the massive crowd of thousands just so we could scream the chorus at each other like we did when I still lived in LA years ago. Surfbort also played the Rebel Stage and they were everything that I had hoped, fun, fast, raw, full of rage… but in a fun way. Ya know, Punk Rock. After them was Bridge City Sinners, a band that we have talked about a lot here on the site, but I have never gotten the chance to see. And today that found out what I had been missing. The Portland-based 5 piece is diverse in both band member makeup and instruments. There’s a fiddle, a stand up bass, banjo, and stage presence that is unrivaled.
After, I made my way back to the Press Area and prepped for the next Lib as 7 Seconds played in the background. I don’t know if the sound game was upped this year or if I am, again, just thirsty for any and all music, but they sounded phenomenal. MOST of the bands that I heard were just killing it. And then it was time… Sometimes the PR universe smiles on me. I reached out to see if an artist would be interested in doing a Bad Lib, but sadly they either were not doing press or they hate fun. But their PR rep ended up hooking me up with Gogol Bordello instead! OH-MY-GOD.
Normally, a press rep would walk an artist around the Press Area to do the interviews. But this rep met me alone and asked if I was ready. She walked me out of the Press Area and into the back channels of the festival and into a trailer. A sweet, sweet air conditioned trailer where there was a while film crew with a camera glued on the every move of the band’s lead singer, Eugene. Apparently the crew was from VICE and they are making a documentary about the band. So keep your eyes peeled for me doing a round of Bad Libs with Eugene on a documentary in the upcoming months! Unless they cut that footage… which they shouldn’t, because it was a really great Bad Libs and supporting small DIY endeavors is good for the soul. (Fun Fact: one of the crew members was Matt Rappo, a Fest friend who I actually sold my extra Fest ticket to just a few days beforehand!).
I floated back to the Press Area where I met Joshua of The Juliana Theory who was so kind and did a round of Bad Libs with me followed by those amazingly talented cuties in Skating Polly who are always just the best! Unfortunately, with all the excitement and libbing going on, I missed two bands I really wanted to see. War on Women puts on one of the best and most powerful live shows I’ve ever seen, so I always try to catch them whenever they’re on a bill. And I also missed The Menzingers which I normally wouldn’t shed a tear over, but they were playing On the Impossible Past in full (which I will fiercely argue is their only solid from cover to cover album) and I was sad to miss it. But I did make it out into the crowd for Bad Religion. I was reunited with Jessica and Jehiah just in time to witness Jehiah experiencing the band for the first time ever. It was so fun to watch his elation. But, Jessica and I became easily distracted for most of the set by the man who we dubbed ‘stick guy.’ He was everything that you imagine; he was a shirtless man in cargo shorts with a large stick with a can on the top of it. And he was dancing! And he knew every word. We actually went up and talked to him before Bad Religion stopped playing.
The rest of the evening seemed like someone pushed the fast forward button. Gogol Bordello‘s epic sent came and went and the next thing I knew, we were all in the Press Area again watching Danzig actually KILL it singing old as Misfits songs. Danzig is like GWAR or Andrew W.K., it’s almost a guarantee that he will be there in some form every single year. So I have experienced a lot of Danzig in my life every September for the last 12 years or so. But this is the first year that I was really blown away by how it all sounded. Again, maybe it’s just a revamping of the audio engineering, but godDAMN!
We left the festival a few tracks before the end of the Misfits’ set list. On the walk out of the festival grounds, I introduced the RFPC to Jessica and Jehiah and suddenly, there were six of us in my Civic rolling away from the pacrk, blasting everything from Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” to “Return of the Mack” to “Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang (#gettinghornynow) as we danced with with the windows and sunroof down.
In our mid-30s, our post-festival shenanigans looked a little different. We headed over to Handlebar and housed down some mac and cheese, tacos, burgers, fried pickles, a few beers, and about a gallon of water each. We talked a bit about our own experiences with our Day 2 of the festival and we spent a lot of time sharing stories and laughing to the point of crying. While I’m always worried when I attempt to bring groups of friends together, it was like the six of us had been friends for decades and were finally reunited. It was another one of those unspeakably magical things that happened over this weekend where everything just fell into place perfectly.
After dinner, we headed over to Frank & Mary’s, one of the best little dives on the North side of the city, where we grabbed drinks and I warded off scurvy with a giant glass of OJ. We sang along to the TouchTunes playlist, which the bartender had locked on what we assumed was his ‘Riot Fest Punk Compilation,’ and watched said bartender flirt with and precede to kiss a lady half his age over the bar. Sometime before 2AM, we parted ways with the plan to get to the festival early again for Day 3. Let’s see how that would pan out.
Check out the gallery of Mat’s photos from Saturday!