Words by Kimberly Eggleston
All Live Photos Credit: Jonathan Sippel
Sunday was a big day. I could tell from the moment I arrived at around 1 and was surrounded by people with those infamous long black spikes gelled down in front of their faces, what most people were looking forward to. Unfortunately, The Misfits were still over 8 hours away, and we had an exciting list of bands to check out.
First up was Billy Talent, who just like Jonathan and I, traveled all the way from Toronto, Ontario to be at Riot Fest this weekend. I got there early and wiggled my way to the front row to get the best view I could of my favorite band from my young teenage days. I remember vividly being 12 years old and having just got my first lip piercing (with parental consent of course) and buying my first Billy Talent album in this moment of pure badassery. They started the show with “Devil in a Midnight Mass”, and the whole crowd went crazy. They joked with the crowd about baseball, and how the Blue Jays were going to beat the cubs. They also talked briefly about politics, encouraging people not to rely on their world leaders, but the people around them because they were the ones who would make a difference in the world, not politicians. He then, in polite Canadian fashion, told everyone that if Trump was voted for president they were all welcome to stay at his place. They played some amazing hits from their newest Album “Afraid of Heights” as well as old favorites like “Try Honesty” and “Red Flag”. We finished with enough time to take a short break before checking out our next band.
One thing Jonathan and I made a point of going to see this weekend was the “freakshow” over at the Hellzapoppin Circus tent because of course, this wasn’t just Riot Fest, it was Riot Fest and Carnival. We did try checking out the cute old-fashioned Ferris wheel they had but cheaped out when they told us it was 5 bucks a person to ride. No thanks, some of the lights were burnt out anyway. We opted to catch the end of a sideshow act instead. We didn’t see too much, but we got a good taste at what they could do with their “bed of nail”s act. We watched a guy lay on a bed of nails than have another bed of nails placed on top of him which another guy laid on top of, and then a panel of wood, which another guy got on top of. I cringed the whole way through, but of course, everyone came out completely unscathed. I regret not showing up sooner as we missed some amazing acts involving sword swallowing, fire breathing, and knife throwing using human targets, as well as many others, but sadly we did have to move along.
Next up was Andrew W.K. He reminisced with the crowd about how he’s played at Riot Fest about 6 times now, but despite being a Riot regular, he’s definitely not run-of-the-mill. He’s an entertainer first and foremost and it shows. His crazy, enthusiastic performance was apparently just part of his act that he usually does, but as a first-time observer it was something still new and refreshing. But Andrew wasn’t the only one who was slamming on an instrument with a big goofy grin, his whole band seemed to be in on the fun. They played hits like “Party Hard” and “Ready to Die”, which the group of twenty-somethings next to me rocked out to harder than I’d seen anyone do all weekend. I want whatever they’re having.
Post-hardcore band Thursday had a strong set Sunday as well. The band had gotten back together earlier this year after basically going MIA in 2011. Lead vocalist Geoff Rickly told the crowd that they had “put a lot of shit behind them” and are closer than ever now. They played some emo oldies like the early 2000’s “Understanding the Car Crash” and “For the Workforce, Drowning”. The energetic singer jumped around the stage, going out to the speakers and whipped his microphone over his head. I’m not sure if I found that or the people dressed in black trying to discreetly follow him around and untangle his microphone from around everything more entertaining. Nah, Rickly was definitely better.
Back at the Riot Stage the crowd slowly started making their way over, filling in any gaps in the crowd, eagerly awaiting Bad Religion. A group, who in the 80’s was a punk rock band full of grungy kids, now looked like a band that was being lead by what could be your school principal. But if Riot Fest has taught me anything this weekend, it’s that age is just a number, and you’re never too old to rock out like it’s the 80’s. You’re also never too young, as made clear by all the adorable kids dancing around with their noise reducing ear muffs on. Greg Graffin boasted that they had actually played earlier in the day, around midnight at a different location, and it was the first time they’d ever played two shows in one day. But despite this, the punk rock legends hit the stage hard with their 2013 song “Fuck you” as well as some older hits like “Stranger Than Fiction”. The audience rocked out, and people body surfed. Hell, there was even a velociraptor in the crowd! It was an all-around good time.
Deftones tore up the stage almost immediately, Chino Morino doing one of his infamous screeches that are enough to give you goosebumps. I knew we were in for a treat. They started strong and heavy with their song “Rocket Skates”. To quote my partner in crime Jonathan, they were an “orgasm of sound”, and I don’t think he was the only one to think so. Chino went out into the crowd and gave his fans some massive love. He also gave some love to Morrissey (The Smiths) and Glenn Danzig (The Misfits) crediting them as being two of his biggest inspirations. Deftones played more big hits like “Change (In the house of flies)”. We were lucky enough to have time to stay to the end of their show through sunset, and as the sun got lower we prepared for the night’s first headliner.
The man that nightmares are made of, Rob Zombie took great advantage of his late night performance, showcasing the craziest and most amazing light shows of the whole festival. He came out on stage in the most rock and roll sparking silver cowboy hat and spiked jacket, which was my beacon for not losing him on the stage amongst all the smoke and lights. His set was full of dancing monsters, a giant boombox, and Evil Dead like necronomicon books in the background. He went back in time before his Rob Zombie days, back to 1995’s White Zombie, and played in its glorious entirety: Astro Creep 2000. He joked a bit that he hadn’t played most of these songs in almost 23 years, and he may need the audience’s help in remembering the words. But he didn’t let us down. He played everything from “Electric Head: Part 1” to “Blood, Milk and Sky” . And just when you thought this rock god was done, he kept going a little more, doing an Encore consisting of his Hellbilly hit (the Rob Zombie album I grew up on!) “Dragula”. When his set finished I left feeling satisfied in such a way I didn’t know I could.
The trek over to the Riot stage for the weekend’s main event was a tight one. I trusted Jonathan to lead us, as my short legs prevented me from seeing anything more than a couple feet ahead and above me. Everyone was ready to see The Original Misfits. One thing Riot Fest is good for is convincing bands to get back together, and that’s what happened tonight. For the second time (Denver Riot Fest being the first) since ’83, The Misfits played a show together. Thousands upon thousands of people gathered in the small park area to watch history be made. Glenn, Joey, and Doyle took to the stage with “Death Comes Ripping” and things quickly went out of control. Fights broke out, and people started pushing back to get away from the mosh pit. People were hopping fences into the surrounding VIP areas to get away, and myself along with a couple other people had to help a girl who’d gotten pushed to the ground and was getting trampled. Apparently, decades of built up hardcore punk-rock tension were being released. After Jonathan and I found each other after getting separated we agreed it was probably best we found a spot farther back to enjoy the show from. The band rocked on, playing an incredible 22 song set, and 4 encores including “Bullet”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “She”, and “Attitude”. Glenn gave the crowd a bit of a hard time part way through, asking if they (the audience) were tired yet, and joking that they couldn’t have possibly tired everyone out already. The show was insane and violent, and something I’m honored to have been a part of.
For Jon and I, The Misfits had tired us out pretty quickly, though. By the end of our final day, we were eager to head back to our hotel room for a good night’s sleep. As we made our way once more toward the exit, hundreds of beer cans crunching under our feet the whole way. It was bittersweet. I was still high off the excitement of seeing so many of my favorite bands, but looking forward to heading home and being able to recover from the fact I’d been living off red bull and Halloween candy and hadn’t eaten a single vegetable since before arriving in Chicago on Thursday. Everything about this festival was more than what I had ever thought I’d get to experience, and I can only hope that I can do so again in the future. For now, I have my Chicago riot fest t-shirt I finally caved and bought at the merch booth to remind me of this unforgettable weekend. 10/10 would attend again.