Words by Kimberly Eggleston
All Live Photos Credit: Jonathan Sippel
Over on the Roots Stage, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones was my first official experience with scacore. Now don’t be fooled, these guys may look like your average dads, but they’re certainly not your average dads’ dad band, but your average dad in an average dad band probably loves them. These guys busted out on stage wearing some dapper plaid green suits, and voices so deep and raspy I was reminded why to never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, it’s 80’s suit jacket. They played from start to finish their 1997 album ‘Let’s Face It’ including the hit ‘Impressions That I Get’ which they said probably had a lot to do with the album’s success. So the people in the crowd, with their Bosstone bulldog patches stitched to the back of their jean jackets started a circle pit and danced the only way scacore fans know how to: jumping around with their fingers in the air while the saxophones and trumpets blasted in the background.
Pennywise is a-rockin’ punk band from California who’s been around for a good long 26 years, and their fans are so punk rock that they do really punk things too, like throwing their lit cigarettes in the air while chanting “Pennywise!” Lead Vocalist, Jim Lindberg, screamed at the crowd “Are you fuckers ready to dance?! Let’s break some shit!” and dove into playing ‘Fight Til You Die’ while the crowd formed a circle pit much rougher than the band that had played the Roots Stage before them; the fingers in the air were replaced by fists of fury. The bass from this band while they played was loud enough that even the hairs on my arm were having their own little mosh pit party. “We came to put the ‘riot’ in Riot Fest because someone has to do it!” the vocalist yelled. These Californians were also kind enough o bring the sunshine with them as it finally came out after having been overcast all day. Lindberg took a camera from one of the camera guys in the press pit and took what I’m sure was a beautiful photo with the sweaty and probably slightly intoxicated crowd. He then told the audience that Donald and Melania Trump were backstage which, unsurprisingly, was met with a unanimous sea of ‘boos’. Sorry Trumps, no room for you here. There was room for a different kind of person though, as one of the aliens from Gwar made a special appearance on stage. Along with playing their own hits like ‘Same Old Story’ and ‘Fuck the Authority’ they also did a cover of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ by Black Flag and dedicated the song ‘Broken’ to the late Chester Bennington before ending on their popular hit ‘Bro Hymn’.
There are a few things you can almost guarantee with a Gwar performance: first, the costumes are going to be on point. Second, someone is going to get decapitated and the first several rows of people are going to get covered in bloody goo and they’re going to love it. And Thirdly, no is going to leave disappointed, or sober, especially not the people in front of me smoking some pot out of a make-shift beer can bong. Last year in the midst of the presidential campaign Gwar had done a gory political performance of Trump and Clinton ripping each other to shreds. This year though, there was the fucking decapitating of a fake dog named “Pooky” in a very Gwar-esque fashion. I seemed to be far enough back to avoid the splatter zone, though as the person right behind me put on a poncho I was kind of worried that maybe I shouldn’t have wiggled my way up this close. While I was happy to not be getting covered in goo, the people a few feet ahead of me were more than eager to be. Unfortunately, the band came on fairly late (perhaps the aliens were a little jetlagged from traveling so far to our planet). So I had to leave to go catch the last two acts of the evening after they did a shout out and song dedication in memory of their former band leader, Odis.
Headlining the night on the Radicals Stage was alt. rock band Paramore. They were celebrating the 10th year since their hit album “Riot” came out which brought them into the mainstream spotlight, and were excitedly announcing the release of their newest album from earlier that year called ‘After Laughter’. This was a band I listened to over and over again in my early angsty teenage years, and seeing them live for the first time brought me back to the gloriously dark and wonderful days. They opened with a hit off their more recent album called ‘Hard Times’ and also played some songs from previous albums that I loved like ‘Still Into You’, ‘That’s What You Get’, and ‘Ain’t it Fun’. When Haley Williams played “Misery Business” it seemed as though she didn’t really need to be there at all, with the music blasting the crowd sang all the lyrics at the top of their lung in unison. The lead vocalist stopped the music for a moment part way through the song to tell the audience that she needed one of them to come on stage with her to finish the song, and after a moment of looking through the crowd, picked a random fan to live out their lifelong dream of rocking out on stage with Haley Williams (or maybe their lifelong dream was to become a doctor, or maybe a race car driver, I don’t know, that’s not relevant). It was a great show, and the band had a great energy on stage, as did the audience which I had a great time bonding with the people around me.
The last band I saw this weekend was Prophets of Rage over on the Roots Stage. They had released their very first album together just a few days before their show at Riot Fest. This is one of those crazy supergroups made up of talented musicians from several other successful groups, many politically based. So because of this, the band played a little bit of music from all the different groups, giving the audience over an hour of straight eargasms. They opened with Public Enemy’s ‘Prophet’s of Rage’, some Rage Against The Machine hits like ‘Take The Power Back’, and ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’, and a Cypress Hill song ‘How I Could Just Kill A Man’. They also did a couple covers of Audioslave, including an instrumental cover of ‘Like a Stone’ which they dedicated to the late Chris Cornell, while the crowd sang along to the tune. Tom Morello, during a Rage Against The Machine’s cover of ‘Bullet in the Head’, did one of his crazy guitar solos that not many can replicate, playing his guitar with the teeth, while in big black letters “Fuck Trump” was plastered on the back of his instrument, getting the crowd riled up excitedly. It was a crazy and intense show from beginning to end, and a great way to end off an amazing weekend of amazing music, and even more amazing headliners. I didn’t even have time to check out the Side Show act over in the circus tent, ride any of the carnival rides, or play any of the carnival games- which is more a waste of money than casino gambling if we’re being honest with ourselves. But I did make time to see the John Stamos mini art exhibit, which was very underwhelming IMO, and the touching memorial for Riot Fest organizer, Sean McKeough, who had passed away just the previous year.
I think next year I’ll prepare better for the heat and do what other people did, bring a camelback, and do what the even smarter people did, fill it with booze to keep properly hydrated. Live and learn, right? Thanks again Riot Fest Chicago for another fantastic weekend!