Riot Fest has been going on in Chicago for 15 years. They've always had amazing lineups but this year's seemed to good to pass up, like I've done the previous 14 years. It took little coaxing from my hetero life mate B Defeated to convince me it was time to make the trip to Chicago. We decided to go all out and do all 3 days.
We got there the day before everything started to get our bearings. A few connecting flights and a long car ride and we ended up in the budget friendly Addison. We ended up at a local pub called Muggs 'N Manor. We hung out with the locals who were really cool but just a little to proud to pronounce Chicago as the murder capital of the world. Everyone was really bummed they weren't going to Riot Fest with us. We found the cool locals for sure.
The next day we took another long car ride back in to Chicago, and got dropped off at Douglas Park, site of the Legendary Riot Fest! Despite some confusion at the gate, we got in relatively easy. This was important because we really wanted to see one of the first bands of the day, The Garden.
The Garden started off Riot Fest with an amazing set. It was my first time seeing them and I was blown away by the Twins' set of SoCal Surf and Punk inspired Drum/Bass/Sample/Rage/Expressive Dance Bonanza. They were definitely the most unique act we caught. I've played hockey with their Dad for years and it was good to see they drew a pretty large crowd and got everyone seriously wound up for the day ahead.
Riot Fest was stretched over 5 different stages, mixed in amongst a ton of Carnival Fair, Beer Tents, Food Trucks, Merch Booths, and of course, Port a Potties. Goose Island was the dominant Beer Supplier and their Riot Fest Sucks Pale Ale was legit and also useful, as it came with a Lineup Card wrapped around the can. Good stuff.
Next, we cruised around checking things out and catching a few acts, including Anti Flag who put on their usual set of angsty anti Republican agenda.
Next up was Hot Water Music, who played all their hits, mostly from "Caution" and "A Flight and a Crash". Unfortunately, it was one of the few points of the festival that the wind messed with the sound. It wasn't bad, just a little distracting.
Next, we ran over to catch Senses Fail play their entire "Let it Enfold You" album. It was packed for their set. They were actually pretty amazing. The last time I saw them live, they weren't that great but they killed it this day. The crowd ate it up, even when they broke out a 90's metal montage.
There was not a lot of free time at the Festival...constant great bands going off, so it was hard to catch everyone or not cut out early for some sets. We got to Violent Femmes a little late and ended up way in the back. Surprisingly, the sound was not bad. These guys were huge when I was in High School and I forgot how many great songs they have. I think everyone else thought so too because there was no way to get closer, and we're pros at navigating large crowds. They played all their hits, "Blister in the Sun", "Add it Up" and "Gone Daddy Gone. I'm going to assume they played "Kiss Off" but we missed it when we took off to go see Pennywise!
Pennywise was one of the first punk bands I got into and I've been following them around ever since. It was good to finally catch a set with Jim back in the band. They played a rare mix of only really old and really new songs. They didn't play one song off of "Unknown Road", which was kind of a bummer. They did bust out "Kodiak", which was surprising. Pennywise is one tight band and they always bring it onstage.
After Pennywise ended their set with "Bro Hymn", the toughest decision of the day was made. Do we go see a little bit of the Descendants and miss Rancid entirely, while trying to run to blink-182 or do we miss the Descendants, watch Rancid, skip the last couple of songs and get a good spot for blink? Sorry Milo and crew, it was a tough one.
Rancid hit the stage as the Sun went down. They have a ton of great songs but I could be happy just listening to Matt Freeman play bass for their whole set. Tim Armstrong and crew blasted through a great set and the crowd ate it up, as they played songs from their entire catalog. Unfortunately, we had to bail with a few songs left because we had to high tail it to get a good spot for blink-182.
That did not happen.
Everyone was there to see blink, by far the biggest crowd of the festival. The Flaming Lips were going off on the stage directly next to blinks. We busted out our crowd navigation skills and attempted to work our way to stage center. Apparently blink changes people because this was the only point in the Festival where people decided to ignore personal space with such reckless abandon. I felt like a sardine in a crushed can of sardines. Yeah, it smelled too. At one point, my feet didn't touch the ground for ten minutes. On the upside, I made new friends, Andrew where are you? The anticipation of the crowd only grew as the Flaming Lips ended. Then the stage blew up and blink charged into "Dumpweed" and everyone scattered to the ends of Douglas Park. Things opened up and we were able to breath again. At some point, I had lost B but once blink started blasting, we magically ended up standing right next to each other. It was that Show/Festival Veteran status that kept us from getting lost all weekend long.
Blink played their "Enema of the State" album in it's entirety and the crowd sang every word. The light show was ridiculous, thus all of my photos came out terrible. This was my second time seeing them without Tom and I really think they're better with Matt Skiba, even if he is a sober cat now. After Enema, they busted out a few more classics and that was it. The end of Day 1 at Riot Fest. 2 more days like this? We're going to die.
Getting back to our hotel turned into a freak of an adventure, including the longest Lyft of all time. We would soon regret skipping dinner, as there were no open restaurants near our hotel and all the liquor stores were closed. We went to sleep hungry for food and Day 2 of Riot Fest.
Wolf and Crown
Stories of Wretched Dreamers & Degenerate Conquerors