Just to get this out of the way, I wasn’t planning on attending the first night of Riot Fest, but I won a ticket by answering a trivia question. I’m glad I went because I ended up having a good time as a whole.
As my friend and I walked in a band called the Unmutuals was playing. We watched a song, got bored and then explored the various merchandise tables set around the Congress Theater.
Next up were the Street Brats. I have three words for the Street Brats: Break up now. If you like poorly executed, generic and cliché-riddled `77-style punk, then you’d love these guys. They’re basically the Casualties of their “genre.” They had the look and sound down pat, and even had a special name for their fans, The Fallen Angels. All the songs sounded the same and they even covered “Surrender” from Cheap Trick. Now I’m not a real Cheap Trick fan, but I do enjoy their songs, and it was horrifying to watch. They also pulled off the biggest dick move of the night when they were informed they had time for one more song. The singer begged to be able to play one more and promised it would be a short one, so the staff relented. What came next was an over four-minute cover of “Stand by Me,” which was completely unnecessary. This cut into the Angry Samoans time slot, a band that traveled from California to play the show. Nice move guys, real classy. Break up now and save yourself the embarrassment of being a “Fallen Angel.”
Thankfully, the Angry Samoans set more than made up for the horrible Street Brats debacle, launching straight into “Electrocute My Cock.” They were sloppy as hell but had more energy than I’ve ever seen a band their age have. The main singer still looked like he was twenty-years-old and was running all over the stage and falling over, consequently unplugging his guitar chord several times during the set. He also switched places with the drummer for a few songs too! They played all the hits like “Homosexual,” “Gas Chamber,” “They Saved Hitler’s Cock,” and “Inside My Brain.”
The Lawrence Arms came up after the Samoans. I didn’t watch their set but went to a table that was selling overstock records from Choke Distribution. At the end of the night I ended up with a box containing almost forty 7”s, two LPs, and two 10”s for the grand total of $8. From what I could hear through the doors it seemed like the crowd loved them.
The Dickies were next. I’ve never been able to get into the Dickies too much because of the guy’s voice, but rest assured that I’m going to give them another try after last. They came out to a hugely positive response to the crowd, and didn’t let the kids (and old guys) down. I had seen pictures of the band playing with props and wasn’t disappointed; they used blow-up dolls, swimming goggles, an ape mask, and an arm-length penis puppet. On top of this, the stage banter they were throwing out was legitimately funny too. Some songs I recognized were “You Drive Me Ape,” “My Pop the Cop,” “Water Slide,” and “Gigantor.” I am definitely going to give the Dickies a second listen.
The Suicide Machines were the second to last band, and the main reason why I got myself to the Congress Theater that night. I’ve never come away from a Suicide Machines show disappointed, and despite problems, this still holds true. During the second song Dan fried the cabinet of his amp beyond repair. They tried and tried to fix it but nothing was working. 60% of their set time was Jay talking to the crowd about various things on his mind. Finally after getting equipment from another band and rigging up about ten cables, the band started up again. The clean channel of his guitar wasn’t working, so Jay promised nothing but punk stuff. The sad thing is that this abbreviated seven-song set ranks up there with the best sets I’ve seen them do. If only the gear hadn’t screwed up.
Suicide Machines set list:
- Someone (with no guitar; this is when all hell broke loose)
- War Profiteering Is Killing Us All
- Too Much
- Your Silence
- Break The Glass
The Dead Kennedys were last. I missed the first few songs of their set because I was purchasing the records I mentioned above. Apparently before they came on, a kid hopped on stage, grabbed a microphone and called the band a bunch of sellouts and fakes, then was promptly tackled by security. If only I could’ve seen that. I heard Jeff Penalty’s voice in the hallways and cringed a little bit. After maybe four or five songs I went back into the main room to watch the rest of their time. Over time I slowly got used to Jeff’s voice. It’s not that he’s bad, per se, but, you know? That’s pretty much the only way I can describe it. It wasn’t bad and I don’t want to burn my Dead Kennedys records, but it wasn’t something I’d see again. They played most of the songs you’d expect from the Fresh Fruit
Overall, it was a positive experience. I’ll be leaving to attend the second night in approximately one hour, and will write up another review. Hopefully this isn’t a one-time only deal.