Riot Fest - Live in Chicago (Part one) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Riot Fest

Live in Chicago (Part one) (2014)

live show

After Riot Fest Chicago 2013, I had no intention of going back. I had watched this thing move from the clubs to the Humboldt Park. As the headliners got bigger, so did the crowds. The punk acts were joined by more mainstream alternative and metal bands. More bands meant more scheduling conflicts, not necessarily more bang for your buck. The ticket prices climbed from $100 for the weekend to $200 or more with additional cost for the club shows. This year, my weekend VIP ticket plus one club show set me back about $360.

By 2013 the crowds had gotten so big that it was difficult to get from stage to stage. It rained on Sunday, compounding the misery. A sublime closing set by The Replacements was the only thing that saved the day. When the once again amazing line—up for 2014 was announced, I caved and bought tickets. Unfortunately, Riot Fest 2014 picked up right where the previous year left off.

It rained steadily all day Friday, and by late afternoon, the entire grounds were a muddy mess. Although it would not rain Saturday or Sunday, the park would never recover. Some spots were so treacherous, you were taking your life into your hands by walking on them. Getting in and out of port—o—potties was gross and dangerous. Shoes were destroyed beyond all repair. You could not avoid the mud, you just did your best to keep your ass and face out of it. I certainly can't blame the organizers for the weather. Shit happens, we did our best to deal with it.

Riot Fest was also moved to a different, larger area of the park. I assume this was to accommodate more people and improve traffic flow. While it did seem to allow for more bodies, the traffic flow was a disaster. I'm sure it looked fine on paper, but the (muddy) road to hell is paved with good intentions. Bad layout plus rain equals human gridlock. These are well documented facts. Social media was blowing up with criticism before The Cure even finished their lengthy, closing set. While I'm sure the Riot Fest people only want to be judged on the music, these other factors must be taken into consideration when deciding how to spend our hard earned entertainment dollars. Anyway, let's talk about the rock.

Friday's highlights:
1. Stiff Little Fingers. This was the first whole set we caught. The long running Irish punks played an inspired half hour.
2. Jane's Addiction. Their full album performance of Nothing's Shocking was mesmerizing. We also caught a little Slayer on the way out. It was a good ending for what was mostly a cold, wet, miserable day.

Friday's lowlights:
1. ALL. The Friday afternoon traffic was so heavy that we missed one of my old favorites. Getting to the park can be a bit of a chore. It requires a train ride or two plus a bus/cab ride or long walk.
2. NOFX. We had to listen to a dull, dirge—like set from Failure while waiting for NOFX to go on. It reminded me of everything that blew about 90's rock. Apparently Fat Mike felt the same. He took the stage yelling at them about how bad they suck, even offering to pay them to break up. NOFX are the kings of shit—talking, and for that I give them an A+. Unfortunately, the rest of their set was barely a C. The sound was bad (not their fault) and their playing was sloppy. They did most of the Punk In Drublic album and 3/4 of The Decline before they ran out of time and were forced to quit. The kids seemed to enjoy it, but I've been seeing this band for 20+ years, and this was well below average.

Saturday's highlights:
1. 7 Seconds/Buzzcocks/Television/Face To Face. Great string of early afternoon bands on Saturday. Kevin Seconds kept encouraging a circle pit on ground that was barely fit to walk on. Buzzcocks played a great half hour of noisy, poppy punk. Television slowed things down with some interesting art—punk. Face To Face played an aggressive set that was more punk than pop. They stuck to mostly older, crowd—pleasing material. This was a personal favorite.
2. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes/Cock Sparrer/Descendents/Samhain. MFGG's were funny, tight, and dapper with their Hawaiian motif. Cock Sparrer are old men who play like young men. Their joyful performances are contagious. Another personal favorite. Descendents played Milo Goes To College front to back, plus a bunch of other great stuff. It was excellent set. It was also great to see Glenn Danzig with his face covered in fake blood, singing those old Samhain songs. They did the whole Initium album, and a few more.

Saturday's lowlights:
Other than the condition of Humboldt Park, Saturday was a good day.

To be continued........