Riot Fest - Day 1 (Cover Artwork)

Riot Fest

Day 1 (2023)

live show

It’s almost hard to believe, but Riot Fest season is upon us. It seems like yesterday that the Original Misfits destroyed the Riot Fest stage once again! The annual Chicago based three day festival returned to Douglas Park once again for a diverse collection of bands and artists. As always, with any festival, you are faced with the unfortunate reality of having to skip bands in favor of another. Luckily I was able to obtain by credentials and get inside to catch the first band I wanted to see for the day.

I have heard a lot about the California band Aquadolls and was eager to catch their set. This poppy garage rock quartet had a solid crowd of roughly 200 watching them early. The band played the Aqua song “Barbie Girl” on the PA as their intro reel before kicking into their 30 minute set of pop with fuzz guitars. Overall the band received a positive response from the crowd who clapped along most of the set. Some songs performed were “Sneaky,” “Cuthroat,” and “Communication Is Sexy.” The band also covered one of the songs from the fictitious band Pink Slip from the movie Freaky Friday. I hope to catch this band again.

After Aquadolls, I head over to the smaller Rebel Stage to catch The Bobby Lees. Like the Aquadolls, I have been hearing much about them but have not heard their music. They currently record for Ipecac Records (IE - The Melvins, etc), and seem like a good fit for the label. This band from Woodstock, New York play a unique blend of noise punk and garage. For added visuals, the drummer performed in nothing but his tighty whiteys. Lead vocalist Sam Quartin would switch off between playing some songs with guitar and others without. She was extremely energetic and pumped up the crowd. The only song title I was able to catch was “Hollywood Junkyard” which appears on their latest LP from 2022.

A little later in the early afternoon I caught a few songs of Parliament Funkadelic. As expected, they had a very enthusiastic crowd show up to see these legends. Frontman George Clinton has been in the business for decades and is always entertaining. The band would mix in contemporary rhymes with their own originals. They even covered the House of Pain classic “Jump Around.” Highly recommended to see these funk masters should you get the chance.

Festivals serve a great purpose for me in finally seeing bands live who I like and appreciate, but have never gone out to see at their own show. This year, Interrupters were high on that list for me. This band’s popularity has continued to grow expotentially this past decade. I feel that unlike many other ska punk bands, the Interrupters mix in well with bands of almost any genre. Why that is, I truly do not know. Either way, as I had hoped and expected, the band performed an energetic one hour set full mostly of well known songs. The band opened with the anthem “Take Back The Power” off their 2014 debut album. From there, the band played a career spanning retrospective of songs that included “Turntable,” “She Got Arrested,” Raised By Wolves,” and “She’s Kerosene.” They even performed their version of the Bille Eilish hit “Bad Guy” in their own style. The band continuously shows their gratitude for performing at Riot Fest that day. They had mentioned that they had previously appeared about 10 years ago prior to the release of their debut album. Their professionalism on stage is certainly indicative of the amount of time this band spends on the road.

Next up was Quicksand who performed their debut major label album Slip as the first full album play of the festival. This New York post hardcore band has reunited in recent years following a Revelation Records reunion event. Since then, the band has released two new albums on Epitaph Records. A solid crowd showed up to sing along to classics such as “Fazer” and “Dine Alone,” amongst others. Lead vocalist/guitarist Walter Schreifels had his work cut out for him this weekend, as Rival Schools performed on Saturday, with Gorilla Biscuits performing Sunday.

I went to University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana the same four years as Bob Nanna from Braid. It was indeed exciting to watch that band grow from the ground up to become the groundbreaking emo band of our generation. They performed their album “Frames & Canvases” in full for their set. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch a couple songs. They easily had a crowd of 500 plus enthusiastic fans rocking along to their set. It had been decades since I last saw Braid so I hope the chance arises soon.

Friends of mine were excited to see Tegan and Sara. I fully admit to only knowing the band by name, so I use these festivals as an opportunity to learn and see something new. I had truly expected a slow and more emotional indie rock type performance. The band rocked pretty hard and had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the get go. Tegan and Sara both interacted often with the crowd which made for a fun and pleasurable performance. I apologize to their fans as I truly am not familiar with their music to speak on the performance track by track. Research of their setlist reveals 14 songs performed spanning 6 albums, so fans of all eras were certainly pleased.

Next up was time for the rock n roll powerhouse the Foo Fighters. Fans of this band are not going to be happy with this review. One of my all time favorite Chicago area bands Sludgeworth have recently reunited and were performing on the Rebel Stage about 45 minutes after the start of the Foo set. I was able to catch the first four songs of Foo. They came out rocking right from the start and didn’t seem to slow down. “All My Life” was the set opener followed by “The Pretender.” These both were solid choices in warming up the crowd. After this, the band went into jam mode for a while and noodled on Metallica and Black Sabbath prior to commencing “No Son of Mine.” After this jam session, Foo went right into “Learn to Fly” which got the crowd energized again. Following this song, I headed over to the Rebel Stage.

If you are unfamiliar with Sludgeworth, they were formed by vocalist Dan Schafer (Vapid) and drummer Brian McQuaid (Vermin) following the first break-up of Screeching Weasel. This band would pack in local clubs in both the suburbs and city on a regular basis quickly making a name for themselves. Following a re-release of their Losers Of The Year retrospective, the band is out performing again. Going up against Foo Fighters is no easy task but the band rocked out in front of about 150 faithful friends and fans. For those familiar, the band performed classics such as “Someday” and “Two Feet On The Ground” as well as previously unreleased songs which first appeared on Losers Of The Year such as “The Nearest One To Stand Behind.” There have been rumblings of the band potentially recording new material. This rumor seems to be true as a couple new tunes were performed as well. If you like the 90s pop punk sound mixed with the classic Chicago punk sound, I strongly urge you to check out Sludgeworth.

Day 1 was a long and exhausting, but yet eventful and successful day. As always, I ran into friends both old and new. I was able to witness bands I already adored, as well as those new to my ears. In addition, I was able to do a quick interview with Walter from Quicksand / Rival Schools / Gorilla Biscuits which should be posted soon.