LIVE: Riot Fest Sunday – Veggie Nachos

By Mike Petruccelli

My final day at Riot Fest was my busiest day of the three, mainly because there were a ton of smaller bands playing whom I’ve never seen before and I wanted to make it a point to see as much as possible before the festival finished. At the end of the day, I managed to see every single one of them.

9/13/14- Riot Fest Day Three

11:30am– When I entered the main gate I noticed the mud had been compacted and dried up, but it still felt like I was walking on bread dough. Of the three days, this would have been the day to wear sneakers, however I was still in my muddy jeans and boots from the past two days. I did this because when you grow up in the Midwest you learn to not trust the weather, even if the forecaster on T.V. is a fucking genie or some shit. I also had my poncho and umbrella as well.

11:37pm– As I was walking through the crowd at Rebel Stage my huge backpack (which was sort of a nuisance the whole time I was at Riot Fest) hit a girl in passing. She yelled out “You’re a fucking dick!” right before I was about to apologize to her. I looked at her cold in the eyes said “Thanks!” and moved onward. It was my third day without any real sleep or slowing down, any compassion or guilt wasn’t happening on my end, that’s for God damn sure.*

(*I actually felt really guilty but that’s beside the point)

The Menzingers
11:46am- I don’t completely understand the fanatic appeal of The Menzingers, but it doesn’t change the fact they were the best band to have opening on Sunday. Everyone was tired, especially the three day ticket holders, at this point we experienced roughly 18 hours of festival and still had another 11 hours to go. It was like the opening riff to “I Don’t Want to Be an Asshole Anymore” was some sort of reset button for the crowd, then once “The Obituaries” was played, the crowd started hand clapping and singing along louder. The sun was out, the carnival rides were moving, and the weather was finally not too cold or rainy. Sunday was going to be a good day.

12:04pm- I moved frantically from The Menzingers to the Revolt Stage to see Chumped play a heartfelt and poppy set. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Chumped is notable for their swinging, soulful guitar melodies and Anika Pyle’s unique voice. I couldn’t help but feel the intensity of their set peak when the lines of “Dear Emily Dickinson” rang out: “I am not a martyr, I’m not a saint, I never said I was perfect, never said you were to blame. I’m still loving you the same.” A lot of serious emotions wrapped up in very simple and melodic song writing, it’s always a great thing in my opinion.

12:43pm- After Chumped, I headed quickly to the Riot Stage with my friends Jason, Sam, and Kelsey to see Laura Stevenson and The Cans. All the while, I was purposefully making fun of her to piss them off because that’s the type of person that I am. This was also an opportunity for me to focus on getting a decent vantage point for The Front Bottoms following her set (there is no way I was able to word that sentence without it sounding weird). Once we got our spots in the shade though, I was reminded that even though Laura Stevenson isn’t my favourite artist, she has a beautiful and versatile voice that cut through the afternoon air like a knife. For a good 25 minutes I stood in awe at the band playing shuffle rock about the end of the world, and making the accordion an instrument that wasn’t to be laughed it. I have been listening to “Sit/Resist” for the past couple days now because of their set at Riot Fest, proving that sometimes you need to just experience a band live to understand them.

1:14pm- The Front Bottoms opened with “Skeleton” from their most recent LP “The Talon of The Hawk” and the crowd respectively lost their shit. I can’t really say much more about their presence, a majority of The Front Bottoms crowd was younger and all of them connected with singer Brian Sella’s vocals from beginning to end, how could they not? He is an extremely confident front man, posted up and sneering through lyrics like he’s making threats to the audience. The whole band was in their element, playing fast, simplistic acoustic songs that have straightforward lyrics and the occasional dance beat (see “The Beers” or “Flying Model Rockets”). It was the only set where I felt old but oddly not out of touch, I can’t say if I am okay with that or not.


2:03pm- I arrived early to the Revolt Stage to see PUP. A week earlier I had seen them while on vacation in London and they were absolutely phenomenal (and I left my pink copy of their album in a Wetherspoons near the venue, YOU’RE WELCOME WHOEVER WHO FOUND IT). Their set at Riot Fest was no different, which is why I’m going to say this was my favorite out of all of them, end of story. Aside from some assholes throwing beach balls around the crowd (fucking seriously guys, this isn’t Lollapalooza), everything about their performance was perfect. They opened with some guitar feedback and then went straight into “Guilt Trip.” The Revolt Stage was relatively small, but people came out of the woodwork and it was packed all around by the time PUP finished. The best song in my opinion was the slow burning “Yukon”, a 5:26 brooding story that started slow and eventually had everyone screaming the line “In the Yukon where you left me on my knees” at the top of their lungs. I rarely see aggression and creativity mix well with newer bands, but PUP really did knock it out of the park with their performance. They closed with “Reservoir” and singer Stefan Babock dove into the crowd with his guitar, maintained playing his guitar part, and then made it back to the stage in time to sing the final chorus. It was beyond impressive.

2:55pm- I realized that it was only midday and I was already exhausted. At this moment, I believe I was at Red Bull #4 of the day. Let’s see if I can remember exactly how many cans I had before I finish this piece. Anyway, if you know anything about Superchunk, you know that they have some of the catchiest songs ever and you may also know they their live performance is pretty much true to album. I was blown away at how exact each song was during their set. After the intensity of PUP, it was great bobbing and singing along to the “Whoa oh ohs” on “Digging for Something” and belting the chorus to “Learned to Surf.” Off in the distance there was a child on the shoulders of his dad with a set of shotgun ear muffs that had a Merge Records sticker on them, next to me where a couple talking about how Mac Mccaughan hasn’t changed since the mid-90s with his stage presence. I believe they closed with “Slack Motherfucker.” I felt like the crowd could have been more energetic, but keep in mind it was day three.

3:30pm – Veggie nachos are the greatest invention known to man, Red Bulls # 6 and #7 also happened around this time.

5:26pm- I decided to take a chance and see Hot Snakes play a sneering and moody set on the Rebel Stage. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes seeing a band live changes your opinion of them, and this was no different. When they took the stage there was no talking, just the sound of smartass audience members yelling “PLAY LOUDER”, “PLAY SOFTER”, “GO DEEPER” as the band set up. Once Hot Snakes hit their first note, it was just instantaneous dissonance and grooving post punk rhythms. By the time the song “LAX” happened mid set I was immediately thinking “How have I never heard this band?” All four members played cohesively and had what almost seemed like a rude attitude to their performance. Their highlight was the song “Suicide Invoice” in which they executed a near perfect build up throughout the song, keeping a very anxious feeling and leaving the audience completely spellbound. Every once and a while you realize a band has been off your radar, but it’s always a good feeling once you find them.

5:28- Red Bull #8.

Modern Baseball

6:15pm- I stood back for Modern Baseball mainly because a) I was tired and b) “Holy shit those high school kids really are getting serious with the crowd surfing.” Annoyances aside, the lead singer cleverly introduced themselves as “Fake Weezer” and then went straight into “Fine, Great”, the opening track on their recent album “You’re Gonna Miss it All.” As much as I wanted to judge this band, I couldn’t help but make the connection to how I felt when I first heard Andrew Jackson Jihad. The honest, heart on the sleeve punk genre where everything is brutally honest is what attracts people; it’s a no bullshit format. This is no different with Modern Baseball, at least in my opinion; they just don’t hold back on any flaws with their music, it’s completely honest. Also, their performance was more than just them; it was their audience too, singing together like a band with a choir. That’s a rare feeling for a bunch of awkward, weird kids, so by the end of the set I was impressed by the devotion from the fans more than the band’s set. I was still content with standing next to a trash can watching them though.

7:07pm- The Revolt Stage is the only place throughout the whole weekend where I stayed for two performances in a row, and the bands couldn’t have been anymore different. Thus, as the Modern Baseball fans left, I am the Avalanche fans came flooding in with denim vests and slick pomade haircuts. Considering I looked like a dirty lumberjack wearing a baseball cap, I fit in pretty well (I didn’t). Anyway, I am the Avalanche came out and surprisingly had a lot of versatility to their sound. I was expecting a whole set of songs like “177” and “Brooklyn Dodgers”, but mid set they played a song called “Green Eyes” from their self-titled record which was a slow, melodic departure from much of their material. As much as I would like to group them into the “post hardcore” category, I really feel like I am the Avalanche is doing their own thing which is a good thing to see and experience first-hand.

8:12pm- On my way to The Cure I found my friend Sarah, we must have manoeuvred through at least 1,000 people just to get a decent view of the Jumbotrons. After a while, we decided to see leave and see Weezer, realizing that we didn’t know much of the material The Cure played for 45 minutes (mind you, they went on for two hours and fifteen minutes, so the hits came later on in the evening I assume). As much as I like and respect The Cure, having a chance to see “The Blue Album” in full sparked my interest more, so onward to the Rebel Stage we went, back through the sea of people, God damn it.

8:17pm- Red Bull #9.
(here’s a quick succession of events prior to seeing Weezer)

8:20pm- “Oh shit, there’s like a billion people in the crowd to see Weezer.”
8:21pm- “Oh look, we’re now a part of that crowd.”
8:22pm- “Holy shit, we can’t really move or breathe, let’s fight our way out.”
8:24pm- “We made it out! We’re alive! We’ll see another day!”
8:26pm- “Wait, what’s that? Is that food vendor selling buckets of fries covered in cheese and bacon bits?”

8:30pm- *cue montage of eating cheese fries covered in bacon bits from a plastic bucket like it’s the only food left on the planet*


8:50pm- One of the HUGE mistake the festival made was putting Weezer on a stage next to a bunch of carnival rides and attractions, because of this there was really nowhere to stand or see. It felt like the crowd was never-ending and the vantage points were terrible. Sarah and I met up with Stephanie under the Fun Slide and decided to leave. Luckily, we realized there was a ton of space in the back of the crowd, so we found a spot and watched the show.

9:31pm- Like “Milo Goes to College” the night before, there’s really nothing much I can say to do justice to a band or an album that are so well known and highly praised. I can say, though, that Weezer did a phenomenal job of helping me relive my childhood with their performance of “The Blue Album.” From the opening chords of “My name is Jonas” to the dual singing in “Surf Wax America” to the somber undertones of “Only in Dreams”, it was all executed exactly how I imagined- true to album, all songs in order, and no room for experimentation or flashy interpretation. Playing against a blue stage backdrop that mimicked the album cover, Weezer gave the fans just what they wanted, and judging by the cheers, everyone was okay with that.


11:06pm- So that’s that. After three days of bands, mud, Red Bulls, destroyed Doc Martens, crowds, and food devoid of nutritional value, I was at home. Riot Fest 2014 was an interesting experience, it’s become one of the biggest festivals in Chicago and some will say that’s a bad thing, others will say it’s a good thing. Aside from the layout and bad weather this year, it was enjoyable and worthwhile, at least in my opinion.

The horseshoe design of the park and distance between certain stages was really unfortunate, but I’m sure they’ll have the kinks worked next year. The one thing I wanted to make note is that this festival, no matter how mainstream it has become, seems to still be one for outcasts. At Riot Fest, you don’t see a multitude college kids on designer drugs and dressed in neon, you don’t have 45 DJ sets with accompanying light shows, and you definitely don’t see people being complete shitheads and running around for their fashion blog, or taking selfies while a band is playing. Even in the most intense moments, there was a relaxing quality with my experience, I think it’s because people who end up there appreciate the music, not the experience of “being at a festival.” The attendees want to see musicians hone their skills and do what they do best, whether it’s a platinum selling band from the 80s, or a younger band touring in their van. That says a lot for a festival where, a decade ago, was merely street punk bands playing in small venues across Chicago. Therefore, I’m excited to see how Riot Fest 2015 pans out, I’m sure it will be another great line up next Fall, but for now I need to get some sleep.

Over and out,