Day Two of Riot Fest Chicago: the attendance seemed greater and the temperatures steeped lower for the Windy City. With gates opening earlier, lines of fans were tightly knit, ready to see bands who were locked into sets as early as eleven thirty. For those who still had to wait for their set selection, they took to see what had become of the foot-long block of butter from Day One of the festival. Behold, sculpted beautifully is a butter sculpture of John Stamos during his Full House days. Surely, the iconic mullet never look so delicious and strangely appetizing until now. Across the way, the young Florida native band Surfer Blood took to the Root Stage. Their mellow surf-rock vibe drew in a decent crowd as guitarist and singer John Paul took to the audience to sing along to their hit single, “Swim.” Surfer Blood’s sunny post-punk hooks brought some sunlight to the not-so-sunny Saturday morning.
After just hopping off a flight from Toronto, Stars came and went with a lighthearted and energetic feel. Vocalists Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan did not hold the audience short with their bouncy vibe and quick dance moves by opening with “Fixed.” They melted the hearts of many when performing “Your Ex-Lover is Dead,” at one point even bringing a young teen to tears up in the front row. At the Rise Stage, chants, cheers and poppy grooves were of abundance.
A polar opposite scene was brewing on the Rock Stage. The Devil Wears Prada looked over a sea of black that lay before of them, packed together tightly and anticipating the storm. If the clouds above weren’t going to unleash it, the melodic metalcore band was just about to. After a short introduction, frontman Mike Hranica snarled into the mic and kicked off with “Mammoth,” off their 2011 album Dead Throne. The brooding crowd broke out in mosh pits and bodies of those brave enough to ride the sea of fans flew towards security. Stopping to see the choppy waves of fists, Hranica then announced that the next song, “Chicago,” would be the last time the band would ever perform it. Fit for the setting and location, TDWP fans pushed and swayed to the death growls that rang aggressively through the speakers. Whether or not you were a fan of the metalcore act, you couldn’t help but pause and appreciate the level of connection and performance TDWP conducted on stage.
For those who couldn’t bear the ripping growls coming from The Devil Wears Prada, others took to the Roots Stage for Dinosaur Jr. Breaking right into “Watch the Corners” from their 2012 album I Bet On Sky, guitarist and lead vocalist J Mascis’s languid vocals offered a calmer atmosphere. Unless one was familiar with the band’s three decade history and influence within the alternative punk scene, their reposed demure came off bland and uninteresting in the beginning of their set. However, once comfortable and easing into older tracks did Dinosaur Jr. put on a live set interesting enough to watch.
Aside from all of the great bands that occupied the five different stages in Humboldt Park, fans took advantage of other outlets accessible on the grounds. Fans were able to go down several avenues dedicated to vendors, merch tables and carnival games. Werewolf-like characters and zombified carnival performers grazed the park, scaring festivalgoers. Prize winners piggybacked giant stuffed monkeys, snakes and even took home their very own Gizmo from the movie Gremlins. As cute as these prizes were, other than using them to help regroup with friends-– it is safe to acknowledge that the toys will find their way to a thrift store near you.
Tucked in the back by the avenue of vendors stood the Rebel Stage. Native Los Angelenos, New Beat Fund prepared to take the stage. With bassist Fat Snaps sporting a vibrant purple ‘do and frontman Burnie Baker rocking white “sunnies” in front of a rainbow poster with the band’s dollar sign logo, a colorful performance was undeniable. The quartet’s groovy beats shared some Sublime influence and pulled in those ready to bump to the beat or shimmy. Definitely one of the most poppy bands on the day’s lineup, New Beat Fund served a dish of fun with their song “Get Up” and “Peachez” from their EP ($) Coinz. Many seemed to be liking the taste and craved more as the band bid their goodbyes.
It became harder to determine which bands to catch as the day slipped by, something a coin toss couldn’t easily solve. By the evening, Flag and Blondie shared the similar set times. Flag took the main stage and Keith Morris gave the crowd the same stern message he gave at FYF Fest: “We are not Black Flag. We are Flag!” The set list was copied verbatim from the FYF Fest set list in fact, opening with “Revenge” and ending with Richard Berry’s cover “Louie Louie.” This Chicago crowd could either see through what Morris was doing or just didn’t feel right about watching “Gimme Gimme” without Henry Rollins raging on stage. Whatever it was, it was certainly the calmest Black Fla–I mean, Flag– fans I’ve ever witnessed.
Parallel to Flag, the Queen of Punk, Debbie Harry graced the stage, welcoming Halloween a little early in a wizarding gown. At 68, with her signature pout and iconic platinum blonde hair, Debbie Harry captivated all immediately with fan favorite “One Way or Another.” Harry received uproar of approval from fans with her rap game, covering a snippet of “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys during “Rapture.” Of course, it wouldn’t be right to send fans away without wrapping up with “Heart of Glass” and finally, “Call Me.” With a blow of a kiss and a twirl of her cape, Harry was gone just as fast as she appeared.
Veterans to the punk in early nineties and millennium took hold of the last o the set times. Rancid schooled the festival on true American punk and the fans took to the lesson willingly. Photographers in the photo pit did not last more than a minute into the band’s first song “Radio”. The amount of bodies hurdling over towards the stage was too many for security’s comfort. Mouths of mosh pits opened and closed, spitting out fans to crawl on the hands and heads of other spectators in the crowd. With their hour long set, it was 1995 again as Rancid covered all of the fan favorites such as “Radical Roots”, “Time Bomb” and “I Wanna Riot”. Fans cheered, throwing their heads back and chanted along with Frontman and guitarist Tim Armstrong provided a three-song encore fans couldn’t get enough.
The sun has set on Humboldt Park and the crowd around the main stage pushes close, trying to find body heat while they wait anxiously. A banner unfolds from the stage and the crowd screams as the iconic exed out smiley face of Blink 182’s logo smiles back. Fans break into the chorus of Blink 182’s song “Blowjob”, leaving security guards laughing hysterically at the content of the song. Lights dimmed on the stage and roams erupted from the crowd. A blow up portrait of Christopher Walkins bobbed up and down in the distance as guitarists and vocalists, Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Baker took the stage. Shielding their eyes from the lights, the trio absorbed in the night and without missing a beat, Baker kicked off the band’s hour and fifteen minute set. “Feeling This” was the first on their set list, along with “What’s My Age Again?”, “First Date” and “Dumpweed”. Hoppus and DeLonge both shared japs and jokes with one another on stage, even admitting to their failed attempts at not drinking prior to the set, only to receive encouraging chants from their fans. Festivalgoers swayed and lighters flicked on during “I Miss You”, one of the band’s slower heartfelt jams. For “riot”-eers that came to the festival hoping for a nostalgic throwback, it was hard not to stand next to someone and sing along to “All The Small Things”. With blasts from confetti cannons, the wind carried the flecks West and fans followed playing their air drums. After the past two days everyone will surely have to stop and ask himself or herself, “what’s my age again?”