On the West Coast, a thirty percent chance of rain usually translates to: cloudy with if-you-cross-your-fingers-it-will-rain weather. However, thirty percent chance of rain in the outskirts of Chicago means you don’t turn down your friend’s offer for that umbrella– you are going to get caught in a downpour. On day three of the music festival, Riot Fest fans in Chicago did their best to work with that what Mother Nature offered.
Hostage Calm took to the Rebel Stage, tucked in between trees and what were now small lakes of rainwater separating the fans from the stage. Stage management did what they could to shield equipment from the rain. Amps, mics and equipment were pushed three feet into the stage to avoid the moody downpour. Hostage Calm took a sweet, slow beginning with their love sick song, “The M Word” off their album Please Remain Calm. In pop punk fashion, frontman Chris Martin disregarded the weather in order to connect with the already soaked fan base below. Jumping off stage, he united with fans during “Olly Olly Oxen Free.” Hostage Calm stayed true to their fans and provided a set that made the drizzly morning a little more bearable.
Across the now rainwater lakes in Humboldt Park, Against Me! were finishing up tuning their guitars. Vocalist and guitarist Laura Jane Grace’s daughter, Evelyn, called out to Laura, wishing her good luck before they slide into their afternoon set. Against Me!’s set started out with a soft acknowledgement of Grace’s transition to becoming a female with their first song “Fuckmylife666.” Although the band has been enduring some slight changes, Against Me! assured fans they were just as angsty as ever before. Aside from the logistics, Against Me! still provided a full throttle punk fest with Grace’s iconic rugged vocals still intact; their set included songs from an array of their discography. Fans didn’t fall short when moshing and crowd surfing to “Cliché Guevara” and enjoy some catchier material like “Thrash Unreal” from their 2007 album New Wave. With Laura Jane Grace and the rest of the band beaming from the Roots Stage, you could tell the set was beyond a success, rain and all.
Sporting thigh high leggings, an oversized red plaid flannel and a baseball cap to shield her face from the rain, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno seemed to be channeling the dreary weather. Starting with “Goodbye” off their freshman album Crazy For You, their lows truly were low and their sad broken-hearted lyrics matched the beat of the raindrops falling from the sky. Although Best Coast is known for their pairing of upbeat surfer rock sounds with Cosentino’s diary-esque lyrics, it might have been the clouds that really shined on Best Coast’s bleeding heart. If you didn’t feel like a young, insecure teen going through a fresh break-up after their set, then you, my friend, are heartless. Of course, umbrellas and ponchos danced up a storm to Best Coast’s biggest single, “Boyfriend” during their encore.
Out on tour with AFI, Touché Amoré scored a spot for the Riot Fest bill. The Los Angeles based band has been gaining momentum via online streaming while touring up and down, left and right. Although they shared similar set times as Brand New, Touché Amoré raked in fans and performed songs off Parting the Sea of Brightness and Me, …To the Beat of a Dead Horse and even their newly anticipated album Is Survived By. Even people trudging through puddles to see Brand New paused to listen to frontman Jeremy Bolm’s distinctive solid screams as they echoed across the stage and into the crowd. Maybe it was the moisture in the air and the lack of Vitamin D from the sky, but Bolm’s haunting lyrics hit hard as he belted, “And for my final trick I’ll make everyone who loves me disappear” from “The Great Repetition.” It was safe to say that Touché Amoré left an impression on all alternative rock fans on that cold evening.
At this point in the evening, festival goers sported makeshift ponchos from black trash bags. Merch tables were sold out of all and any hoodies they once had. The rain came down harder than ever but, as overhead by one gentleman, the heavens were merely crying over the amazingness of Brand New, who was up next. Upholding a reputation of being anti-anything, it was truly a surprise that the New York based band made an appearance at the festival. Looking fairly dapper, not sporting his usual hoodie, guitarist and vocalist Jesse Lacey made his way on stage. As the band members took their positions, they welcomed the crowd with a modest hello. A piano intro graced its way out of the speakers and “Vices” off their 2009 album Daisy was the first song to ignite their set. This was a surprise, as rumor had it on the grounds that Brand New would be playing their album Deja Entendu in full. Lacey’s fierce rage erupted fans to turn into a swaying sea that made The Devil Wears Prada’s crowd seem like a tide pool. Bodies aggressively crawled their way toward Lacey, but were propelled back by security to be swallowed into the swarm of hands and heads. Mud, body heat and the rain beat down on fans as guitarist Vincent Accardi delivered sharp riffs with every stride for their last song, “You Won’t Know.” As the crowd chanted the last lyrics to the song, Lacey hoisted up his guitar over his shoulder and threw it into the drum kit behind him. In classic rock and roll style, Brand New walked away without any qualms as fans pleaded for an encore, but received no such thing.
Taking a pit stop off their headlining tour, AFI gave fans a high energy set for old and new fans. The rain was still coming down, but that didn’t stop fans from joining vocalist Davey Havok belt “Girls Not Grey.” It was guitarist Jade Puget’s beginning chords of “Just Like Heaven” that unified both their hardcore fans and those simply waiting through AFI’s set for The Replacements. Swaying together to the iconic, descending guitar riffs of The Cure song, fans chanted together “You’re just like a dream!” It just took one strum of the bass to indicate that “Miss Murder” would be the next song on the set list. It was evident that the 2006 single still had the same affect, as Havok allowed the crowd to chant the full chorus. AFI made sure their set included nostalgic songs from their earlier albums, as well as newer songs for those who were new to the band. Nevertheless, Havok utilized every inch of the stage, jumping off the base drum for a toe touch, climbing on speakers and feeding off the energy from the soaked crowd.
The lineup consisted of bands that you probably had on a mixed CD in middle school, but it was the last two sets of the night that would satisfy those who knew the orignal process of making a real mixed tape. An older crowd pushed forward, butting out those who couldn’t name a single from the Pixies, who were up next. Harsh lighting and massive amounts of fog bared down on the alternative rock icons. Opening up with two cover songs, “Big New Prinz” by The Fall and The Jesus and Mary Chain song “Head On,” wasn’t what listeners anticipated. With a quick transition and spotlight on guitarist and lead vocalist Black Francis, “Indie Candy,” off their latest EP, was up next, but it was 1993 all over again when they played ”Where Is My Mind” and “Debaser.” Fans missed original bassist Kim Deal, but Kim Shuttuck still provided the same energy and harmonizing female vocals that complimented the Pixies’ sound.
Fifteen years ago, you were just being born, starting your first day of elementary school, or you were an angsty teen wiping your tears away at the news that this band had called it quits. It’s been fifteen years since The Replacements were a band and now they had reunited to take the stage (well, two of the three original members reunited). Original drummer Chris Mars opted out from the festival set reunion, but no one seemed to mind. Although known for drunken performances, The Replacements left that in their past. They still provided a very high energy, sporadic act that caused everyone in the crowd to rock out. They were back in full throttle with “Taking A Ride” as their first song, off their first album Sorry Ma, I Forget To Take The Trash Out. Guitarist and vocalist Paul Westernberg bantered with the crowd and bandmates in between songs. Although they are all in their late forties and early fifties, The Replacements still delivered the same thirst with every song as they did when their albums were first released. Westernberg still had it and the crowd still wanted it.
The Replacements Set List:
Takin’ a Ride
I’m in Trouble
I Don’t Know (“Buck Hill” interlude)
Color Me Impressed
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out (Jimi Hendrix “3rd Stone from the Sun” interlude)
Achin’ to Be
Androgynous (“Hey Good Lookin'” outro)
I Will Dare
Love You Till Friday
Maybellene (Chuck Berry cover)
Merry Go Round
Borstal Breakout (Sham 69 cover)
Left of the Dial
Kiss Me on the Bus
Waitress in the Sky
Can’t Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
Hold My Life