Riot Fest Recap

I’ve never been in a riot
I’ve never been in a fight
I’ve never been in anything
That turns out right
— Mekons, “Never Been in a Riot”

The only thing I saw at Riot Fest that came close to an actual riot was the young guys slam dancing amid the middle-aged Replacements fans on Sunday night. Or maybe the squeals of delight and grasping arms of all those teenage girls and 20ish women who’d thronged a barricade to watch the young men of the pop-punk band All Time Low might qualify as quasi-riotous.

Riot or not, which I wrote about earlier). But Riot Fest featured plenty of other noteworthy bands, including a number of iconic punk, post-punk and new wave acts who have been playing since the 1990s, ’80s or even the ’70s.

Joan Jett
Joan Jett

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were the high point on Friday; even their new songs sounded good, though the crowd clearly wanted to hear the old hits, which Jett and her band delivered in style. The other bands that I caught on Friday — Screeching Weasel, Bad Religion, GWAR and Danzig — didn’t interest me as much, but I was impressed by Bad Religion’s ferocity. I stayed out of the way when GWAR began spraying fake blood at the crowd. See more photos from Day 1.

X
X

Saturday was filled with strong sets by “oldies” acts including an intense early-afternoon performance by X.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. jammed out in the afternoon sun, closing its set with a great cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard looked tipsy as he came onstage, quickly chugging down some whisky, but as soon as the band started playing, he was kicking up his leg and twirling his microphone cord in classic GBV style.

Former members of the punk band Black Flag announced, “This is not Black Flag — this is Flag” … and then proceeded to play a bunch of Black Flag songs, prompting youngsters to crowd-surf.

Blondie
Blondie

Led by a warlock-outfit-wearing Debbie Harry, Blondie inspired some swooning by the band’s longtime fans. The old hits sounded good, even if the newer tunes and deeper cuts were less distinguished.

Public Enemy
Public Enemy

Public Enemy gave one of the weekend’s most galvanizing performances, with Chuck D and Flavor Flav jumping in tandem to the group’s political hip-hop anthems. (The area near the stage was so jampacked that I found myself caught in a dangerous crush of people when we photographers had to leave the photo pit.)

The Violent Femmes opened their concert with their biggest hits — which seemed like an odd choice, until it became clear that the group was playing the entirety of its 1983 self-titled debut album in sequence. And it just so happens that the record starts off with the group’s best-known songs. The Femmes played faithful versions of those tracks, prompting the crowd to sing along, but the show seemed to lose energy later on.

See more photos from Day 2.

Rain came pouring down on Sunday, dampening the spirit at Riot Fest, but the music went on. I showed up in time to catch the last few songs by Mission of Burma, including a solid rendition of “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver.” A bit later, Bob Mould played one of the festival’s most intense sets, joined by Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster and Chicago bassist Jason Narducy (who’s also in the touring version of Superchunk) — an ideal lineup to play the crunchy post-punk power pop of Mould’s solo albums and his recordings with Sugar. Mould told the crowd that he’s coming back to Chicago soon to make a new album.

AFI
AFI

Other highlights on Sunday included Rocket From the Crypt, who made a joyous racket as the downpour continued. I was less familiar with some of the younger bands that I saw, including Against Me!, Brand New, All Time Low and AFI, all of whom inspired fervent responses from their fans. AFI bounced around on the stage so much that it felt a bit like watching a post-punk version of Riverdance; it all seemed too choreographed. (I skipped seeing some of Riot Fest’s other bands entirely, including Friday’s headliner Fall Out Boy and Saturday’s headliner Blink-182. Not a fan of either.)

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

I did greatly enjoy the rainy midafternoon set by Chicago’s Twin Peaks. They might have been the youngest band playing the whole weekend, but their excellent lo-fi home recording Sunken shows that they know some garage-rock history. Their exuberant performance at Riot Fest included at least one new song as well as a cover of They Might Be Giants’ “Boss of Me” (the theme to the TV series Malcolm in the Middle).

Pixies
Pixies

The rain cleared up by the time darkness fell, though the ground was still muddy in many places, including the goopy photo pit in front of the Roots Stage, where Pixies played the weekend’s penultimate set. This is the first time the band has gone out on the road since founding bassist and backup singer Kim Deal quit. She was replaced by Kim Shattuck of the Muffs. If anything, Deal’s absence may have reduced the onstage tension that was apparent at some previous shows. With lights shining behind them and their faces shrouded in darkness, Pixies opened their set with two covers: The Fall’s “Big New Prinz” and the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On.” But by the time the Pixies were inspiring a crowd sing-along with “Wave of Mutilation,” I was heading over to the Riot Stage to get in line for the Replacements photo pit. It’s too bad you couldn’t hear the Pixies from over there; I would have loved to hear more of their set, but it was time to snag a spot for the Mats.

See more photos from Day 3 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Riot Fest Day 3: Photos

Photos from the third day of Riot Fest, Sept. 15, 2013, in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

See: photos from Day 1 / Photos from Day 2 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma


Against Me
Against Me

Against Me
Against Me
Bob Mould
Bob Mould


Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks


Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt

Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt


Brand New
Brand New

Brand New
Brand New
The audience during Brand New's set
The audience during Brand New’s set
The audience during Brand New's set
The audience during Brand New’s set
All Time Low
All Time Low
All Time Low
All Time Low


The audience during All Time Low's set
The audience during All Time Low’s set

The audience during All Time Low's set
The audience during All Time Low’s set


AFI
AFI

AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI


Pixies
Pixies

Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies

See: photos from Day 1 / Photos from Day 2 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Cap’n Jazz and Mission of Burma

This past weekend’s Wicker Park Festival had a pretty strong lineup on both days. I was there for the two final sets on the north stage Saturday night: Mission of Burma followed by Cap’n Jazz.

The two bands have something in common. Both labored in obscurity when they were originally together. And both are more famous now that they’ve reunited. Well, “famous” is a relative term here, but at least they’re getting more recognition now, long after original hey day.

In Michael Azerrad’s terrific book about underground rock bands of the 1980s, Our Band Could Be Your Life, he describes Mission of Burma touring the country and playing in front of barely anyone. Reunited now since 2002, Mission of Burma at least draws a decent-sized crowd.

The aging punks sounded fierce and alive as they played Saturday on Milwaukee Avenue. The kids in the crowd started moshing, slamming up against one another, as Mission of Burma ran through some of its best-known old tunes in the final part of the set: “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver,” “This Is Not a Photograph” and “Red.”


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Cap’n Jazz apparently had a pretty good local following back in the early 1990s, but I for one heard nothing about them until years later. Here I was, a journalist at a suburban newspaper trying to stay on top of such things, and somehow it escaped my attention that some young guys from Wheeling were making all this noise. This was not the sort of band that sent out press releases to the local paper. Some now point to Cap’n Jazz as one of the groups that influenced all those later “emo” bands. I finally heard about Cap’n Jazz when its lead singer, Tim Kinsella, went on to perform in a series of other, and usually artsier, stranger bands, including Joan of Arc. (For more background, read Jessica Hopper’s interview with Tim Kinsella for the Chicago Reader.)

Reunited, apparently for just a brief tour, Cap’n Jazz is drawing sell-out crowds at clubs. They even landed on the front page of The New York Times’ Arts section.

Saturday night, the fans were rabid with excitement as Kinsella and company thrashed through their songs. “Just to be clear, these songs were written 15 or 17 years ago,” Kinsella remarked at one point. When a fan apparently said something encouraging Kinsella not to go away again, he said, “It’s not like I’ve been hiding, man … If you’d gone to a Joan of Arc show, there’d have been 30 people there.”

Kinsella threw himself out on the crowd a number of times. As the show reached its climax, maybe or dozen or so audience members climbed up onto the stage and dived back into the crowd. With a minute left before the end, security guards finally showed up to see what was going on.


PHOTOS: CAP’N JAZZ

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