Shit. Before we even finished breakfast (that’s a word with which the Econo Lodge takes great liberties), I was already feeling that panicky “today is the last day” sensation percolating in my gut.
(I’m sure Henry was experiencing very different feelings. His was probably more of a giddy countdown.)
We accidentally found a fly-by-night event parking lot on our way to Humboldt Park the day before, so Henry decided THE HELL WITH UBER, we’re going to entrust our car with these people that are wearing neon construction vests so they must be legit.
It took us three days to figure out there was an actual area where we were supposed to be waiting for our stupid Uber rides.
The sketchy parking lot cost the same as a one-way trip with Uber, and it wasn’t my money Henry was using anyway, so what did I care. All I knew was that we were only two blocks away from my homeland and I couldn’t wait to get there.
And stand in line for an hour. Because even by the third day, the gatekeepers hadn’t gotten their shit together.
All three days, we were lucky to not get stuck by any assholes, at least. The guy in front of us, whom I dubbed Dwight Hader, because he reminded me of Dwight Schrute and Bill Hader, was there by himself. “I’m just here for Patti Smith and The Cure,” he said nervously. “Basically, I’m going to get all the way to the front of the stage for The Cure,” he told us of his Riot Fest plans.
“Were you here the other days, too? What was it like? What’s the food like? Is it expensive?”
“Do you think I’ll be able to take in my water?” he asked anyone who was listening.
He was very concerned with his unopened water bottle.
Would it be confiscated? Did he have to drink it all now? Because he wasn’t thirsty yet. He wanted that water for later, when he was raging to Patti Smith. BECAUSE THE NIGHT BELONGS TO WATER.
The girl behind me pointed out that empty water bottles were allowed in, because there were refilling stations. But she and I both said that probably an unopened bottle wasn’t a good idea. The girl’s boyfriend was like, “Eh, just do it. Smuggling in water is so punk rock, man.” And Henry was like “IDGAF what this kid does.”
Meanwhile, the couple behind me were talking about all of the ska bands that they had seen so far at Riot Fest and I was so thankful that I wasn’t there with them because ska is pretty much the only music genre that I flat-out dislike. There isn’t one ska band that’s redeemable to me. I’m sorry if you’re a ska fan. I promise we can still be friends. Just get those fucking trumpets out of my face. I DON’T EVEN LIKE THE JAMAICA SKA SCENE IN BACK TO THE BEACH AND THAT IS LIKE MY FAVORITE MOVIE.
1. Whispering, “It’ll be alright, Water Bottle. We’ll figure something out.” 2. Googling “will I be detained for bringing an unopened water bottle into Riot Fest?” // “ways to make a water bottle in your pants look like a medical condition that security guards won’t ask about.” // “smuggling contraband into a music festival- WWJD?”
- TheMenzingers were due to start playing a few minutes after the gates finally opened. (DwightHader and his unopened bottle of water made it through unscathed!) But we had enough time to hit up one oftheRiotFestmerch booths soIcouldfinallybuy the hoodie I wanted,whichofcoursewas sold out so I got all shitty about and ended up buying a t-shirt that I didn’t even want and then I proceeded to bitch about it on the way to the Roots Stage so Henry was like OMG I WILL FIND YOU A FUCKING HOODIE but apparently he said this to himself because I had no idea where he had gone off to, leaving me to stand alone with strangers by the stage. Then he returnedrightbeforetheMenzingers came out, and he had the hoodie I wanted, but then I was still mad because now I had a t-shirt and hoodie in the same design and that seemed so unnecessary so I threw another tantrum and then Henry was like I AM GOING TO COLD COCK YOU but instead of doing that, he grabbed the t-shirt from me and stormed off and then the show started so I hadtowatchtheMenzingers by myself.
- This was surprisingly the only time we fought all weekend.
- I hated not knowing where he went/what he was doing/if he was coming back.
- Every time I glanced behind me, I thought I saw him, but it was always one of the other 8700 guys wearing a blue flannel that day.
- Even though I was quietly stewing over this hoodie/t-shirt emergency, I still found some room in my head and heart to enjoy the Menzingers. I only have a very base knowledge of them, thanks to my friend Terri, and since I know how much she loves them, I made a point to check them out. It was a good way to start the last day, because they got everyone pumped right out of the gates.
- I texted Terri the lyrics to the one song they played that I really liked, and she was like, “That’s from their new album. That song is so emo!” Which totally explains why I liked it!
- After their set ended,Ipanic-strickenly made my way through a moving wall of people, desperately looking for Henry, near tears (I HATE FEELING LOST), but then he grabbed my arm and I suddenly forgot that I was in the middle of hating him because YAY I’M NOT LOST ANYMORE!
- “You were never lost,” he sighed. “I knewwhereyouwerethe whole time.”
- In case you were wondering, Henry apparently exchanged the t-shirt for an XS for Chooch, which made me mad all over again because why the fuck would Chooch want a t-shirt from a festival he didn’t go to?! And to back this up, when we gave it to him, he was like, “Ok….?” and then right away noticed that one of the bands on the back of the shirt was Pity Sex, so then he was like, “REALLY, MOMMY?! REALLY?!” all annoyed and exasperated.
- “You were never lost,” he sighed. “I knewwhereyouwerethe whole time.”
- There was nothing on Sunday’s line-up that was OMG URGENT for me to see until Billy Bragg played around 2.
- To Henry this meant: YAY LET’S GO FIND A TREE TO SIT UNDER FOR A FEW HOURS AND CLOSE OUR EYES AND HOPEFULLY DIE.
- To me this meant: Let’s wander around and check out the other stages! We might find our new favorite band!
- Of course, my plan won out and that is how we wound up at the Rise Stage in time for Laura Stevenson, who has an accordion player and is just the most adorable thing I saw on stage all weekend. I’m notoriously picky when it comes to girl singers, but her style was kind of old Tegan andSarameetsSherriDuPreefromEisley, in a way. I immediately adored her.
- Especially when she pretty much announced every song as, “OK, this is a sad one.”
- I love sad music.
- Her music was the deceiving kind of sad though, where it sounds happy and upbeat but, no.
- Especially when she pretty much announced every song as, “OK, this is a sad one.”
- Laura’s between-song-banter was painfully awkward at times, which endeared her to me even more.
- Fuck it, go listen to her on Spotify and then buy her albums!
Henry’s mad because we were kind of matching. Also, I think this was right before La Dispute and he hates La Dispute.
THE FRONT BOTTOMS
- Right after Laura was done playing, The Front Bottoms came on the adjacent Revolt Stage. This is another band that I have read and heard a lot about but just never bothered checking out. Since we still had a little bit of time to kill and the stage they were playing on was conveniently located near the one Billy Bragg would later be playing on, I dragged Henry through droves of lost locust-people and claimed a prime spot near the side of the stage.
- And then they came on and proceeded to captivate us for their entire 30 minute set.
- If you can win me over with your stage presence alone, then you’re doing it right.
- If your music is good enough to back up your stage presence, then you’re golden.
- I thought Henry hated them, but he admitted later that they were a high point for him.
- Last week, I came home from meeting my friend Katrina for coffee, and Henry was flat out listening to them on xbox music. “SO WHAT?!” he cried in defense, like his mom just busted him watching tranny bukakke.
- They reminded me a little bit of Never Shout Never for grown-ups, so I wondered if Chooch would like them too. Spoiler: he does.
- My favorite part was when Tiny Moving Parts stormed the stage and started fucking with them. I LOVE IT WHEN BANDS ARE FRIENDS WITH EACH OTHER.
- WhenIsawBillywas listed on the line-up, I died a little of excitement. This guy is a living legend and I made Henry get right up front for him.
- We were surrounded by a lot of Older People so I thought Henry would feel safe.
- In high school, I dated this real piece of shit. Pretty much everyone called him Psycho Mike, because well, that’s what you call a guy who intentionally sets his best friend’s house on fire (thankfully,whilethe whole family was on vacation, but still) all over a video game.
- Yes, I knew this going in to things, but warning labels don’t ever deter me.
- Anyway, Psycho Mike and I didn’t have much in common, musically. I would cringe when he would play Anal Cunt in his car and even though I bought him the Misfits boxed set for Valentine’s Day one year, I made it clear that I didn’t want to listen to it. We would meet in the middle with classic rock mostly, but occasionally he would play things for me that I actually liked. Some of those things were: Neutral Milk Hotel, Hayden, and Billy Bragg.
- Billy Bragg is a British folk/punk singer-songwriter who sings a lot about politics, which usually isn’t my cup of tea, but there is just something about him that has always appealed to me. I thought Henry would be all about him too, since Billy is known to sing in favor of all those blue-collared blokes like Henry. But Henry was just like “eh” when I asked him if he enjoyed it, which basically means Henry is clearly a fascist.
- My favorite Billy Bragg songs are “Must I Paint You a Picture,” “St. Swithin’s Day,” “She’s Got a New Spell,” “The Man in the Iron Mask” and “A New England,” none of which he played, but he did play my ALL TIME FAVORITE which is “The Milkman of Human Kindness” and the 17-year-old slut-who-was-fucking-around-with-a-psychopath-in-1996 in me was so stoked.
- Billy also made me super stoked about Scotland, which I had otherwise not really thought about at all because it’s basically me and my music under a rock. But on this day, I was like, “YAYSCOTLAND! GO GET ‘EM!” And then suddenly I understoodwhysomemenhad been walking around Humboldt Park all weekend in kilts and carrying Scottish flags.
- I catch on quick.
- Might sound extreme, but getting to see Billy Bragg live was a milestone for me. I have literally waited half my life! This man is a living legend. Familiarize yourself with him.
TINY MOVING PARTS
- On our way to the Rock Stage, immediately after Billy Bragg, we got to catch a little bit of Tiny Moving Parts.
- Henry said he doesn’t remember this happening at all. I think he might have been buying more cheese-on-sticks and beer?
- TMP iskindoflikeneo-emo I guess? It’s definitely a sound that I really adore. And they are really energetic and passionate on stage, which is what made me stop mid-trek to the Rock Stage and say to Henry, “They are calling to me.”
- I like them way more live than listening to them, say, while driving to the dentist or writing in my blog.
A rare moment where Henry got to sit for a few minutes until the girl next to him annoyed him to such extreme levels that he suddenly didn’t care about resting his weary joints anymore and actually stood up and moved. And no, surprisingly, that girl wasn’t me.
- I let Henry stand far away for La Dispute because he can’t stand them. But I was like, “See ya, sucker” and elbowed my way through the crowd along the side of the stage until I was nearly to the front. I stopped right before I hit prime crowd-surfing / circle pit real estate. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that deep down, I have some fragments of the “Sensible Mom” gene and I remember to keep myself safe.
- Otherwise, I just feel like I would be such a great candidate for Idiot Who Broke Her Neck At a Show.
- Have you ever listened to La Dispute? They are a part of a music genre that I am in love with. Like, if I could mold it into a penis, I would fuck it. It’s technically post-hardcore, and Jordan Dreyer shouts and barks the lyrics with so much emotion, that it’s, for me, the equivalent of listening to some kind of passionate Sunday sermon. Their songs tell stories that make the hair grow erect on my arms and I spent most of the time standing there with my eyes closed and, at times, wishing I had a wall in front of me to punch. There’s an urgency to the music and the way the vocals are delivered that make me feel uncontrollably aggressive. And then….sad.
- When they played “King Park,” we all went fucking nuts. This song is about a shooting and all of the elements and emotions surrounding it, and it is raw, devastating, angry, sad, honest—this song is REAL LIFE. The way they build up to the crescendo of this song, OMFG—it’s like climaxing for real. Jordan started hoarsely shouting “Can I still get into Heaven if I kill myself?” and that’s when I realized that I had been crying through the whole fucking thing.
- “Wasn’t that fucking amazing!?” I cried afterward, reunited with Henry. “Not really,” he mumbled.
- I walked away feeling like I could start a revolution. Or at the very least, make a REALLY GOOD POSTER about MAYBE starting a revolution.
TEGAN AND SARA
- I first saw Tegan and Sara in the year 2000 at now-defunct club in Pittsburgh called Rosebud. I didn’t know anything about them but my friend Wonka was like, “I heard one of their songs on WYEP. PLEASE GO WITH ME!” Wonka was my prime concert-buddy back then, and we went to tons of shows where we barely knew who we were seeing, plus I was buying my ticket with my AmEx that my mom paid for, so why not? It was us and maybe 40 other people and I think Tegan and Sara walked away with all of our hearts that night. They were VERY different than they are now, way more stripped down, way less pop. But their stage banter was just as on point. We got to meet them that night and I still look at that picture, of these twins who look so different now, and I laugh because I remember saying to Wonka, “Holy shit, these girls are going to explode!”
- They were playing on the main stage at Riot Fest to some tens of thousands of people, so I’d say that they definitely exploded.
- I didn’t want to get too close because I knew we were going to have to split before they were done, and I didn’t want to make our exit any more difficult than it needed to be, so we stood pretty far away. The problem with that is that the further away you stand, the more likely you are to surround yourself with people who couldn’t give a fuck what band is playing, they’re just going to stand there and brag about what college their daughter is going to. Sometimes old people are WAY WORSE at shows than young people.
- The first time Henry saw Tegan and Sara was with me in 2002/2003 at the Hard Rock Cafe. He didn’t know anything about them but it didn’t take him long to realize that he was a man in a roomful of lesbians. At one point, he tried to go to the bathroom, but a girl with a shaved, rainbow-tattooed head was blocking his way (not even menacingly! she didn’t know she was in his way!), so he turned around and came back. I think about this EVERY TIME I hear a Tegan and Sara song. GOOD TIMES.
- And before you’re like “Tegan and Sara are so Top 40,” please watch this video:
- Sure, they’re mainstream now but I will always believe that they still have a little bit of that quaint singer-songwriter ethic that they did when they were teenagers. I just love them.
Never had time to play Riot Putt. :( Or go through the Zombie Contamination Unit. Or ride any rides. Or see the sideshows. TOO MANY BANDS.
- We cut out of Tegan and Sara in order to run back to the Rock Stage just in time to see Mineral, who have recently gone on tour for the first time in 17 years. I’m so happy Riot Fest was on the super-shortlist of shows they were doing, because god knows Pittsburgh was nowhere on that list.
- I fucking love emo.
- Mineral broke up in 1997, before I ever had a chance to see them. The singer went on to form The Gloria Record, another band that I fucking loved so hard but never got to see live. Henry claims he has no absolutely no recollection of a band called The Gloria Record and I was like “ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID, I LISTENED TO ONE OF THEIR ALBUMS COMPULSIVELY IN 2005!” Then I even played him my favorite song (“Good Morning, Providence” — if you look at my Spotify sidebar, it’s actually the second song listed in my “Perennial Favorites” playlist, COME ON HENRY) and he was like, “Nope. Don’t know it.” That man is a master of tuning things out.
- However, Henry admitted that Mineral was “pretty good.” The whole time I was just standing there in awe, thinking of how grateful I was to get to see them after all this time. So grateful that I almost wrote an emo poem about it.
- After Mineral, we decided that we should probably make our way back to the Riot Stage because if we waited too close to The Cure’s start time, we would never be able to get close enough. Patti Smith was playing at the time, so we pushed our way through the outskirts of a crowd of aging hippies screaming along to “Because the Night.”
- If it wasn’t for the sake of the Cure, I never have would have stopped to watch her. I’m sure that makes me something of a heathen to a lot of people. I can definitely respect her! I understand the mark she’s left on not only the music industry but also the political landscape. She’s a living, breathing legacy. I get it. And while it’s not particularly my thing, I am definitely glad that I can say “I saw Patti Smith.”
- She is old as shit but fuck if she wasn’t rocking the shit out of that stage.
- There were men older than Henry standing around us who were screaming “PATTI!!!” so fiercely, I feared that they were going to hemorrhage.
- In between every song, Patti would stand on her soapbox and promise us that we can change the world. “PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER!” she kept shouting and everyone screamed so loudly that they turned into South Park Canadians.
- By the time her set was over, I definitely didn’t feel like I could change the world, but I would have liked to have changed into a pair of more comfortable shoes.
I’m going to end this here because I’ve been writing it for four days and I want The Cure to have their own post. Because they’re the motherfucking Cure.
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