[disclaimer: my blog keeps smashing words together after I hit publish; that’s not actually me trying to form post hardcore band names out of everyday sentences.]
We were duped by Riot Fest again. They said “Gates open at 11, guys!” and we fell for it. Our Lyft driver, Bobby (he asked us to tell him things about Pittsburgh and he definitely doesn’t want a Primanti’s sandwich, guys), got us there promptly at 11, only for us to stand in line for 90 MINUTES. Why you do this, Riot Fest? Why so mean? Aside from having a musical know-it-all standing behind us (talking about Gwar like he didn’t know Oderus died, though) and then being rained on for 30 minutes, it wasn’t the worst line I’ve ever stood in.
But then the lines started moving and we were one of the first 50 to be let in. It’s so strange being there that early, before any of the stages are bumpin’, none of the food vendors are ready, and people are just roaming around aimlessly in an attempt to familiarize themselves with the grounds.
This was the first year for Douglas Park to host the festival. When Riot Fest started 10+ years ago, it was actually just a bunch of shows split up around different venues of Chicago. It was only within the last 4 or so years that it became the sizable festival that it is today. Since 2012, it was held in Humboldt Park, but after last year, Humboldt Park was like, “Hell to the no,” so the organizers were forced to move it to nearby Douglas Park. Douglas is smaller than Humboldt, so the layout had the stages closer together. A lot of people were complaining about this, but I kind of liked that it was easier to run from stage to stage — last year, two of the stages were so far apart from each other, god help you if you were trying to split your time between the two of them. Henry and I practically walked the soles off our boots last year. It was a lot more hectic and the I’M GONNA BE LATE sensation that I’m so susceptible to really put a damper on my fun at times.
I’m tightly wound. And I have found that I describe myself this way so often, that it’s got to be a future tattoo.
First thing we did once we got through the gates was sign up to be bone marrow donors, which involved having the inside of our cheeks swabbed, so that was an unusual way to start things off, but you know me, such philanthropy.
“Does it hurt, donating bone marrow?” I asked Henry after we walked away with our BONE MARROW DONOR cards.
Henry just smirked at me. “Uh, yeah.”
In an effort to dial back the amount of information I’m tempted to cram down the Internet’s throat, I am going to now make a list of the bands that we saw on Day One, even if it was just a partial set, and then briefly (LOL, what’s that word mean?) talk about the highlights. EVERYSINGLETHING! It was all a highlight! OK, but really. I’m going to try to do this. Henry’s comments/thoughts/reviews are indented.
Bands We Saw On Friday
- Coathangers – I really am not a fan of girl bands. Luckily, we were just strolling past while they were christening the main stage.
- Into It. Over It. – I’ve wanted to see them for quiet some time so I was excited that this would be the first band of the day for us. Henry was not impressed. My favorite part was when Evan stopped playing a few notes into a song and said, “No. Fuck that. You people paid a lot of money to be here and I’m not playing this song out of fucking tune” before starting over. Respect.
- I don’t remember.
- Real Friends – I missed them at Warped Tour in July, but was like, “It’s fine, they’ll be at Riot Fest, so…” but then their set overlapped with Mariachi El Bronx, so I only got to stick around for two songs before running to the Roots stage for a Mexican dance party.
- We’re not real friends. At all.
- Mariachi El Bronx!! – God, I love this band! It’s literally the mariachi side project of the Bronx, a band that I used to really love but admittedly haven’t listened to in a while. I saw Mariachi El Bronx once at Warped Tour years ago and they stole my gringo heart. Even Henry smiled a little bit. Go listen to them if you’re having a bad day or so hungry that you’re not sure what you want to eat.
- Bayside – I don’t care how many times I have seen them, I can never miss an opportunity to hear my heart breaker jam “Don’t Call Me Peanut.” Chooch used to love that song when he was younger and would sing it quietly from the backseat, so I got all sad-eyed and missed him a ton during their set. I was a late-comer to the Bayside scene and never really bothered with them until 2009 when I saw Anthony Ranieri on the Where’s the Band? tour, which also featured Chris Conley, Matt Pryor, and Dustin Kensrue. What a fucking lineup of heart-eye emojis before heart-eye emojis existed. That’s one show I would love to relive. Anyway, Anthony ended up winning my idiot heart that day and I have been a Bayside fan ever since, but I still feel likean00b every time I’m in that crowd. Anyway, go listen to Bayside. It’s like being hugged by someone you don’t mind touching.
- It’s a band.
- Every Time I Die: I always, always, always miss this damn band every time they play Warped. But not on this day,motherfuckers. We got a good spot near the side and Henry was like, “Who are these guys again?” and seemed pretty relaxed during the intro where they played the theme to Perfect Strangers, like it wasgoingto be a bunchofBalkiBartokomouses andCousinLarrys playing chill 1980s sitcom scores on mandolins. But then Keith Buckley and crew came storming out andHenrysighed. I really liked what I heard/saw butmyactual highlight of their set has nothing to do with the music — we were standing right next to the press gate so after a few songs, a throng of photographers came filing out. I happened to glance at one of them and realized that she looked super familiar. “I think that’s Ashley Olson!” I shouted into Henry’s face. “WHO?!” he asked. I just rolled my eyes because he is so old and dumb and this just proves that he clearly never listens to me when I talk about my interests. Anyway, Ashley is one of the best up-and-coming music photographers I have seen lately. I started noticing her last year when she was on tour with Chiodos, because Craig Owens would always regram her photos and they were stunning. And I never use the word “stunning.”I’ve been following her on Instagram ever since, and her Warped Tour photos this summer just blew my mind. Plus, she has good taste in bands, so. She ended up walking away and I regretted notsayinghi to her. (I even double-checked on Instagram to make sure it was her, and her most recent post was from Riot Fest, so I figured that was a pretty good sign, haha.) Halfway through ETID’s set, she came back! She was standing in front of me for a minute, getting in some more shots, and then she retreated. The guy she was with was still standing in front of me, talking to someone, so she was just hanging back, waiting for him. I really dislike approaching people because I get so awkward and creepy, but I said to Henry, “Ok, I’m going in…” and dove right the fuck into Small Talk Ocean. And it went, well, swimmingly! (God, my writing skills just slay.) I thought it was going to be a “hi/bye” type of transaction, but we ended up having a nice, meaningful chat for several minutes, during which she hugged me TWICE, and said that she had noticed me earlier because I was wearing my (ugh, Chooch’s) Emarosa “For Fox Sake” shirt. So we chatted about how wonderful those guys are and I said, “My 9-year-old son met Bradley this summer at Warped—” Ashley cut me off to say, “You do NOT have a 9-year-old son.” I laughed and said, “I do! I’m 36!” and she was genuinely surprised and kept saying, “NO YOU’RE NOT!” I enjoyed the moment because I know my extended youth is fleeting and these days are slipping through my fingers. I’m reminded of this every time I look in the mirror and see more gray hairs and deeper bags under my eyes. Ashley gave me a sticker and we tookaselfie. “That’s really cute!” she said when I showed her, and asked me to tag her in it so she could save it. I think I’m getting better at talking to strangers! I’ll be kidnapped any day now.
- It all runs together after awhile.
Henry was like, “You and all your weird Instagram crushes” when I excitedly showed him the picture. I was happy that he didn’t come with me when I was talking to her because who brings their dad to Riot Fest, you know?
- Coheed & Cambria: Heard part of their set while roaming around. I used to really like them when they first came onto the scene but then I stopped for no real reason. Their drummer is a douchebag on Twitter, that much I know; tweeting shitty things to Jonny Craig’s ex-fiancee and it’s like, “Why do you care? Don’t you have some lame hip hop rhymes to lay down?”
- THRICE: You know how your elderly Uncle Milton is always telling the same stale-ass war story every time you sit down at the kids table to eat fucking figgy pudding, supposing you live inside a Christmas carol? Well, just call me Uncle Milt because DID YOU KNOW THAT MY KID IS NAMED AFTER THE DRUMMER IN THRICE? Well he is. It’s true. (His real name is Riley,btw.) And I am contractually obligated to mention that every single time I write on my blog about Thrice, or text someone about Thrice, or hear the song Three Times a Lady by Lionel Richie. CHOOCH WILL LOSE HIS NAME IF I DON’T. And then that fucker Bastion from Never-ending Story will have to give him a new one and it’ll be something stupid. Like Chooch.Ok Ok Ok, let’s reel it back in here for a second. Thrice is one of my all-time favorite bands and I won’t get too whiny about it because there are definitely more than one lengthy post in the archives about my love for them, so I will give you the truncated version: The last time I saw them was in 2009 and then they went on hiatus and everyone was like WILL THRICE EVER COME BACK!? They played a show (one show) a few months ago and I knew, I just fucking knew, that they were going to be announced for this year’s Riot Fest and I was fucking right because I spend way too much time analyzing this shit. There were three bands that were announced last May for Riot Fest that made me fall to my knees and beg Henry, and Thrice was one. I was fucking giddy all day, but then right before their set, my stomach got all knotted and my eyes got all moist and sting-y, and I knew I was in for it. Yep, I cried for most of their set—which was SO FUCKING GOOD and it alone was worth the drive to Chicago. Crowd was great and really into it and it felt sogoodto be there in the middle of it all. My connection with Thrice is on another level. Like some spiritual shit. This Riot Fest moment was brought to you by some strong 2003 feels.
- They’re ok.
Those clouds, tho. Thrice was literally bringing Heaven down to earth. OH YEAH, I WENT THERE.
- Faith No More: Friends. This is the top reason I had to go to Riot Fest. Faith No More is one of the few bands that I never grew out; they’ve stuck with me through every musical phase I’ve gone through, from gangsta rap to synthpop. I was in middle school when I first heard Midlife Crisis (back when it was cool to discover new music on MTV!) and it was the first “heavy” band that appealed to me and I was like OMG someone take me to the mall right this instant so I can buy thatfuckingcassingle (which I still have!). I can’t say that they were a gateway band for me though, because they were literally the only metal-type band that I liked until junior year when I became a closet Marilyn Manson aficionado. Naturally,FNM would go on to break-up before I ever had the chance to see them, so that sucked. (I did get to see Mike Patton’s sideprojectFantomas though, in 2000…or 2001?) As 7:45 approached, I started to freak the fuck out—I was so giddy and excited and probably super annoying forHenryto be around. (I mean,moreso.)FNM was headlining the second main stage, so there was a huge crowd there. We got a decent spot on the right side, andIwas relieved that there weren’t anydrunkdouchebags around us. Everyone was cool and excited, if not a little disappointed that they were only given an hour to play. But for someone who had never seen them before that night, an hour felt like a fucking gift. I thought it was fantastic — they sounded great, they played most everything I wanted to hear (unpopular opinion, but I REALLY like “Stripsearch” and would have maybe fainted if they played it), obviously MIDLIFE CRISIS. Just hearing Mike Patton’s otherworldly voice traveling across that park gave me chills. I have chills again just writing about it. Also, it wasreallychilly. This was definitely one of the Top 3 moments of the weekend for me, and I just kept murmuring, “That was so fucking amazing.” I need to invent some new adjectives to use when talking about music because “amazing” just doesn’t cut it anymore. The only downside was when Mike Patton told everyone to snap their fingers. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SNAP MY FINGERS,MIKEPATTON!
- They were good.
Setlist, according to the Internet (it looks right to me):
- Be Aggressive
- Black Friday
- Midlife Crisis
- Gentle Art of Making Enemies
- Separation Anxiety
- Ashes to Ashes
- Introduce Yourself
I still can’t believe No Doubt got to play longer than Faith No More. I mean, I can, because Americans have a knack for making mediocre bands rise above the good ones. But, THAT’S A POST FOR ANOTHER DAY, SMILY FACE.
- Ice Cube: Immediately after FNM ended, the main stage to the left came to life and I couldn’t get out of that area fast enough because — No Doubt. Words cannot express how much I dislike that band and Gwen Stefani. And maybe I’m biased, but holy shit they sounded atrocious. Not just her cat-in-heat voice, but the whole band. I know, I’m full of the unpopular opinions tonight. That band just gets under my skin for some reason that I can’t explain; it’s not even like I associate them with bad memories or anything. They just have never sounded pleasant to my particular ears. I remember in high school when No Doubt was playing at Starlake and pretty much every fucking female I knew went to that show, regardless of how much they liked them, if at all. I was like “Lol, nope,” stayed home and listened to Spanish gangsta rap, probably. Anyway, back to 2015: Henry and I finally made it across the park to the Roots stage, where Ice Cube was about to headline. I had no fucking qualms with Bye Felicia’ing No Doubt in favor of Ice Cube. I was never even really a big Ice Cube fan, but my inner Yo Girl was definitely curious to see his set, which to be honest was mostly one long commercial for Straight Outta Compton, but it was high-energy, he sounded great, and the crowd was fucking going nuts. There were people climbing trees, trying to get a better view. His special guests were his son, MC Ren, and Yella. Some people were speculating that it was going to be Dr. Dre, and if I had been one of those people, I would have stayed for the whole set to find out. But I was pretty confident that Dre wasn’t going to show up to perform for an hour on a stage that wasn’t even the main one. So we left after I got to hear Check Yo Self, which I have to admit, was pretty fucking cool.
Douglas Park didn’t have any lights so if you weren’t close to a stage, good luck. There was lots of stumbling and stepping in invisible mud pits on the way to the exit, and then a long walk into the sketchier area of the neighborhood, looking for the designated Lyft pick-up area, which is one of the reasons I could never go to Riot Fest alone: there are too many things you have to know about! Too many logistics! Thank god Henry looks into all of this or I’d probably be sleeping on a bench in Douglas Park right now instead of blogging in my dining room.
So, impromptu props to Papa H for getting me there and back all three days with absolutely no incident.
We got back to our shitty hotel after a pleasant ride with a Lyft driver (“You were really talkative with tonight’s Lyft driver; you must be hammered,” Henry observed, to which I clarified that I was not hammered from the ONE Strongbow I drank eight hours earlier, but that it was because I thought the driver was cute, duh) and I collapsed onto the bed and cried, “TONIGHT WAS FUCKING AWESOME.”
Then we fell asleep to Jaws, which was also on when we left earlier that morning, too.
GOD, EVERYTHING WAS SO PERFECT THAT DAY.