Since the shitty “hotel” we’ve stayed at for all three Riot Fests switched brands, they no longer offered breakfast. Not like we were missing much because it was below basic breakfast fare, we were still disappointed because it was convenient and free. Going to Riot Fest is not cheap, you guys, and I’d rather spend my money on merch than food, ugh. All of this is to say we went down the street to some joint called Victoria’s, where I had crepes that were OK and Henry had meats.
Then Meghan Trainor came on (the worst M.T. song of all time, All About That Bass) and I believe this was the first time where I had found myself in a position where there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t change the station! I couldn’t leave because I was still eating. I HAD TO SIT THERE AND ENDURE IT.
Oh, the horror! The pain! But I reminded my ears that soon they would be in Douglas Park, surrounded on all sides by the most beautiful blend of pop punk, punk rock, emo revival, hip hop — it was all going to be there. Some of my most favorite genres, and most favorite bands.
It was going to be OK, ears. It was going to be OK.
After breakfast, we went back to the “hotel” and ordered the first Uber of the weekend, an older man named Woody, who, in spite of having his GPS up on his dash, asked Henry unlimited questions regarding the route. Henry was happy to answer because he is a PROFESSIONAL DRIVER and I can guarantee that Woody’s lack of directional savvy gave Henry his own woody.
Luckily, through numerous detours and train crossings, we made it to Douglas Park with a good 45 minutes to spare before the gates opened. This year, it was set up a bit differently with only one entrance, but I was happy to see that it wasn’t yet a cluster fuck.
Only bad part about standing in line was this uber-annoying Minnesota broad who talked extra-loudly to her friend about how EVERYONE KNOWS HER and HOW MANY TATTOOS SHE HAS and HOW SHE IS SO FUCKING COOL HOW ARE WE NOT MELTING BENEATH HER RADIATING BRILLIANCE. Henry knew right away that she was annoying me so we communicated through eye-expressions alone, and then when she mentioned in her grating Midwest lilt that she COULDN’T WAIT TO SEE BALANCE AND COMPOSURE the next day, Henry started to crack up because I had literally said that same thing about 37403720580 times that morning.
Gates opened late as usual and we ran, I mean I ran and Henry slowly lumbered behind me, to the Riot Fest merch tent to snag a set of the limited edition Riot Fest Garbage Pail Kids and then Papa Drunk skipped off to get his 21+ wristband and guess who couldn’t get her own because she left her whole entire wallet in Pittsburgh? My preparedness is a non-factor in my game of life. Do not ever choose me for your zombie apocalypse team.
Ugh. First beer at like 11:30. Get it, Hank.
We had some time to kill before noon so we stomped around the food vendors looking for Dark Matter because I desperately needed coffee. Couldn’t find it right away, so I settled for a water and while Henry was paying for it, some guy at the next food booth asked, “Hey! Why’s my name on your shirt?” I looked around and when I realized he was talking to me, I had to glance down to refresh my memory with what shirt I was even wearing that day, and it was my beautiful Howard Jones shirt!
So I walked closer and engaged in a rare conversation, because I hate talking to people but Riot Fest is an exception because it makes me remember who I used to be, how alive I once was, and it reminds me that hey, I’m surrounded by a ton of my people right now, so it’s not really stranger danger, right? Anyway, the guy’s name ended up being Howard Johnson (like the hotel, I guess), not Jones, but he had never heard of Howard Jones before so I encourage him to check that shit out.
Henry was like, “OK REMEMBER WHOSE PROPERTY YOU ARE LET’S GO.” He is like, so possessive of me. It’s almost sickening.
(Lol, sike. He was like TAKE HER, SHE’S YOURS.)
(This just brought up a horrible memory of when I was briefly dating this guy Erik in 1998 and we were hanging out at my apartment with some guy named Kevin who I recently met at a Sunoco — hey, I made friends everywhere I went back then when I still had self-esteem — and Kevin, who was totally blitzed off a 40 of Miller’s High Life, asked Erik if he could steal me and Erik said, ugh do you know what he said? He said BE MY GUEST. I have that heart-breaking moment on 8mm, even.)
(Well, fuck you Erik Grove, because now I’m with Henry and here we are at Riot Fest and some cute guy name Howard is talking to me so suck it.)
First band up was Tigers Jaw at noon on the Riot Fest (main) stage.
These guys are on Run For Cover Records, one of my fave labels, but this was the first time I ever saw them live. If you know me, you know that I’m horribly fickle with female singers, but I love the boy-girl sharing of vocal duties going on in this band. It’s fun, feel-good indie rock, you guys and there is no reason why Henry should have said, “Nope, they did nothing for me” other than the fact that he wasn’t paying attention because OMG WHAT ARE HIS 57 FACEBOOK FRIENDS DOING, GOTTA CHECK!
During their set, an older gentleman strolled by and said, “GREAT ALBUM!” while pointing to my Howard Jones “Human Lib” shirt. I agree, guy!
Ahhh, Citizen was next on the Rise stage. I can’t say enough wonderful superlatives about this band. They get me right in the feels, as all the kids and ironic bloggers say these days.
It started to rain during their set and I hated almost everyone around me, but I didn’t let that sully my third live dose of Citizen for 2016. Also, Mat basically dresses like Henry, proving he just doesn’t give a fuck.
Here’s Henry, secretly enjoying Citizen and his style-twin, Mat.
Right after this was Touche Amore on the Rock Stage and I was ready to burst — they’re part of this trifecta for me which also includes La Dispute and The Saddest Landscape, but I’ve never seen Touche Amore before; it was a long time coming.
Some of the finest post-hardcore I’ve ever heard comes courtesy of this beautiful man. I play their records so loud in the house and Henry and Chooch are always like, full-body eye rolls and grimaces, but GUESS WHAT? Guess who finally jumped aboard the Touche Amore-wagon? Mr. Henry J. Robbins.
“They weren’t that bad,” he mumbled, and then, “I didn’t hate it,” which in regular people’s terms translates to, “Say, I think I actually enjoyed that.”
After Touche Amore, I had penciled in a small window for getting food. I can’t remember what Henry got, but I enjoyed a wonderful BBQ jackfruit with slaw on top of a slice of Texas toast. It was delicious, except that the slaw was more just a wad of pickled vegetables, which found me for the second time in less than a week explaining to no one in particular that the only pickled things I like are pickles.
Oh, I think Henry had vegetable paella and I accused him of being a vegetarian but he defensively said he wasn’t turning his back on meat, he just simply “didn’t feel like eating meat right then.”
HMM THAT SEEMS WEIRD.
Anyway, thanks to Henry having to also get food, I missed Dillinger Escape Plan so thanks Henry, like you couldn’t have waited until later to eat.
After missing DEP, we wandered over to the outskirts of Douglas Park, where the two smallest stages live. Jule Vera was going to be playing soon on the Storyheart Stage, so we figured we’d just hang out in the grass and take selfies, right Henry? Because that’s totally a thing that Henry does. My hair looked shittier than usual that weekend because remember our shitty “hotel”? Well, they don’t supply their rooms with hair dryers and Henry even tried for a hail mary by inquiring at the front desk if they had any available and the answer was NO THEY DID NOT, YOUR RATTY-HAIRED GIRLFRIEND IS FUCKED, BOIIIII.
So frizzy, air-dried hair it is, then!
We had to suffer through the tail-end of the Far East’s set and I absolutely hated them, like if a person could vomit out of their ears, this would have triggered my aural gag reflex, for sure. Let me just describe it as Reggae No Doubt. I was like GOOD RIDDANCE when they finally ended.
Then it was Tancred, which I kept confusing for Tantric — like, totalllly different band. Fun Fact for anyone who cares: the singer is also the guitarist from Now, Now and the singer from Now, Now is dating Lynn Gunn’s (PVRIS) ex-girlfriend Alexa San Roman, OMG there more you know. Anyway, Tancred is a good example of why I’m picky with girl-fronted bands — they usually tend to have that 90s sound to them and I know this is putting my head on the chopping block, but I really didn’t like a lot of rock or alternative from the 90s, until later on in the decade. SORRY BUT I’M JUST BEING HONEST. In my defense, I was heavily into hiphop, gangsta rap, and R&B back then though.
Also, around this time, Henry started complaining about a “foot cramp” but I was like, “Hmm, that doesn’t sound like the name of any band that I like so I’m officially exiting this conversation, bye now.”
OK, then it was finally time for Jule Vera and I missed Chooch so desperately. (He’s annoying me so much today though, a week later, so I already forget what that felt like.) Chooch has loved Jule Vera since we saw them last winter at the Never Shout Never and blushed the whole time he was posing for a picture with Ansley, their singer:
Not even gonna front here, I got totally misty-eyed during their set because it made me miss Chooch so much. We were sending him pictures of Ansley on Facebook during soundtrack and he was getting so mad at us but then he said “SEND ME VIDEOS.” Originally he wanted us to record their whole set, but contrary to popular belief, I actually don’t like being That Person holding their phone up at concerts. I tend to grab a few Instavids (like 30 seconds in length at a time) just for my own posterity and to have something to post on the blog as a memory of the night.
SO FUCKING SUE ME.
But for Chooch, I broke that rule and recorded 30-60 seconds of every song the performed, but I didn’t feel too asshole-y doing so because I was right against the barrier so I didn’t have to hold my phone up high, which means no one behind me was bothered, and if they were, it was probably because of Henry.
Henry’s mere existence is very bothersome to some.
Is it wrong to say that I think a band is adorable? I also think they’re really talented, but there is something really charming about watching such a young band play their hearts out on stage. I didn’t think I was going to care much for them when I saw them last winter, but I fell for them alongside Chooch. He’s got good taste.
Some old dude, like even older than Henry, yelled, “Hey what high school do you go to?!?” to Ansley and OK, I get where he’s coming from, but damn dude, that sounded totally creepy, go away. Save that for when you’re role-playing with your old ass wife.
Their finale had to have made new fans out of the unbiased people lounging under nearby trees. Even one of the security guys came over to get a better look and then to me and Henry said, “This shit is crazy!”
Set Your Goals was up next on the Rise Stage and I was so excited to see them again! They recently reunited and I didn’t even realize how much I missed them. This is the band that Henry always pauses and then asks, “Is this the big guy and little guy?” Ugh, yes Henry. Sure. SYG has the dual-vocals thing going on, and I credit them into getting me into pop-punk, after swearing it off for years. They were my gateway, if you will. I always liked emo and post-hardcore but really never cared much for pop-punk, until I heard one of their songs that Vinnie Cuarana was on, and then Hayley Williams rapping (literally!!) on one of their songs in 2009 really helped the medicine go down.
I made Alisha go see them with me that summer at Mr. Small’s and it was just such an awesome show and I kind of wanted to get punched in the face but it didn’t happen.
Henry was not into it.
This guy stood right by us while sucking on his CHRONIC CANDY lollipop and I wanted him so badly to turn to Henry and offer him a lick, which prompted Henry to later go on a tangent about how Chronic Candy “isn’t actually a drug, Erin!” and like yeah OK but it’s still part of DRUG CULTURE and we all know Henry has the D.A.R.E. insignia tattooed on his left ass cheek.
Oh you didn’t know? WELL NOW YOU DO.
He also has “just say no” on his inner lip.
Anyway, go listen to Set Your Goals.
We tried to catch some of the Citizen acoustic set in the StubHub Tent, which was packed, so we were standing near the entrance when some dumbass rolled up with her friends and proceeded to shriek, totally unrelated to the music, like she had been proposed to and this really set me off so I flipped out and stormed away (I was also suffering through some major coffee-withdrawals, thanks for not having my back this year, Dark Matter!), and had a mini-meltdown, but then Henry calmed me down after some guy stared at me with a scared smile because I think he thought I was yelling at him. Not you, bro. Not you.
Once Henry verbally massaged my frontal lobe, we were able to catch a little bit of Somos on the Storyheart stage. The best way I can explain this band is that they would be perfectly at home on a soundtrack for any 1980s John Hughes movie. This is a good thing! But Henry doesn’t get it, which is why I had to see them alone at Bled Fest last May.
This was the harried, frenzied block of time on Friday where there were three bands playing all around the same time and I wanted to see them all, so after two Somos songs, we had to do a brisk walk to the Rise stage where Glassjaw was playing and can you believe I have never seen Glassjaw in my whole entire life?? Henry thinks this is incorrect, but that’s because we saw Daryl Palumbo’s other band, Head Automatica at the Cure’s Curiosa festival in 2004. So I got to have major chills hearing Daryl’s screams cutting through the early evening Chicago air. No one sounds quite like Daryl Palumbo!
(LOL, a commercial for Motel 6 just played while I’m writing this and our Motel 6 did NOT look like the one on TV at all. Nice try, Tom Bodett.)
FUN FACT: I sold a custom serial killer card to G.G. Allin’s brother last year and it was pretty much the highlight of my card-making career thus far.
Oh man, young emo Erin was READY to see Jimmy Eat World again. I kept trying to remember when the last time was that I saw them, and Henry swore that it wasn’t him because Jimmy Eat World is evidently a band that he would remember seeing. I stressed about this for the whole weekend because I was sure that I saw them at one of the Edgefests in Buffalo but I couldn’t find them listed on any lineups, so then I searched for their all their 2001 tour dates and said, “Well, I just don’t know then because this says they only did Warped Tour in 2001….oh wait I was at that Warped Tour, never mind LOL forever.”
Mystery solved! I saw them at Warped Tour with my pal Wonka.
When I first got into emo, it was through Instant Messenger (good ol’ AIM) and I was chatting with some random, and I remember asking him what his screen name meant. I don’t remember the name anymore, but it had something to do with the band Christie Front Drive, and that’s how I fell down the emo rabbit hole and, 20 years later, still haven’t clawed my way back out. Once he suggested that I listen to the Emo Diaries compilations, I knew it was for me.
(Full disclosure, I was still heavy into nu-metal back then too, hahahah, but emo clearly won the war over my heart.)
The crowd wasn’t too bad. My strategy was to stand behind a lady in a wheelchair because no one wanted to stand right in front of her, which meant the view was pretty clear for me. I’m really picky about how far up I’ll travel into the crowds — I base it on how much I love the band and how big/small the stage is. I do not like being close to the main stage because people scare me and I hate feeling trapped.
Anyway, they played my favorite song, Lucky Denver Mint (mixtape staple!) Enjoy my finger cameo! I’m good at this!
It was time for Second Riot Fest Feeding after Jimmy Eat World and I went with a vegan sloppy joe. I think Henry got salt and vinegar fries. Who cares. I kept stealing swigs of his beer and he was getting so angry because “if you had really wanted to drink, you wouldn’t have your left your fucking license at home!!” He kept saying, “I hope you get busted!” because I didn’t have a wristband on, but come on, I think it’s pretty clear that I’m over 21. Maybe it’s debatable in a dark club, but when the sun is shining down on me, the grays are all a’shimmer and the bags under my eyes are looking ready and willing to hold your car keys and Altoids.
So gimme your fucking beer, Henry.
That sloppy joe was wonderful. Riot Fest has the best food! This is what I wish Warped Tour would do — but I guess because it’s at an actual venue and not a park, outside food vendors aren’t allowed in so we have to stick with the standard $10 soft pretzels and nachos or whatever that First Niagara whips up. This is why I just stuff my bag with granola bars!
On the way back to the Storyheart Stage in preparation for BASEMENT!!!, we watched a few minutes of All Time Low at the Rise Stage. I never really got into them that much, so after a song or two, we began to walk away, but then they started the next song and I screamed, “I KNEW IT!!” and ran back to the stage because Vic from Pierce the Veil came out to sing “A Love Like War” with them. Henry was like, “Wha—-what’s happening!?” and had to follow me back. He’s so dumb sometimes. But then he saw Vic and understood.
For real though, after that song ended, we had to run to the Storyheart Stage because I wanted to be up front for Basement and now, as I type this, I feel like I’m going to start crying because this was the first time that weekend, other than crying about missing Chooch or just being my typical whiny self, that I dropped real tears.
This is the same band that threw a wrench in Henry’s “driving to Disneyworld” plans last April — he wanted to leave on a Saturday morning but then I quietly, while slowly back away, reminded him that I had a ticket to see Basement that night, so we had to wait until 11:30pm that night to embark on our Orlando road trip, lolololololol all the way to the market.
I am obsessed with Al specifically, the guitarist, because he was the man behind the camera in all of the Tuesdays with Tay videos that Henry and I love (well, that I love), and I’m just a huge groupie for Run For Cover Records. Huge. I make Chooch wear their shirt to school in an effort to get those basic Brookline brats interested in good music.
(Hasn’t happened yet, although Chooch played some Emarosa for his friend Dimajio and said that he liked it, so fingers crossed. Chooch is a lot like me in many ways but he hasn’t yet honed the SHOVE YOUR INTERESTS DOWN YOUR FRIENDS’ THROATS skill yet I guess. I’ll work on that with him some more, don’t worry.)
When we were waiting for Jule Vera to play earlier, Henry elbowed me and pointed to the fenced-off area behind the stage, at a white van that had just rolled up. “Isn’t that Basement?” he asked casually. AND IT WAS. Henry is so great at recognizing bands that he hates!
Some of my friends were disappointed in me because I chose Basement over some other band, but bitch please, I’m not going to skip a band that I genuinely love in favor of a band that I don’t like but feel like I’m supposed to watch just to say that I saw them. That’s not me! I like what I like. And Basement pumped me full of life. I love how James has Robert Smith-esque dance moves and I love their energy and their fans aren’t assholes and they’re just adorable Brits who make emotional, heart-felt, energetic rock.
I’m used to disappointing people with my music preferences though. It’s my thang. Bang bang.
Plus, they have a song called Bad Apple and I have a rotten apple tattoo, so I’m kind of obligated to be a fan. <3
I’m going to listen to them all weekend now because they’re such an autumn band for me. And I finally got Henry to admit that he likes them so it was a big moment in our relationship. This band is just so good, and they are HILARIOUS on social media (their Snapchat stories are entertaining) and I have to say, when a band plays super emotional music but then act like complete clowns on the Internet, I love them even more.
Just do yourself a favor and listen to their latest album. It’s the first release since they came out of hiatus. I mean, I’m no Lou Pappan, but I think “you gonna like it.” (SHOUT OUT TO MY PITTSBURGH READERS LOL.)
After I stopped crying over Basement, it was finally time for the last band of the night: Pierce the Veil! They were headlining the Rise Stage and I snagged my coveted spot against the barrier, but off to the side, because I didn’t want to get kicked in the face by little girls. There was a surprising number of older guys standing near us who were super into it, which I’m not used to seeing. I don’t know anyone my age who likes this band, lol! But I have no shame. I’ve been a fan for too long to let that bother me.
Some older broad was trying to bribe the security guy in front of me to let her inside the barrier. She flashed her VIP wristband at him and he was like, “That’s great, but that doesn’t mean anything” so then she was like, in this gross baby voice, “But look how cute I am! And my boobs are so big!” (She wasn’t that great looking and her boobs were so-so, but my taste in girls is pretty bizarre so take my word or leave it.) Anyway, after he sent her packing, we exchanged a knowing chuckle and head-shake. I feel like I bond with so many people at Riot Fest!
Anyway, they started with “Dive In” — that’s when the tears started and then pretty much never stopped.
What can I really even say about PTV at this point in the game. They just keep getting bigger and bigger every time I see them, and I’m really proud of them. Henry thinks they’re getting “too famous” but I honestly believe that they’re still down to earth.
“I don’t know about that,” he mumbled.
(Chooch just walked in the room while a Pierce the Veil Riot Fest video was playing on YouTube and he said, “They put A LOT into their set.” And Chooch has been to my more shows at age 10 than most people I know so he knows what he’s talking about it.)
We thoroughly enjoyed all the Mexican girls crowdsurfing over the barrier and then Usain Bolting it to the stage, where security would clotheline them and push them toward the exit, where my security friend would have to make sure they actually left and didn’t try to sneak back around.
Vic Fuentes is very coveted, you guys, to the point where these girls cyberbully the fuck out of his girlfriend Danielle, which breaks my heart. Vic is in his thirties and maybe this is just me making wild character assumptions, but I feel like he’s just not into 15 year olds.
I got to see Ashley Osborne doing her photographical thang up there on the stage too. I just love her so much. REMEMBER WHEN I GOT TO MEET HER AT LAST YEAR’S RIOT FEST?!?!?!
Henry was really happy that they played on the stage closest to the exit, but was annoyed that I kept standing there until every last band member had walked off the stage.
“Come on, fan girl,” he sighed, tugging me away from the barricade and toward the exit. We did stop at the Riot Fest merch booth on the way out though so I could buy the limited edition Riot Fest screenprint because I’m a whore for screenprints. Henry’s going to have to start building extra walls around the house because I’m running out of room.
So this was an excellent end to Day One: aside from a little bit of rain during Citizen and Touche Amore, the weather was fucking fabulous! I had grown so accustomed to stomping around through mud at the previous two Riot Fests, that it felt like I was walking on clouds all day.
If you read all of this, WOW GOOD JOB! It took me forever to write and now I still have two more days to recap.