I think, if I had to choose, that Saturday was my favorite day of Riot Fest. Henry was being a cunt on Friday (he claims he was “tired” and “didn’t feel well;” see also: IS OLD AS FUCK) but after a really great leisurely morning of exploring Little Village and having some legit Mexican breakfast, we were both like, IN SYNC. Like MENSTRUAL CYCLES. But without the mood swings.
Wait – did I bleed at all that day?
Originally, I said we didn’t have to get there early because the first band I had my heart set on seeing didn’t even start until 2 or some other late as fuck time of the day. However, we still ended up getting there by 11:30, without even rushing, and there was barely a line by that point so we just strode right on in.
Well, Henry did.
I had to be frisked and have my purse pillaged and I forgot that I had a plastic container of Mentos gum in there and the security broad threw it out, nooooo.
We had some time to check out the vendors, one of which was our favorite–Choonimals! We bought Chooch an obligatory pizza shirt because god forbid we come home empty-handed. I wanted to get him a Trump shirt that said Fuck Boi on it but Henry frowned heavily even though he approved of the shirt in general.
BANDS OF THE DAY
- Brick + Mortar: The first band we saw was Brick + Mortar on the Roots Stage. I didn’t know anything about them other than what I read on the Riot Fest website a few weeks ago. It was just two guys playing honest indie rock, and I’m going to be real here: I’m not sure if I genuinely liked the music, or if I was just captivated by the hilarious guy they had on stage with them, dancing around like an idiot, coming back out dressed like a fairy-thing, and just being overall entertaining. Henry liked them too, so you know that the music wasn’t very offensive. It was a great start to the day though! Especially when the singer thanked everyone for taking a chance on them and that they had recently won a battle against their record label for the rights to their music, and that’s always something to clap about.
- Plague Vendor: Right after Brick + Mortar ended, Plague Vendor started their set on the neighboring Riot Stage. I told Henry that I didn’t think he was going to like them, but Henry surprised me by saying, “They’re not bad. He’s like…Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop had a baby.” WHOA. He likes a band, kind of, enough to make comparisons?! This day was really off to a great start. (Plague Vendor is fucking amazing, by the way—frenetic, rowdy California punk rock fronted by a singer with moves slick enough to make MJ grab his crotch in appreciation.
- Microwave, acoustic set: Thank god for these StubHub acoustic sets, because I was unable to see Microwave perform later that day as a full band, due to scheduling conflicts. (They had the unfortunate scheduling luck of going up against Motion City Soundtrack, who were playing their penultimate show, but now I’m seriously regretting my choice.) I always miss this band when they come to town! Henry immediately peaced out, getting lost in the depths of his phone (what does he actually read on his phone!? I can’t even imagine. He only has like 79 Facebook friends so scrolling through this feed can’t take very much time and what else do old people use Smartphones for?!), and ignored the whole acoustic set, which admittedly wasn’t the best acoustic set I’ve ever seen (Nathan, the singer, seemed kind of nervous) but it was still good to hear some Microwave, even in that soft, scaled back capacity. He even covered that fucking “I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates” song which I thought for sure would appeal to Henry, since he’s old and probably danced with some big-haired hussy to that song at a school dance at some point in his life.
Henry ignoring Microwave.
- Jessica Hernandez: NOPE. She was playing on the main stage and we had time to kill so we were sitting down in the grass and I was just like, “I CAN’T TAKE THIS BROAD’S VOICE, UGH BUT I’M TOO COMFORTABLE TO MOVE.” Also, I tried to snag a sip of Henry’s beer around this point but he yelled at me because there was “SECURITY” right next to us and I wasn’t wearing a 21+ wristband. Oh for fuck’s sake, Henry. Like anyone would ever do a double-take if they saw me drinking alcohol! Unless they thought Henry was my dad and I’m a super-old-looking teenager? A teenager who’s seen some shit? Anyway, this broad considers her band to be “dark soul and goth pop” but I didn’t get that vibe at all. All I got was some Gwen Stefani-mimicking annoying bray backed by trombones. Not a fan.
- HippoCampus: We walked over to the Roots Stage to wait for Hippocampus to start, but Jessica Hernandez said, “We got two more songs for you!” and I was like, “WHAT? HOW?!!?” because it was like one minute away from Hippocampus starting on the neighboring stage. The Riot and Roots staging alternate, so as soon as one band is done, the next band immediately starts on the other stage, and Riot Fest is pretty good about keeping the schedule accurate. However, Jessica wouldn’t shut her trap, and then the powers-that-be did my favorite thing ever: THEY SHUT HER DOWN. She just kept singing, no sound coming out, until she finally realized what was happening and frantically waved her mic around like they were going to turn the sound back on for her, like it was an accident, like she was better than the next band and allowed to abuse her time on stage. Fuck OFF, Jessica Hernandez. Meanwhile, Hippocampus ended up being kind of boring, but I’m still glad they didn’t have their set cut short by that dumb bitch.
- High Waisted: Since Hippocampus wasn’t capturing my heart, I looked at my app to see who else was playing. I quickly skimmed the bio for High Waisted, which mentioned 1960s SURF and DREAM POP, and I was on board. “I thought you don’t like female singers?” Henry asked when we rolled up to the tiny Storyheart Stage. He will never understand my criteria. This band seemed like it was in my wheelhouse and I was willing to give them a chance, and thank god for that because they ended up being a huge highlight of the whole weekend, especially when they had a legit Dick Dale breakdown at the end of the set. Plus, the singer, Jessica Louise, was hot AF! Unlike that other Jessica (Hernandez *hisssss*), this one had an Erin-pleasing voice. They’re on tour right now with Somos and Free Throw and of course it’s not coming to shitty Pittsburgh.
- Motion City Soundtrack: They were next on the Roots Stage and Henry begrudgingly followed me there. Neither of us are actually fans of this band and in fact, I can’t tell you how many times I walked right past whatever stage they were playing at numerous Warped Tours. I think probably because I associate them with Christina’s crazy sister. But this is the last tour they’re doing, probably for like 5 years at which point they will realize how much money there is to be made on reunion tours, and then they’ll be all, “Wow, we forgot how much we loved making music as this band so now we have a new album coming out! And another tour after that!” I mean, I can’t judge. At least five bands I really fucking love have done this to me over the last 10 years. But still, I wanted to be there and actually watch them for what might be my only chance ever. I only really know two songs and they played both of them so I was content. Henry made his “I don’t get it” face the whole time, and truthfully, we spent most of the set willing someone to “accidentally” step on this bitch who wouldn’t stand up:
Chooch’s new shirt for picture day.
Admittedly, my favorite part of the set was when some girl pushed her way through us and Henry casually said, “Oh hello, come on in.” I don’t know why it made me crack up as much as it did, other than the fact that I was fucking high on life. And then we saw a guy with flipflops literally tattooed to his feet. OH OK.
- Bob Mould: I hope if you’re reading this that you know who Bob Mould is, but if you don’t: GET YOUR STUDY ON. He’s a living alt-rock legend, and his 80s bands Husker Du and Sugar are both essential for any music fanatic. I have never seen him before so I was pretty giddy about this, especially since he was supposed to be at the first Riot Fest I ever went to but then WASN’T and then when he was in Pittsburgh, I WAS AT RIOT FEST. Guys, these are the big problems in my life, OK? Anyway, a fun fact about Bob Mould is that when Henry and I first started dating, or whatever you want to call, he was way more accepting of my musical tastes and Bob Mould’s “New #1” was like, our song or something. I guess. We haven’t listened to it together in like 10 years because we don’t love each other anymore.
- Balance & Composure: But, as much as I love me some Bob Mould, I REALLY FUCKING LOVE ME some Balance & Composure, so we split the Riot Stage about 30 minutes into Bob’s set and ran over to the small Rebel Stage, where B&C was setting up and I pulled Henry all the way to the front, which he just LOVES. Right away though, I heard A Voice that immediately made me feel angry and tense and then I realized it was the obnoxious Minnesota know-it-all from the line to get in on Day One! Henry started cracking up and I just slowly turned back around and proceeded to block her out. Luckily, I had SAM and her SNOWCONE to fixate on. She was standing next to me and I know her name is SAM because she saw one of her friends, who came over with another friend, and introductions were made but then they left and SAM continued to stand alone with her BLUE snowcone. She was interesting. And of course we saw her like 87 times the rest of the weekend too. Always alone! I felt so sad for her. But then B&C started playing and everyone around me just melted away. For being up against so many heavy-hitters and being relegated to the smallest stage, they really had a shit ton of people there for them! I don’t know what to say about this band other than they are just excelsior alt-rock, kind of emo-revivalist, really great song-writing, the kind of music you want to listen to in the car while driving around in October wearing your favorite sweater and MAYBE DRINKING A MAPLE LATTE TOO. They are for sure an autumn band for me, like just writing about this right now makes me want to go on a haunted hayride, good thing it’s October 1. (OMG it’s October 1 and I’m not done writing about Riot Fest, whyyyyy.) They have a new album coming out so they started their set off with two songs from that and then Jon (he’s the SINGER, you guys) admitted that they were nervous as fuck to perform those songs for the first time, and it did kind of seem like they were stiff and uncomfortable but once they dove into the old jams, they were shining like diamonds. For the record, I love the new songs they’ve released so far. This is one of them, it’s called POSTCARD and you should listen:
Go back to Minnesota.
After Balance and Composure, we had some time to wander around and forage for food before Brand New started at 6:15. It was around this time that I thought I saw Justin Bobby and Henry was all WHO and I said “Justin Bobby” and Henry was all “…………….” and then I yelled, “FROM THE HILLS!?!?” Fuck Henry, turn on MTV sometime in 2006, OK?
I ended up getting one of the most texturally interesting veggie burgers ever:
I think it was made with potatoes. I liked it. It could have been warmer but it’s better than the soft pretzel I’d be eating at Warped Tour, so who am I to complain. Those food vendors are amazing every year though I feel like this year wasn’t as on point as the past two years. (I’M STILL NOT OVER THE FACT THAT DARK MATTER WASN’T THERE WITH THEIR HOT, HEAVENLY NECTAR A/K/A COFFEE. I missed those tiny donuts that were there last year too. Come back, tiny donuts.)
We saw, for the second time that day, a girl wearing the same Emarosa “For Fox Sake” shirt that Chooch has. She was sitting down with her friend and I did that thing that Henry loves where I boisterously comment on someone’s attire (I can’t tell you how many times I get all Tourettes-like when we’re in another city and I see someone wearing a Penguins shirt). I ran up to the girl and screamed, “I LOVE EMAROSA!” She was clearly caught off guard. I could tell by the way her hand flew to her chest and she let out a startled, “Oh!” But then she said, “Yeah, they’re fantastic!” and that response satisfied me so I continued on my way.
“Why do you have to do that?” Henry groaned.
Anyway, it was around this point where I started to notice a lot of vendors had put up Morrissey-related signs regarding their food and I didn’t realize until later it was because one of his stipulations for playing Riot Fest was that all food vendors had to stop selling meat after 8pm. Obviously I’m a huge fan of THE CURE but I am just a basic, average fan of the Smiths and not really a fan at all of Morrissey as a solo artist (not for any reason other than I just never really paid attention to it because I’ve been too busy worshiping at the feet of Robert Smith almost my whole life), so I didn’t know that this is something Moz supposedly requires of all venues he’s playing at. I guess it really sent Riot Fest attendees over the edge though because the comments I was reading online were so fucking hostile. Like, if you ever hear me complain about not being able to eat a certain food for a two hour block, please fucking kill me. Personally, as a vegetarian, this really made me respect Morrissey a lot more. How fucking punk rock is that?! Plus it incited so much controversy, which come on, who doesn’t love some fucking music drama!?
No one thought Riot Fest would comply to Moz’s demands, but they did and that made my veggie burger taste even more delicious and satisfying, not gonna lie. It’s not everyday us herbivores get a victory.
Riot Fest really starts to get crowded around 5. That’s around the time my stranger-danger anxiety usually starts to set in, but the way they had the stages set up this year made it feel like less of a cluster. I mean, I still clung to Henry’s shirt tail like my life depended on it, but it wasn’t as gnarly as past years.
- Brand New: Henry was being so nice to me around this time! So now instead of associating Brand New with terrible Christina things, I think I will associate them with Henry kind of showing me something that resembled affection! It was nice. But then he said he only knew one song that Brand New played that night and I was like, “YOU’RE A FUCKING IDIOT THERE IS NO WAY YOU DIDN’T KNOW AT LEAST 75% OF THAT SET LIST, YOU MOTHERFUCKING MORON” and then the mood was killed. But seriously though it was a delightful set. We stood far back enough that we didn’t have to deal with any of their asshole fans (honestly, Brand New has some of the douchiest fans I’ve ever encountered and I can’t even imagine them in real life scenarios outside of a Brand New show). I feel really lucky to have gotten to see them twice in two months, although I’m kind of annoyed that I didn’t jump at the chance to buy tickets to their upcoming Cleveland show because they just announced that they’re playing The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me in its entirety, fuck my life. I also think it’s kind of interesting that Jesse Lacey basically made a career of trolling his fans yet people still fall over themselves to see his band play. There’s a sick kind of respect there, I guess. (I do think this band deserves every accolade it receives though and anyone who says they’re overrated can go fuck themselves because I’m pretty sure Jesse Lacey is a fucking mad genius and when he sings Degausser I lose it every time.) Here is someone else’s video of it because I only have a few Snaps:
Honestly, what else is there to say about Brand New?
Somewhere around this time, we had our third conversation about rats (????). This time we were talking about how we saw rat traps in the yards of the houses we walked past that morning and Henry was mouthing off about how bad rats are, etc., and I said, “Yeah but, some of the rats of NIMH were good though…”
“Those were cartoons, Erin,” Henry sighed.
- Death Cab For Cutie: This band needs no introduction. There was a chunk of my early 20s when they were my shit, I loved this band so much, before that TV show The O.C. made them a household band (I mean, good for them! But I’m just saying…) However, I stopped listening to them almost entirely after Transatlanticism. Not because I thought they got sucky or anything like that, but because I associated them with this. Basically, I was listening to DCFC when I found out that someone I had a very dysfunctional relationship with had been killed in a car accident/alleged suicide. Pretty hard not to think about that anytime I hear Death Cab nowadays. I actually saw them a week after that happened too, at Coachella in 2004. The first and last time I’d ever see them live, until now at Riot Fest. And I have to say, it felt like beautiful torture. It felt like having my heart ripped out of my chest, only to have it pumped full of life and love and reinserted. It felt healing and necessary. But…if they had played anything from Something About Airplanes, I probably would have had to leave. No lie.
(OH GOD why did I just let myself listen to this?!)
Riot Fest, you are a fucking violent stumble, heart-in-throat, down memory lane, Jesus Christ. I wasn’t ready.
- Morrissey: I had a chance to begin processing the past that had been dredged up slammed into my face after Death Cab’s set since Morrissey kept us waiting for like 30 minutes. I get it, you’re a big star, but FYI: The Cure has never left me standing out in the dark, looking at my imaginary watch. SORRY TO KEEP MAKING COMPARISONS. There was some 30 minute long video montage that we had to suffer through and I guess he does this at all of his shows? OK that’s fine, but maybe don’t do that when you’re playing a festival and people have been there since noon and just want to see you play now so that we can all leave and pass out in our shitty Motel 6 hopefully-clean beds. People were leaving left and right, and Henry really wanted to leave too, but I got all white knight-y and said reasoned, “Come on, it’s Morrissey. We have to see him at least once.” Because unless someone gives me a free ticket, I can’t imagine that I would ever go to a show specifically to see him (unless the Smiths suddenly reunite, then it’s game on). There was a moment where we actually thought that maybe he seriously wasn’t going to be there after all, because when the Riot Fest lineup was announced last spring, he was like, “I never agreed to perform at Riot Fest so this is news to me” in typical Moz-fashion. I mean, you have to admire his consistency with being notoriously difficult and coy, I guess. He did, obviously, come out and immediately began singing “Suedehead” in his typical bombastic fashion and I found myself saying, “IT’S OK MORRISSEY, WE’RE NOT MAD!” because that damn voice. And: “By the way, thanks for opening with a song I know!”
When he sang “Ganglord,” there were images of police violence splayed out on the screen behind him and while it was difficult to watch, it felt so fucking important and I had to give him credit because that was a message that needed to be forced on everyone watching. Like, “Hey guys, you’re here right now enjoying your life at Riot Fest when this is the shit that’s happening in your idiotic country right now. Don’t forget that.” Henry hates it when musicians use the stage as a soapbox but I’m all for it. I feel like more people are going to listen to what their music idols have to say than what a politician is jawing off about, so go for it, Morrissey. Tell us to Dump Trump! WE’RE TRYING!
We stayed for five songs then made our way back down the streets lined with rat traps and rejoiced when we saw our car was still in one piece in the shady parking lot where we left it that morning.
This was by far the best and most emotionally satisfying day of Riot Fest and I wish I could hold it in my hand and squeeze it lovingly like a dove BUT NOT TOO HARD SO I DON’T KILL IT.