Sep 242015

Let me preface this with a preemptive apology because I know without even reading it that this post is sloppy as fuck. I wrote it like a lunatic on frosted Ritalin. I JUST GET SO EXCITED ABOUT THESE THINGS! One day I will come back and edit. Months later. I’m such a professional.

Sunday was a great day! We had the best weather of all three days (dry, sunny and warm!), a really great Lyft driver (Venus!) who dropped us off at alternate entrance which had NO LINE. And apparently the main gate hadn’t opened yet because there was practically no one inside. It was eerie and quiet. We had time to kill before any of the bands started, so we finally got some shopping in. I’m still daydreaming about all of the merch booths, to be honest. (Just to be clear, you know that anytime I say “to be honest,” everything else is a bold-faced lie, right?)

Interestingly, we noticed that the schedule for Sunday had been revised because a band had dropped off, so now there was a block of time for one of the smallest stages that just had three question marks in lieu of a band name. “WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!” I asked Henry, who gave me his standard IDGAF glare.

Our experiences at Riot Fest really couldn’t be any more diametrically opposed. It’s like comparing Julie Andrews spinning around in the hills of Saltzburg to Charlie Sheen in Platoon. How we work as a couple is a mystery.

The third and final day of Riot Fest was the one day were I didn’t have a ton of bands that I absolutely needed to see; there were really only three. But there were a few playing on the two smallest stages that I had a passing interest in, so we spent a large portion of the day in that area. This was also the most sparsely populated area, so Henry was extremely thankful. The bands playing on these two stages all day were mostly in the emo/indie category, if I’m forced to pigeon-hole them. It’s a sound that I really love, that No Sleep feel, so I wound up walking away with several new bands pinned to my heart. Loitering at those stages was like being at a mini Fest, which attending has been on my bucket list for years.

(Not Henry though. His review of basically every band we saw all weekend is “*shrug*” so I quit asking him to contribute to these posts.)

  • Signals Midwest – Indie/punk band from Cleveland; they had a slight Balance & Composure feel to them, and I was down for it. Solid start to the day and a sneak peek of what the small stages had in store for us that day. I wish that all of the bands had their own merch booths there, like at Warped, because I would have for sure bought their record or a shirt.

  • Foxtrott – I really am super picky when it comes to female-fronted bands. I don’t know what it is about me and the female voice, but we aren’t friends. However, on the drive from Pittsburgh, I looked up Foxtrott on Spotify and, while there was only one song on there, I actually liked it. When I saw that there was nothing else going on at the same time, I added them to the schedule in my Riot Fest app. (Isn’t technology strange? I barely remember the days where we’d scrawl set times on our hands at festivals. There actual schedules being handed out at the gate every day at Riot Fest, but if you programmed your own schedule into the app, you’d get fifteen-minute reminders to get your ass to a certain stage, and believe me — those were really convenient.)

Henry’s style icon during Foxtrott. He also had another style icon who looked like if a young Jeffrey Jones was a gym teacher in the 70s.

  • Cayetana – Caught a minute of them because Signals Midwest gave them a shout out so I figured, sure, why not. Turns out they’re a girl band. What is my issue with girl bands?! I think it stems back to my strong adversity to 4 Non Blondes. (Sorry, Linda Perry. You just don’t do it for me.) Let Henry use the porta potty and then we split for the Riot stage.
  • Kevin Devine – If you can believe it, this was actually Henry’s pick. I never really gave Kevin Devine a chance before (although I did briefly like his collab, Bad Books, with Andy Hull), so when Henry asked me who he was, I was just like, “I dunno, dude. A man who sings with a band.” He’s one of those guys whose music blends into the background for me, but we had nothing else pulling us in a different direction at that time, so we made the hike over to the main stage. And it was a great set! Totally one of those situations where I like a band better live. “Good call, Henry,” I said, giving him a hearty pat on the back. He just sneered at me. Like he does.

  • Souvenirs – On the drive to Chicago, I was reading the bios of some of the bands I hadn’t heard of, and Souvenirs mentioned in theirs that they’re influenced by Sunny Day and Mineral. This was enough to get me to the Revolt stage at 2pm. My plan was to watch them for 15 minutes and then run to the main stage to see Hum, but they were so goddamn good that I wound up staying for almost the whole set and sacrificing the beginning of Hum. While we were at their stage, I got a Riot Fest alert saying clarifying the mysterious “???” addition to Sunday’s schedule: Taking Back Sunday were going to fill the slot! I thrust my phone into Henry’s face and even he admitted that it was cool. TBS on that small-ass stage? I consulted the schedule and saw that this conflicted with Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness. But TBS on a stage that small? Sorry, Andrew; can’t pass that one up.

  • Hum – As a fan of shoegaze, once upon a time, I needed to see Hum. They were playing the main stage and while they sounded great, it was hard to engage in them because we weren’t very close. It definitely brought back some memories, but I definitely would have preferred to see them in a club venue. I feel like something got lost in translation out there midday, on such a large stage.
  • New Politics – We watched two of their songs, but they were pretty bland, radio rock-sounding, and low-energy. Ditched them and went back to the two smaller stages, and thank god for  that because the band playing on the Revolt stage was much better.

  • Modern Chemistry – Skipping out on New Politics proved very fortuitous because Modern Chemistry was way more my style. Also, it turned out that I was standing near them during Souvenirs set earlier, when I kept saying to Henry, “God, why can’t you dress like THOSE guys?!” Cling is currently my favorite song of theirs and I’m really anxious to see them again, hopefully soon.

  • Taking Back Sunday – Thank god we had already been loitering around this stage, because once word spread about the surprise set, people fucking poured into that tiny area, which guaranteed hadn’t seen that much of a headcount all weekend. There really isn’t a way to describe seeing TBS on such a small stage with no frills, other than FUCKING AWESOME. Total Warped Tour vibes and honestly, I thought it was better than their headlining set. I don’t know many people in my demographic who don’t find certain nostalgia in this band. And there was something special about seeing them that day, all humble and #soblessed to be playing a second set in the middle of the day; it just intensified the feels and hearing those old songs (admittedly, I stopped following them after Louder Now) was such a goddamn throwback. I don’t need all the fancy lights — I just want to see Adam up close, swinging that fucking mic. “We are Riot Festing SO HARD this weekend,” he said at one point, and it was just really nice to see a band of that size and stature so into it and genuinely excited to be there. The crowd was great too and Henry actually said these 30 minutes (yes, they stayed within the 30 minute set time that was vacated!) was the highlight for him of the entire weekend.

    • Later on that afternoon, Henry nearly knocked me over when he excitedly pushed my shoulder and said, “LOOK LOOK LOOK!!! It’s Adam!” as Adam Lazzara casually strolled past us as we walking from the Riot Stage. It’s so amusing (and adorable) to me that he (unwittingly) knows so much about the scene that he can recognize people.

  • Manchester Orchestra – Man, I kept telling Henry all weekend, “Just wait until you see Manchester. They are so goddamn good. You’re going to love them!” I have only seen them once before and it was one of those shows I attended with a pile of fake Mexican shit (akaex-BFF) so I generally try to block it from my mind. This particular show was in Cleveland, and Manchester was opening for Brand New. I was already a casual fan of theirs, but I remember being 100% blown away by their stage presence. Unfortunately, Christina and I started fighting pretty much right after their set ended, so the memory of this show is completely tarnished for me. It was such a terrible night that I didn’t even blog about it. Ugh. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to a do-over and because of this,Iwantedto be up front. They were playing on the main stage, but itwasstillearly-ish so it wasn’t impossible. I was at the barricade, off to the side (seriously, I can’t stress this enough—never underestimate the power of side-stage) and the girls I was standing next to were so fucking nice, itwasalmostconcerning. The one was obsessing over my finger tattoos and the other was admiring my jewelry and at one point I thought I might get mugged? But no, they were just really nice and added to the beauty of the Manchester Orchestra experience.
    • I haven’t seen pictures of them in awhile, so when the band came out, I was waiting and waiting for Andy Hull until some other guy who sounded exactly like Andy Hull began singing, and that’s when I realized that holy shit, Andy Hull lost a TON of weight.
    • They were just as excellent as I remembered.
      • Um, apparently not according to Henry, though. He had a major adverse reaction to them, to the point that he said it was literally the lowest point of the weekend for him and that he was almost falling asleep and that he hates them. We actually had a mild fight about it last week because I was pressing him for more details. I don’t CARE that he hates them, but I wanted to know WHAT exactly he hated. Andy’s voice? The songs?Theactual music? The fact that Andy made a mockery of Henry’s beloved industry by wearing a trucker hat when he clearly is not a trucker? But Henry was all, “I don’t know! Stop asking me! Don’t make me hate you, too!”Oooh, OK tough guy.
        • It didn’t help that when we were in Philly, Terri had the same questions because she too enjoys herself a little Manchester every now and then.

Cookie Time during Manchester.

  • Superheaven – total 90s grunge vibe with these guys and I loved it. Again, those two small stages were killing it on Day Three. I didn’t get a chance to check out the line-up over there on the other days and I have much regret. There were a few bands that I already know and like who were playing there that I had to miss because Riot Fest just has way too much good shit going on at once, bands like Joyce Manor, Sleep On It*, Foxing, Knuckle Puck, and Have Mercy. That might be the biggest first world problem I’ve ever had.

    • FUN FACT: On Day Two, a group of guys walked past us early in the day, before any bands were playing, and one of the guys stood out to me. He was wearing a Fuck Seaway shirt and I suddenly had the urge to enthusiastically cry, “THAT’S SICK!” It dawned on me that it was the singer from Bonfires, who recently opened for The Spill Canvas. I excitedly texted my brother Corey about it and then I found out later that Sleep On It brought him out for a song, but of course I missed it.

  • Beach Slang – I almost didn’t stick around for them. I’ve listened to them in passing and it was one of those “I don’t care either way” feelings. I definitely didn’t hate it, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. However, seeing them live flipped a switch inside my ears. They’ve got it all: musical ability, good songs, entertaining stage presence, a frontman who could be the next Charles Manson—he’s that effervescent and charismatic. I fell for them hard. HARD. After 30 seconds, Henry leaned in and said, “I’m gonna, um, move back a little and sit down,kbye” and I just murmured, “Yep” and then moved up closer. When James broke a string on his guitar, he tried to get their guitarist Ruben to do the Jonathan Davis beat box from “Freak on a Leash,” but Ruben was like, “No, I will not do that in front of these people” so then some guy in the crowd said that he could do it, and James let him come up to entertain us. It was pretty funny and props to that guy.
    • Also? James has the best, most adorable laugh of all time and I will definitely be seeing them again. THAT IS A THREAT, BEACH SLANG. I am going to come to your show and love you and then not talk to you, so there!
      • Not at all the music, but his voice reminds me a little of Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) and Blair Shehan (Knapsack/The Jealous Sound <3).
      • Take all of my money.


  • Airborne Toxic Event – Caught the end of their set on the main stage while waiting for Snoop. It was OK. I never really got into them much.
  • SNOOP -Guys.SnoopDogg.Themotherfucking D-O-G.Doggystyle ruledmyfuckingLYFE in high school. My notebooksandfolderswere covered in Lodi Dodi lyrics and sketches of Snoop. My parents fucking hated this era. HATED. I was such a yo-girl, it was scary at times. And when Riot Fest announced that Snoop wouldbeperformingDoggystyle IN ITS ENTIRETY? Oh snap. We started out closer to the stage, probably around the area we were standing for Faith No More, but I got ridiculously paranoid. This was a much different crowd. Lots of former frat boys, drunk off their asses, high as fuck, looking to relive their youth. We still had about 20 minutesbeforeSnoopwas scheduled to come out and I was alreadyfeelingagitatedand also slightly concerned for my well-being. “Back, move back,” I shouted over the boisterous crowd to Henry. We ended up moving two more times before I finally felt safe and comfortable, and we were REALLY FAR back by then. But I didn’t give a fuck. I could enjoy it just fine back where we were. I really just wanted to know that I was in the same general vicinity of this rapper who was such a huge, defining part of my life. I know that sounds dramatic, maybe, and I wish I could force all of my old high school friends to weigh in on this (probablywithexhaustedsighs and annoyed eye rolls). Anyway, Airborne wrapped up their set on the neighboring Riot Stage and the Rock Stage lit up with green lights. And then…nothing. 7:45 came and went, still no Snoop. 8:00 came and the lights shut off. People started booing.Trashwas thrown on the stage. We waited and waited, for an announcement, something, anything. People started chanting his name. “I don’t think he’s coming,” I said wistfully to Henry. But we stuck around,justin case. And finally, around 8:15, the lights came back on and some DJ came on stage making some grand, flourishing introduction for Snoop, but then Lady of Rage came out instead and started performing Afro Puffs and those of us who weren’t drunk (definitely not the man in front of me) were like “The fuck?” This weird intro just went on and on, because clearly they were stalling, something was definitely happening behind the scenes. I started to get worried that we were going togetsomesecond rate,last minute MC in Snoop’s place, but then he finally came out, flanked by two gyrating dancers and someone dressed as a dog. It was NUTS. However! He didnotplayDoggystyle in its entirety, which was really disappointing. Especially when Drop It Like It’s Hot happened. I hate that song. But!Hedidperform Lodi Dodi and I am not afraid to admit that I cried and then buried my head in Henry’s shoulder. AndIrememberedall of the words, even though I honestly haven’t listened to that album since probably 1996.
    • He spent more time BS’ing on that stage, making big productions of smoking his weed, and was eventually told that he only had 3 minutes left. At this point, he had only performed for about 25 minutes and was supposed to have an hour set, but Riot Fest gave zero fucks that he got a late start. They weren’t going to let him go past 8:45, because Modest Mouse was ready to go on the Riot Stage. So he gets his 3-minute warning and flips the fuck out. I mean, he’s Snoop Dogg, so even when he was flipping out, he was still talking slower than Janna on a Sizzurp high. “Thesebitchassmotherfuckerstryna tell me that I only got three minutes left!Pssssssh, fuck that shit!” and he went on to allude to the fact that it was Riot Fest’s fault that he was late to begin with, and then told his security team to guard the monitors to make sure no one tried to unplug him. He had just finally startedtomoveonto a new track when BOOM, plug pulled. Riot Fest was not fucking around. Snoop’s stage completely shut off and Modest Mouse started playing on the Riot Stage. Right on time. The crowd collectively was like, “AW SHIT!” Who does that to Snoop!? It was hilarious, but it really did suck too because I was looking forward to seeing him all weekend.
        • Still, those 30 minutes were enough to resurrect a little bit of Yo-Girl Erin. Mostly though, it just made me crave Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, which I listened to the next day on the drive back to Pittsburgh. Henry was thrill-thrill-thrill-thrill-thrilled.

  • Modest Mouse – I can’tevenpretendto be a Modest Mouse fan. I genuinely liked them in 2004 because it was hard not to. They were fresh-sounding. “Float On” was the jam. That was back when I was really into that type of music, like Death Cab and honestly pretty muchanythingonBarsuk. Riot Fest provides this magical, flower petal-lined path down my musical timeline and it is undeniably funtorevisitall of these old sounds that dominated so many formative stages of my life. We didn’t stick around for much of Modest Mouse, but just having them on my radar again inspired me to dig back into my archives for other old bands I used to listen to love around that same time, like The Prom, French Kicks, Now It’s Overhead, Kind of Like Spitting,TheNotwist, Ugly Casanova.AndobviouslyXiuXiu, but I never stopped listening to them.
    • Vintage feels, man. Vintage feels.


I’m beyond depressed that it’s over. But I took so much away from the weekend. Imagine spending one day trudging along from stage to stage at a music festival when music isn’t really your jam. Now tack on two more days and think about how bad that must have sucked for Henry. I don’t know many people my own age who would think something like this is fun, let alone a 50-year-old. I gotta give props to Henry for doing this for me and for barely complaining. I’m going to admit to something GROSS, but we even held hands a lot. Probably because I was in such a state of euphoria that I had no idea what I was doing. But man, I love Henry. I couldn’t spend three intense days like that with anyone else. Thank you for making this whole weekend possible, for making sure I ate enough to survive, and for preventing me from getting lost in some random Chicago ‘hood. Adult supervision is a good thing in some cases. This was one. Henry, you da man.

Shows in general are so therapeutic and cathartic for me, so festivals like this are the equivalent of a lobotomy, I guess. I never realize how much stress I’m carrying and how many bad feels I’m internalizing until I leave a show and realize that I’m holding my head higher and gritting my teeth less. Music chases the bad noise out of my head. I know a lot of people reading this can relate, and if you can’t, just think about the thing in your life that gives you the most pleasure: watching movies, eating fancy food, 10-inch weeners on midgets.

It’s like that.


Last night, I had a dream that my brother Corey was picking me up for work, but he couldn’t find my house. I was getting really pissed because how could he not know where I lived? He asked me to text him directions, so I sent him a map.

It was the map of Riot Fest. The fucking illustrated map of Riot Fest with all of the stages and the Ferris wheel and the bright green Douglas Park grass. Because in my dreams, that is where I live.


  7 Responses to “Riot Fest, Day 3: Where Henry Had His Eye On the Finish Line”

  1. Riot Fest sounds fun but also exhausting. dang that’s ALOT of bands.

    It was fun reading about your time there though and now I have a bunch of new bands to listen to, so thanks!

  2. Being with you made the weekend tolerable, except for that 45 minutes on Sunday when MO played. Could have been 30, not sure. I love you and would do it all again, must be the euphoria of you saying you love me, let it wear off and I’ll let you know.

  3. Kevin Devine, Hum, and Taking Back Sunday! I am officially jealous!
    So much nostalgia right there!

  4. Aw. I’m glad it was amazing, I love the shout-out to Old Man Henry and love even more his reply up there. Heart melting. I want to do something as big as Riot Fest one day.

Choose Your Words Carefully

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.