Riot Fest 2018 went off without a hitch last week on the city's southwest side in North Lawndale's Douglas Park. We spoke with GWAR's Beefcake the Mighty, Andrew W.K., Gary Numan and Clutch frontman Neil Fallon about what makes Riot Fest unique...
Despite inaccurate predictions from social media prognosticators who feared the festival's demise in 2018, artist cancellations and a late arriving daily schedule, Riot Fest saw massive crowds this year for headlining performances by artists like Weezer, Beck and Run the Jewels, with organizers making it clear by the end of the weekend they're already looking ahead to 2019.
GWAR's Beefcake the Mighty not only called into question Andrew W.K.'s ability to party but claims to have invented humans. Andrew W.K. defended his staunch party platform while calling for patron hydration. Gary Numan uses the festival as a reason to avoid his catalog and focus on his latest music, while Clutch singer Neil Fallon had to choose between sets by Fear and JD McPherson.
Highlights of my 2018 Riot Fest conversations below...
Q. You guys, alongside Andrew W.K., are one of two acts that perform at Riot Fest now annually and have each year since it moved outdoors in 2012. I think it's fair to call GWAR Riot Fest ambassadors. What’s that like for you guys?
Beefcake the Mighty: Andrew W.K… he likes to party. He’s pretty good at partying. But he’s never gonna compare to us. We invented partying. We invented humans - but that was an accident though. We accidentally had sex with monkeys.
It’s another gig. Just like any other gig. We get real wasted, then we stumble on stage and piss on everybody. We’re trying to help them out. Givers. We have to sacrifice a few victims to give back. The good of the many outweighs the good of the whole, as a wonderful alien once said.
Q. I spoke with GWAR. You guys are the two artists that have played every year since Riot Fest moved outdoors in 2012. Beefcake the Mighty said, and I quote, “Andrew W.K. is pretty good at partying. But he’s never gonna compare to us.” What’s your reaction to hearing your ability to party called into question by the GWAR camp?
Andrew W.K.: Well, hey… They have weapons. And spikes. And a lot of slime and other fluids - mysterious fluids. So I would never go up against them in anything with that arsenal that they possess.
And, in my mind, the party attitude is that it’s not a contest. The only person I’m trying to party harder than is myself. And I imagine they are trying to do the same.
But, that being said, the chompers on some of those beasts are so formidable that I wouldn’t dare question anything that comes out of their mouths. Those are a lot of teeth and they look very sharp.
Q. As a veteran of this festival, you know that 85 degrees all weekend in Chicago in September is not normal. Any festival partying dos and don’ts?
Andrew W.K.: I always say stay hydrated. It’s the easiest thing to overlook but it’s the most important in terms of stamina. And that’s for me as well. You’re going to burn a lot of calories even if you don’t feel like you’ve been very active.
It’s an event that deserves your best effort. You want to get your money’s worth. You don’t want to waste the chance to extract as much entertainment and excitement and good memory building from this as possible. So hydrate. Hydrate! Consume as many fluids as possible of all different varieties. If you consume fluids that dehydrate you, than consume even more fluids that hydrate you back up!
Q. Anything else?
Andrew W.K.: All I want to say is just don’t stop partying!
Q. What’s it like taking your new music, as well as your catalog, to a festival like Riot Fest where maybe you might be exposing it to an audience that may not necessarily be familiar with the entire body of work?
Gary Numan: It gives me the opportunity to not do catalog really. Apart from “Cars,” and maybe one other song that people might know, I just abandon it. I just do what I’m doing now. Which is all you really want to do. Often, catalog and legacy just hold you back. They’re like little chains on your wrist.
So I like it. It’s a good opportunity to just go out there and do what I want.
Q. You guys have performed at Riot Fest in the past, so what’s it like coming back to Chicago and playing this festival in particular again?
Neil Fallon: It’s a great festival. It’s got an embarrassment of riches. I mean, I had to choose between watching Fear and J.D. McPherson earlier. I caught a bit of both. That’s a good problem to have.
It’s always been a blast here. It’s just as much about us being fans of other artists too.
- Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )