Good morning everyone!
So yesterday was the first day of Riot Fest 2018, and of course, I was there. Riot Fest is the only big money festival that I attend every year...as a spectator. If you've been a reader of this blog before, you probably have seen me make mention of the fact that I bartend at several of the other big festivals in Chicago over the summer: Spring Awakening, Mamby on the Beach, Lollapalooza, in previous years North Coast Music Fest, as well as the Taste of River North. What can I say, it's good money!
But for Riot Fest, I spend some of that hard-earned money and get me a 3 day pass. Riot Fest is the one festival that comes closest to my music tastes; loud raucous metal, punk, hip-hop, etc. This is my 5th year attending Riot Fest as a spectator (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017). I did bartend at the festival in 2015. Whew...time flies!!!
There are so many things I love about this festival. Of course the music. In addition, I always seem to meet people, with yesterday being no different. While waiting for bands you get into random conversations. I met a young lady who was a bartender, whom had the most awesome hat. It had Monarch butterflies all over it. She said "Yeah, a friend gave it to me, because he said butterflies weren't his style. She then told me it was from Grassroots California, which I immediately made a note in my phone for later. A while later I met a guy named Brett. Cool dude, with a group of friends, while waiting for Flogging Molly. He asked me if I was a big fan. I said, "Not a huge fan, but I dig their stuff, and I really wanted to see what they're like live. He then told me if I hadn't seen them live before to definitely check out Taking Back Sunday, to which I thanked him.
That's how Riot Fest works. Two acts I never miss, GWAR and Andrew W.K., I discovered the exact same way. Some kids told me not to miss either, so I checked them both out, and have seen both every year I've attended since. In actuality, those are 2 of the 3 bands on my Saturday roster.
Another great aspect of Riot Fest, and particularly in it's current setup, is that you can discover a lot of music as you travel from stage to stage. A perfect example of this is while meandering around yesterday, I hear some good sounds emanating from one of the stages. I check out the schedule, and see it's "K. Flay," whom I've never really heard of or heard before. I was digging the performance and wandered over to catch about 15 minutes of it. I really dug everything I heard, so I made a note to check her out on Spotify later, which I'm doing as I type this. Listening to the song "Blood In The Cut"...I'm digging it.
Riot Fest is all about discovery.
So let's talk music. If you have never been to Riot Fest; It has 5 stages, with overlapping playing times throughout the day, same as many of the big summer festivals. Often, the challenge is to figure out which bands you will listen to, or how you will catch a little bit of this artist, to run and catch a little bit of this artist, and sometimes, Riot Fest will be a complete dick and put two great artists head to head, as in the case tonight of Jerry Lee Lewis going almost exactly the same time as GWAR. How do you choose???
Well, here's how my day broke down:
- K. Flay - As I mentioned before, while heading to Rise Stage to get a spot to listen to Sum 41, I heard K. Flay and wandered her way. Good beats, good voice, she was a very active performer. I couldn't tell you too much about her performance other than I walked away wanting to hear more of her work. I also always keep a healthy skepticism, because I always tend to like artists way more live than I do recorded. Few artists are able to keep the excitement and intensity of their music when they walk into the studio. I've listened to a few of her songs this morning though, and it's good stuff.
- Sum 41 - I have no idea why they were on my list. I'm not a Sum 41 fan. I don't own any of their music, have never gone to a concert to specifically see them, and couldn't name any of their songs, although I probably could sing the hook to one or 2. However, they're a well-known band, and growing up, they were always on MTV. Nostalgia perhaps? Well, I have no complaints with their live performance. Even now that I'm less judgey about music in general, their pop punk aesthetic goes over better in my ears.
- Digable Planets - The only mistake I made was standing so far back. I was next to the sound board. I should've gotten closer so I could've gotten a good look of Ladybug Mecca. Not only an extremely talented MC, but she's gotten more beautiful with time. She had on a leg brace, and although she toughed out most of the set, she did have to sit down for a few of the later songs. I have a sweet spot in my heart for hip hop artists who perform with a live band. It feels good, and shows that hip hop is more than an MPC or a turntable, it's an organic art form just like any other, that emanates from real instruments, so DP got huge kudos from me for that. Their set was great, and yes, I really wanted a nickelbag of funk!
- Flogging Molly - This is one of 2 bands whose sets I watched in their entirety! I don't know much about Flogging Molly, other than whenever I hear their music, I love it. It's music to drink to. It's music to party to. So i had to catch them live, and I wasn't disappointed. I couldn't name any of their songs for you, sing any of the lyrics, but hot damn, it's good music. I will definitely go out of my way to listen to more of their music now. Celtic Punk at its finest!
- Matt And Kim - While walking from Digable Planets to see Flogging Molly, I heard some good sounds coming from one of the other stages. I looked over to see like 100 beach balls bouncing over the crowd, and everyone going crazy. I said "Holy shit! Who is that?" It was Matt and Kim. I will be listening to their music on Spotify later this weekend, and I'm sad I missed their set. It looked like a good time was had by all. That's how Riot Fest works. Next time they come to Chicago, if I dig their music, I'll probably go catch them. That's how all this shit works.
- Atmosphere - My 2nd full set of the day. While walking over to see Atmosphere, I ran into my friend Veva and her 2 kids. Note: My cell service works for shit at Riot Fest, so the only way to find anyone is by happening across them. Amazing!!! So, we hung out the rest of the evening. We actually spent a portion of the set getting drinks and food. But the value of the stage that Atmosphere was performing on is it's super close to the carnival and concessions, so I could hear the music beautifully. I was overjoyed when Atmosphere played "Sunshine" my favorite song of theirs. Great set. Great music. I danced...I actually danced. Also, How have I never tried deep fried Oreos until yesterday???
- Cypress Hill - My original plan was to catch a bit of Cypress Hill, then run over to catch all of the Dropkick Murphys set. However, Veva's kids were really excited to see Cypress, so I changed my plans, and this was the 3rd full set of the day. That's how Riot works...plans change because some girl smiles at you, or some kids say "Man, they're amazing, you gotta go see them!" So, Riot Fest has found a great niche in the summer festival milieu by having "Legacy" bands perform full albums, usually their best selling or most classic album, in its entirety. For Cypress Hill, that's the album Black Sunday, released on July 20, 1993. Man! I was in junior high, and I remember hearing that album. That brought back memories. Cypress put a twist on this Riot Fest concept however, by playing the album bottom to stop, starting with the last track and so on. It was an awesome set. They had a DJ, but also had a live percussionist, which added a layer to the performance, some extra texture, and it felt very organic, which is necessary for me to enjoy live hip hop. Also, there were no overdubbed vocals, it was all live, a huge bonus. When a rapper comes out, and they have backing tracks with overlayed vocals, I just walk away. I can buy your tape in the bargain bin son. Cypress Hill killed it, and it didn't escape my notice that B Real has headlined Riot Fest 2 years in a row, having headlined last year as a lead vocalist in Prophets of Rage. Hell, I'd be ok if he's back a 3rd year straight with Prophets. Riot, make it happen!
- LATE NIGHT CLEANUP: Dropkick Murphys & Weezer: Following Cypress Hill, I decided to catch what music was left. We headed across the park and caught the last 2 songs of Dropkick Murphys, one of which is the only song of theirs I know, "I'm shipping up to Boston." Another Celtic Punk band...man, I would play in a Celtic punk band in a hot second. Awesome! From there, we caught the last 30 minutes of Weezer. I saw them a few years ago as well. I'm not a fan, but they're great live performers, and they did some great covers at the tail end of their set, including "Africa", which is on the official Riot Fest 2018 Playlist.
- Afterparty: Mt. Bethlehem M.B. Church - Yo!!! I remembered this spot from last year. They have food all day, and after Riot, this is the perfect spot to chill and have some eats. Last night I had jerk chicken and beef tacos, washed down with some Green Apple Lemonade. Definitely stop by if you're hungry after the fest. It's at 2625 W. Ogden Ave. It has the Reflections of a Chicago Life stamp of approval!
Today is another day, and I will be hitting the festival a bit later. Did you go to Riot Fest? Who did you catch? Who will you be seeing the rest of the weekend? Any recommendations, give me all the buzz.
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This post was created on my HP Pavilion x360.
Tags: Andrew W.K., Atmosphere, Cypress Hill, Digable Planets, Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Grassroots California, GWAR, K.Flay, Lollapalooza, Mamby On The Beach, Matt and Kim, Mt. Bethelehem M.B. Church, Riot Fest, Spring Awakening, Sum 41, Taste of River North, Weezer