Generational Punk: Riot Fest 2014 – Day 3


The third day of Riot Fest is always a tiring one. By the time the diehards enter the grounds, they’re still somewhat recovering from at least a dozen hours jumping and wandering from the previous two days. The offerings for a festival’s finale were tempting: a swarm of legendary bands on almost every stage culminating in a three headed beast of a finale: The Cure, Bring Me the Horizon and Weezer playing at the same time throughout the grounds.

The entire day was marked by gripping choices between generations of music; on one stage is Naked Raygun with Motion City Soundtrack at the other end of the park at the same time. Social Distortion played at the same time as New Found Glory. There was more to see than one could make time for, with generations of punk bands dueling for fans. The bands that I grew up loving played next to the bands older siblings listened to in the 90’s, next to the bands my parents loved.

Motion City Soundtrack pulled out a stellar performance studded with the well known singles, “Everything is Alright” and “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”, as well as a new single from their upcoming album titled “Anything At All”. If it is any indication, their sixth studio album looks like it may be a rocker more in line with My Dinosaur Life.

Social Distortion tore through the soulful punk that only they can produce for songs like “Machine Gun Blues” and “Through These Eyes”. Mike Ness’s deep croon lulled the audience in sing-a-long while the guitars blasted away.

The smaller stages saw I Am The Avalanche draw in the faithful fans that Vinnie Caruana is known for during his hard set, but the real surprise was a few hours later when Modern Baseball took the same stage. As a rising star in the pop punk community, they drew in the biggest crowd the small Revolt Stage (tucked between the larger Rock and Riot Stages and next to the food carts) had seen the entire weekend and would be considered an almost sold out audience for a club. Fans filled the lawn to sing along.

My personal high point was seeing New Found Glory for the first time since the departure of guitarist Steve Klein. Bassist Ian Grushka officially takes MVP for not only fulfilling his duties as bassist, but also covering Klein’s guitar riffs, officially making the band’s sound weightier and deeper than ever before. Guitarist Chad Gilbert essentially has free reign of the guitar section and makes sure that the band’s signature pop aesthetic is louder than ever. For as much as they have gone through in the last year (Gilbert described it on stage as “the rock bottom”) they’re a band completely reborn with a new energy and inspired vigor.

The festival ended with three generations of bands helming the headline duties on different stages. The Cure took up one of the biggest stages with a massive audience of mostly the older attendees. The few songs I heard sounded epic and tormented, the way any good Cure song should. At the other end was Bring Me The Horizon, blasting an explosive hardcore set for the younger audience to cap off the festival’s newer bands.

Weezer though, was another animal altogether. Anyone claiming that Weezer has lost their popularity can go screw; this was by far the biggest and most excited crowd of the festival. The area surrounding the stage packed full of people to the point of crushing. The thin lines of people moving through the crowd were regularly pushed to a dead halt against audience members refusing to budge for fear of losing their spot. Stepping into the outside rim of the crowd, it took me a solid ten minutes just to get out. People climbed into trees and lay down atop the chain link grating of batting cages to see the stage.

Weezer appeared to a shattering thunder of cheers. With the promise of playing The Blue Album front to back, they knew how to properly tease an audience by working their way back in time. Their first song was “Back To The Shack”, the lead single to their upcoming album followed by the famous songs to nearly every album (“Pork and Beans” for Red, “Perfect Situation” for Make Believe, “El Scorcho” for Pinkerton) before a brief hiatus when they took the stage for Blue.

“My Names Is Jonas” started a frenzy that never subdued until the finale of “Only In Dreams”. Thousands of voices shouted every lyric to each song in perfect time to Rivers himself. Weezer’s newer albums may not land them the hypnotic cultish fan base of Blue, but by the amount of people singing “Back To The Shack”, they haven’t lost anything.

Riot Fest has proven itself more and more as the ultimate destination for the punk rock faithful of any age. There were literally just as many mohawks on the kids as there were on the graying men who saw the genre on the rise. While seeing the best of the modern era of punk on stage is as exciting as it should be, the thrill of seeing a band that has been in the game for decades command an audience is intoxicating.

Though Riot Fest tours in a limited fashion across North America, it is quickly becoming the best festival in Chicago. For those unwilling to let rock fade away, Riot Fest keeps the spirit alive more than any other festival can, and the wait until next year’s all the more worth while.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and spent nearly twenty-two collective hours at Riot Fest 2014. Please make paper mache effigies of him and feed them ham.

“The Rock Stage is WHERE?” Riot Fest 2014 – Day 1


All things considered, Riot Fest is one of the best music festivals in North America. The few cities to host it bring in the biggest names in rock, along with the festive atmosphere that only brightly lit carnival rides can muster. It’s an incredible journey that traverses decades of influence, drawing bands just as famous now as they were twenty years ago, much less bands currently on fire. And the first day of it was arguably quite miserable. There’s a saying that it’s not punk rock without mud, and Riot Fest was muddy as shit.

Prior to the gates even opening, the rain had fallen for hours to varying degrees. Paired with a cold wind and the rapidly falling temperatures of a Midwest autumn, the evening became the coldest night in months. By the end of the night I was decked out in two shirts, two hoodies and a last minute purchased rain poncho that offered no protection from the weather.

Due to unforeseen circumstance, I was unable to arrive until later in the evening, able to see just a couple of acts and get a feel for the grounds. I am obviously not aware of what led to the planning of the festival and what led it to be held on the other half of Humboldt Park this year, but it was a poor substitute for last year’s layout.

A year ago, the stages were further apart but the grounds were an open sandbox that allowed attendees to find their own path to any part of the park. It allowed for people to see the differing stages from multiple views without the bands stepping on each others sound while the merch tables and beer stands were to the sides and out of the way. The only things to possibly get in the way were the carnival rides facing the main stages.

While this part of Humboldt was definitely bigger, the layout was way more haphazard. Instead of an open layout, there was a clear arcing path alongside the outside of the given area, as a majority of the inner part was a large pond. The main stages were closer together so that it was easier to camp out and enjoy an area for large portions of the day, but maneuvering was considerably difficult.

The main entrance was alone at one end, away from everything and requiring a several minute walk just to see the first stage. Food carts lined the arched outer area, which meant that they were all together for convenience, but directly in the way of the main lanes of foot traffic. In order to avoid this, you were forced to walk through the crowds of the bands playing. Anyone hurrying to see a headliner would find themselves stuck in needless gridlocks of people for minutes at a time due to the few congested pathways.

The stages so close together made it simple if you were planning to stand in one place all day, but making your way to a stage could be problematic, as the areas for the bands was smaller because oftentimes half of the given area was taken up by people waiting for  the next band thirty minutes away. This wasn’t necessarily the case all the time, but I found it an issue while trying to jump between acts.

The night wasn’t without its merits though: Rise Against were pretty sweet. As one of the headliners, they took over one of the stages at the far end of the festival. The weather did little to stifle the energy of the bands that evening but being in their hometown of Chicago, Rise Against laughed it off on stage. Their set toured throughout their discography, spending the largest amount of time with songs from The Sufferer and the Witness before inviting Fat Mike from NOFX onstage to play a couple of Ramones songs. They were sadly all I managed to spy with my little eye.

While opening night felt miserable, the energy rewarded anyone willing to brave the storm and lay the foundation for the next two days. The mud would dry and the rain gave way to warm sun and cool breezes, a vast contrast to the brutal sun of Warped Tour. The grounds proved trickier to manage than in years past but ultimately not much of a trial for the persistent. Riot Fest brought autumn to the Midwest in epic fashion.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and was stuck in rush hour traffic for two goddamned hours the opening night of Riot Fest. Please make voodoo dolls of him.