Riot Fest: My Chemical Romance Usher in the Return of Punk Rock

Riot Fest is always a bit of a shit show. It’s where Warped Tour kids went once they began contributing to a 401(k). But there is a draining magic to the event that draws us back year after year to brave the heat and feet for 10 straight hours a day. But this time, just this once, it felt different.

This year’s first day was held beneath clear but milky skies, the sun slowly peeling away sunscreen and shade to provide attendees with painful and splotchy souvenirs they’ll carry with them all weekend. While everyone’s experience at a festival is different, I spent Riot’s opening day shepherding a group of people who have never attended the Fest before from stage to stage, making it even more impossible to review the event as a whole. 

Instead, I have snapshots of the day burned into my brain. Anthony Green ditching his mic and launching himself into the crowd during L.S. Dune’s intense debut show. Singer Stubhy Pandav of Lucky Boys Confusion wiping away tears of joy as the crowd that showed up early to see them shouted “LBC! LBC!” after telling them about his recent struggles with muscular sclerosis. Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years brimming with an earned confidence as he introduced “Low Tides”, a song from their upcoming album The Hum Goes on Forever, before announcing that he was dying from the heat of the blue jumpsuit he wore on stage. 

Pioneer skate punks Lagwagon slaying the stage, as well as a man accidentally trebucheting a tub of cheese fries onto the grass after throwing his hands up in excitement to yell “Tony Hawk!” when they played “May 16”. A girl in a large hoop skirt running across the open field of grass to see Anberlin, only for her foot to catch in her clothing and faceplant into the dirt. A girl sitting alone on a swing hanging from a poorly lit plastic arch, watching Portugal. The Man with a gentle kick of her feet. A man in full face paint of the classic Misfits skull logo giving a resigned “Fuuuuuuuck,” when he realized that they were actually playing on Saturday, and he was watching Friday’s punk legends The Descendents. 

The question everyone seemed to be wanting to ask, though, was how My Chemical Romance would play, considering they were booked on the stage tucked furthest away in the corner, with the worst view and nowhere for the monolithic crowds to go. Seemingly every third attendee wore a different MCR shirt, some even in the blue leather Danger Days jacket. People flowed through the ever-swelling crowds in fluid rivers to a single stage. Considering MCR’s headline gig (and reunion tour) had been postponed a full year, it was hard not to consider their set something entirely different from the rest of Riot Fest.

A close friend of mine said that seeing David Bowie’s 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live was an event. The 80’s were just days away, but Bowie’s spellbinding performance in the last moments of the decade was Bowie himself allowing the 70’s to end and announcing, “Okay. Now the 1980’s may begin. Now, you may have new wave.” Forty years later, he swears that seeing that single moment of television was a monumental moment of his life.

Bands like Descendents and Lagwagon taught us what punk rock was. Alkaline Trio and Taking Back Sunday showed us what a new generation of punk rock could be. The Wonder Years and Anberlin redefined punk rock entirely. My Chemical Romance somehow managed to naturally encapsulate all of those sensations into one tidal wave of energy that even people who don’t pay attention to the genre can still sing along to. 

My Chemical Romance at an offensive distance from the stage

As the lights flared, Gerard Way stepped on stage in dark glasses, a shawl, and a dark coat over a dress like a vampiric babooshka. The image stood haunting, iconic even, as the opening notes of new single “The Foundations of Decay” swept over the fields. The image of My Chemical Romance on stage together bore a palpable energy for anyone standing below that seemed to say that punk rock itself was re-energized. 

My Chemical Romance said, “Okay. Punk rock is back.”

Was it the best show I have ever seen? Simply put, no. Gerard’s vocals seemed stunted at times, pronouncing each syllable so startlingly disjointed from one another at times, and lacking some of the trademark swagger of his elegantly disheveled vocals. Despite that, the drama he brought to the stage was a power on par with a relaxed David Bowie. Between every song, Way took the time to check on the sea of people mushing themselves together like an ocean wave to be as close to the stage as possible.

Frank Iero and Mikey Way moved little on stage, but the sound they expelled was a force of nature. Hearing those guitars again was an event. Whether MCR makes new music or not, just knowing the band is a ruling force of music again feels like it is singlehandedly ushering in a new era of the genre.

The next night, I was able to see one of the Drive-Thru Records bands I thought were gone forever, Midtown, reunited and preparing to tour with MCR. Their sloppy but thrilling set was cobbled together allegedly at the request of Mikey Way himself.

The Academy Is…, performing together for the first time in seven years, headlined the Concord Music Hall with a passion and fury that had been missing from pop punk for over a decade. William Beckett may in fact be the best frontman in all of pop punk, in utter control of the stage and sounding better with age.

Pop punk royalty Yellowcard, playing Riot during the day Saturday, were reunited after years apart.

L.S. Dunes, courtesy of Alice Wiltgen

Speaking of Frank Iero, the other big takeaway from Riot was the debut of L.S. Dunes. Composed of Iero, Anthony Green, and musicians from Coheed & Cambria and Thursday, the new supergroup is one of the few times such a team-up seems to not just succeed, but astound. Bringing together the best parts of post-punk hardcore, L.S. Dunes threaten to compete with the best the scene has to offer, shining as a particular high point in Anthony Green’s already astounding discography, comprised of some of the best and most influential bands in the genre. 

As previously stated, Riot Fest was a shit show. There was no shade. One of the biggest bands in the world performed in a corner. The line for artist merch was an hour and a half long. Beer was a felonious $14. But it’s our shit show. Its very existence is a symbol of the thriving perseverance of punk through ages and eras, as well as a beacon of inspiration for bands on the rise. I can’t wait to be told “Holy shit, the sunburn on the back of your neck is impossible,” again next year.

Punk rock is back. Now, we may see it evolve.

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle 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 almost spent $7 on a water bottle. There was a sign saying they were $4 in the distance, but he was first in line at a cart and just wanted to look cool in front of his friends. What a fool he is indeed.

Review: Pianos Become the Teeth – Drift

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I put a lot of trust into bands I consider to be core artists for me. I’ve done a lot of preordering of albums this year, just believing that the albums will arrive at my doorstep on release day and sweep me off my feet. Drift by Pianos Become the Teeth didn’t really do that for me this time.

Pianos has been one of my favorite post-hardcore outfits for a while now, since their release of Keep You in 2015, a truly seminal album for me. In 2018, they released my year-end favorite with Wait for Love. I guess I liked the idea of a band that kept evolving; but now I’m wondering if they’ve evolved too much – maybe even regressed a bit? Drift doesn’t lack emotion, but I feel it lacks substance.

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You can buy or stream Drift on Apple Music

The album starts off with “Out of Sight” a haunting, almost a capella track that sets the tone well. When I first tossed the disc in after peeling the plastic away and put my car in drive, I thought I would be in for Wait for Love part two, where we keep walking with Kyle Durfey and the guys as they move forward with their family life, and I was sad to see that maybe things haven’t gone as planned.

What shocks me most about this album is the bare bones writing. Lines are repetitive where they were once lush and full of artistry. The track “Easy” ends with “This is all there is”, and that’s a good way to describe the writing style here. Minimal. The band do make up for it with some of the musical choices, a very blurry, dreamy landscape of sound, but when you’re used to a full combination platter from a band, it’s hard to not see things missing. 

My favorite track here is “The Days”. It feels like a Wait for Love B-side, with a little bit of a darker undertone. Lines like “But I’m writing down everything you say for my dementia days” are the gut punch, visceral lyrics I’ve come to appreciate from the guys, and this is an album where those moments are few and far between.

The album is cohesive; I’ll give it that. And I feel like this is an album that taking a break from will cause me to return with fresh eyes and see what they were going for. They have leaned heavily into the shoegaze genre here, surpassing the post-hardcore sound completely. They used an Echoplex in production, which does lend that watery, easy feeling. The production is as good as it always is on their projects, and that is a redemptive quality for me.

I’m not against a band that wants to do something different on each of their albums. I think it can be a good exercise in creativity and keeping things fresh and exciting as both an artist and a fan. When I listen to Drift though, I get that they’ve definitely changed, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for the better. As they repeatedly say in “Mouth”, “We are not who we used to be”. I wish they could go back.

3/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Breaking Down Taylor Swift’s Announcement of “Midnights”

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You may have heard, but a new Taylor Swift album is coming – and fast! Swift announced her new album MIdnights at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards last weekend. Before the album drops on October 21st, Kiel Hauck and Nadia Alves hopped on the podcast to break it all down. Kiel and Nadia discuss the surprise announcement, the fascinating album concept, and what we might expect from this very unexpected release. Take a listen! speculate about what could be a monumental moment for Hayley Williams and company. Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: The Return of Anberlin and the Upcoming Return of Paramore

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We’re back! And so are some of our favorite bands! Since we’ve been gone, Anberlin returned with a new EP titled Silverline, their first new music release in eight years. Nadia Alves joins Kiel Hauck to break down the release and why it feels so surreal to have Anberlin back in our lives. Then the two discuss the upcoming return of Paramore. We know there’s a new album coming, but we don’t know when. We actually don’t know much, at all. But Kiel and Nadia read the tea leaves and speculate about what could be a monumental moment for Hayley Williams and company. Take a listen!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: The Interrupters – In The Wild

The Interrupters managed to do the impossible by making ska-punk appear on the radio for the first time in decades. Fight The Good Fight was a shot of adrenaline to the genre that has reverberated since its release four years ago. In the Wild, the band’s fourth record, takes a step back from the breakneck pace of earlier releases to broaden their take on the genre and expand their sound in ways that feel natural and fresh.

In the Wild succeeds by jumping into new lanes. Vocalist Aimee Interrupter delves into personal topics, ranging from abusive relationships (“Let ‘Em Go”) to anxiety (“In the Mirror”) and dealing with the loss of a loved one (“Love Never Dies”). Although the content is deeper and uglier, it pairs well with the buoyant guitars and reggae beats plastered throughout. While in theory this album is about facing the demons that haunt you, it still tempts you to dance and sing to the remarkably catchy choruses.

You can buy or stream Into the Wild on Apple Music.

The Bivona brothers play to their strengths and jump into these songs with simplistic ska sounds, raging guitars (“Jailbird”), and a swirl of steady beats (“As We Live”, “Worst For Me”) that make the most of their time. While much of the album retains the swagger that helped the band find their audience, (“Worst For Me”), there are some stretches to find the limits of genre. “My Heart” experiments with a doo-wop sound that initially sounds out of place, but quickly leaves its mark in the band’s pantheon. “Kiss The Ground” slows down to a reggae jam session before quickly launching at full speed into “Jailbird”, a furious single chasing the highs of “She’s Kerosene”. 

Singer Aimee once again is a force of nature on the mic. Her gravelly vocals generate an electricity that demands attention. She runs the scale from softer notes that seem to be musings (“Anything Was Better”) to shouting chaos and pushing herself to throat-shredding limits (“Jailbird”). She carries a hypnotic leading quality that tempts the listener to sing back to her, be it the chorus or the drunken “la la la’s” in “Worst For Me”. Most striking perhaps is “Raised By Wolves”, which somehow manages to turn a wolf howl into an integral part of the chorus instead of a cringe-inducing detail.

Although every song is a genuine sing-along, there are moments that stop the listener in their tracks with the realness that slips through. In the piano-driven closer “Alien”, Aimee struggles to relate to others (“My bones are the bars of a jail and I’ve never felt completely female / I sleep when the sun starts to rise so I spend the night drying my eyes / And I watch all the humans, they move place to place and hide in plain sight with that look on their face / Do they feel the same or is it just me?”).

Meanwhile “Afterthought” explores a disastrous relationship (After the sad song of my childhood, you were a warm, familiar tune / You cut me deeper than the ocean then I poured whiskey in my wounds”) before boasting about the clarity that came after moving on from it (“Thank you for the bruises, thank you for my broken brain / ‘Cause I made it through the battle stronger than I used to be”).

The Interrupters managed the unenviable task of following up a breakthrough album by doubling down on what made them stand out in the first place. In The Wild is a more measured album than the band has ever released. However, taking time to occasionally slow the journey down doesn’t mean the album isn’t brimming with energy. The Interrupters not only managed to revive a genre that was on life support, they’re making it fuller and richer than it’s been in years.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle 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 he finished two novels today. He is currently lost, wandering the fields like an old goat trying to find a new series to read.

A Night of Beautiful Catharsis with Third Eye Blind and Taking Back Sunday

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There’s just something about experiencing live music on a perfect summer night, surrounded by people that are just as in-the-moment as you are. Even better when the bands on stage are the kinds of bands that have stood the test of time, soundtracking so many moments to your life. Third Eye Blind and Taking Back Sunday are bands that have been with me through thick and thin. Through formative years and adulthood. Through good times and bad. Seeing them together on the Summer Gods tour as it stopped through Indianapolis last week was just as cathartic as you might imagine.

Look, the past few years haven’t been easy on any of us. Maybe that’s the reason for the heightened feelings of joy and relief to be in the presence of the music we love. Having a full slate of summer concerts this year has certainly been a sight for sore eyes, but I’d be lying if I said this show wasn’t circled in red in my mind. 

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Taking Back Sunday

Like so many of you, Third Eye Blind’s 1997 debut self-titled album, followed by Blue in 1999, then by Taking Back Sunday’s breakout Tell All of Your Friends in 2002, and everything that came after, was a stretch run of impactful music in my life that’s almost unparalleled. But to imply that those moments are frozen in time would be wildly untrue. These are bands that have evolved right alongside my own musical tastes through the years, as I’ve documented ad nauseam.

It felt perfect then, as Taking Back Sunday took the stage, after an opening set from Hockey Dad, to the sound of “Tidal Wave”, the lead single and title track from the band’s most recent release in 2016 – and album that still feels underrated. Per usual, Adam Lazzara and the band were a delight to behold, smiling through their set and genuinely seeming to enjoy every moment. 

As you might expect, the set spans across the band’s discography, but gives plenty of time for hits from fan favorite albums like Louder Now and Tell All Your Friends while still exploring a few unexpected songs from Where You Want to Be (“Set Phasers to Stun” – hooray!) and Happiness Is (another criminally underrated TBS album). Lazzara and guitarist/vocalist John Nolan’s stage banter is topped only by their timeless ability to build off of one another’s vocal performances, pushing every song over the top.

More than anything, Taking Back Sunday’s set reminded me that it’s been a while since we’ve received a proper release from the band. But something tells me that new music may be just around the corner.

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Third Eye Blind

It was only last fall that Third Eye Blind Our Bande Apart, their seventh full-length album. While the band’s early material still resonates with me the most, it’s phenomenally impressive how Stephan Jenkins and company have stood the test of time. Their set spans decades, and so many people around me seemed to know every word to every song. 

No matter how many times I see Third Eye Blind live, I’m always impressed by Jenkins’ comfort level on stage and the timelessness of his voice. You could feel convinced that he’s performing hits like “Graduate” and “Losing a Whole Year” for the first time instead of the 500th time based on his emotion and conviction behind the mic. Say what you want about the man, but he’s nothing if not driven. Most recently, his passions have zeroed in on climate change, which is actually pretty fucking cool.

For the large majority of Third Eye Blind’s set, I crowd watched. There’s something about the communal experience of letting down your guard amongst strangers and leaning hard into the things that music makes us feel. On this night, it felt like everyone around me was experiencing those same feelings of catharsis as myself. A moment to feel normal again amongst the music that has carried us through for so many years. It just felt a little different in the best way possible.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: Interview with Devin Shelton of Emery

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Friday marked the release of Rub Some Dirt On It, the 9th studio album from Emery. Vocalist and bassist Devin Shelton joined Kiel Hauck on the show to talk about the new album and explain how the band’s creative process has evolved over the years. Shelton also discusses the band’s unique history and trajectory, and how their experiences early in their career set them up for a second act that has involved much more than just making music. Devin also talks scene nostalgia, playing shows post-pandemic, and this summer’s upcoming Labeled Fest. Take a listen!

You can buy Rub Some Dirt On It here.

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – Rub Some Dirt On It

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I originally wasn’t going to write anything about the new Emery album, Rub Some Dirt On It. Anyone who has followed my pieces here on It’s All Dead knows my love for Emery and I think I’ve written or talked about almost every one of their albums in the five years since I started contributing here. I just kind of felt I had nothing new to add to the conversation. But where I was lacking inspiration, Emery stepped up and filled in the blanks for me.

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You can buy or stream Rub Some Dirt On It on Apple Music

Rub Some Dirt On It is Emery’s hardest hitting album to date. I think one of the privileges of being a band for 20 years is being able to drop the filter and really lean into the art you want to make. Over the past few years, the scene has often been up in arms over the members of Emery’s podcasts, or artistic choices with album art, or the shift in their lyrical content. A few years ago, they released a song called “People Always Ask If We’re Gonna Cuss in an Emery Song” for God’s sake. They’re basically an ouroboros now, just devouring the criticism and turning it into more incredible and thought-provoking art than ever before. Just when you think it’s quiet on the Emery front, they release a single like “I Don’t Know You At All”, and you’re sucked right back in. If Emery has anything going for them 20 years into their career, it’s their talent for constantly staying in the back of the scene’s mind.

For Rub Some Dirt On It, I wrote off the title as an uber-masculine dude-fest at first, but Emery is at their most vulnerable here. The songs detail church abuse (“Stranger”), the way faith falters over the years (“You Stole God From Me”), and just the regular old guy/gal songs we know and love from South Carolina’s post-hardcore darlings (“You Said Enough”). And just in case we get too overwhelmed or in our feelings over it, they end the album with “Lovely Lady”, a complete turn-around musically, but a cool picture of just how well they mesh as a band, and a fitting closer to a very deep and personal album.

The album has some of Emery’s most interesting instrumentation, and more cutting lyrics than even in their edgy era when they were young. The 20+ years together have only tightened their sound and refined their artistic presence. They were a force to be reckoned with in the scene when they began, and they’re even more of a force now.

The band recorded this album in one take on a 2-hour livestream spectacular, and other than some minor tweaks here and there for recording’s sake, gave us the album as it was originally performed. I’ve said this before, but Emery really took the independent release format by the horns and completely flipped the script. Every time they’ve released something in their indie era, it’s better and fresher than what they did before. It’s almost like they challenge themselves to try something new every album cycle, and we’re privileged enough to come along for the ride.

5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Valleyheart – Heal My Head

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Well it’s time, folks. Time to talk more about an album I haven’t been able to shut up about: Valleyheart’s Heal My Head. It’s finally out in the world, and it’s just what I’ve needed. This is an album perfect for spring and summer, and it is the perfect offering to usher us into sunnier days.

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You can buy or stream Heal My Head on Apple Music

What drew me to Valleyheart initially is their lyrical honesty and fresh take on the alt genre. Their first album, Everyone I’ve Ever Loved, hit me deeply in a way only a kid who grew up in New England churches can get hit. In a part of the country affectionately known by other religious areas as the “frozen chosen,” what Valleyheart had to say about church and the way that kind of upbringing tosses you into adulthood with little else but questions really resonated with me.

Their new album, Heal My Head, feels like defrosting. The sounds are lighter, the chords are major, and it’s all around giving me a chance to catch my breath. Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Klein and the guys have focused on time, and the way it ebbs and flows. We get songs about their success, songs about hoping for more, songs about friendship. There’s something here for everyone.

From the initial notes of “Birth”, a soft entrance through the door of this house Valleyheart built, we are pushed into the lead single, “The Numbers”. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year thus far, and a great representation of what we can expect here from the rest of this piece. This song is about Spotify stats at its core, but it really is about more than that: It’s about slowing down and taking the time to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a song about gratitude. 

“Warning Signs” is the most different track, a very pop heavy song that was instantly a favorite for me. It’s catchy, and it breaks up the album just enough to keep things interesting. I fell head over heels for their harder rock sound, but tracks like this, along with “Back and Forth” and “Vampire Smile” are reminders that this band can do whatever they want and make it sound incredible, while keeping it congruent with the rest of what they’re trying to bring forth.

I love this album more every time I listen to it. Each time there’s something new for me to find or to think about. There truly are no highs or lows here. Every track has been chosen and placed with the steady hand of a master, and everything fits together like the pieces of the clock in the album art. The album is filled with joie de vivre. As I’ve spent time with it, I’m struck more and more of how this came at the perfect time for me. I am continually in awe of when things in my life completely sync up with a band’s releases, and this album has already begun to feel like home to me.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve found a new band to obsess over. 2013 began my love for From Indian Lakes, in 2015 came Pianos Become the Teeth, 2020 brought Gleemer. 2021 up to now and far into the future has brought me Valleyheart. A band close to home and now close to my heart and soul. Heal My Head is an album that will stay with me for a while, to say the least. It feels like coming up for air.

5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Interview with Kevin Klein of Valleyheart

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Friday marks the release of Heal My Head, the new album from Massachusetts alt rock trio Valleyheart. Vocalist and guitarist Kevin Klein joined us on the show to chat with our own Nadia Alves about the band’s sonic progression on this new record and what inspired them to explore new territory. Klein also shares about his songwriting process and how exploring past trauma allowed himself and the band to tap into new and powerful stories that serve as the heartbeat of Heal My Head. Take a listen, and then go snag the album on Friday!

Pre-order Heal My Head here.

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck