Podcast: Talking Emo Music with Author Taylor Markarian

On the latest It’s All Dead podcast episode, Kiel Hauck is joined by Taylor Markarian, author of “From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How it Changed Society”. Taylor has written for publications like Alternative Press, Kerrang, and Revolver and also served as an intern at Epitaph Records. Her new book explores the cultural, social, and psychological factors surrounding emo and indie music. On the podcast, Taylor shares about her years growing up in the New Jersey punk and emo scene and the importance of music in mental health. Take a listen!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Like what you heard from Taylor? Pre-order her book on Amazon.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2019

One of my favorite late-night weekend activities is pouring myself (another) drink and going down memory lane on YouTube, watching some of my favorite music videos. It’s probably no surprise that it’s around this time every year that I decide to compile a list of music videos turning 10 years old – it’s bitter cold outside and it’s all too easy to curl up under a blanket on the couch and play them endlessly.

Interestingly enough, 2009 was filled with music videos from artists that were coming into their own: Taylor Swift, Drake, Lady Gaga and more. Their videos also seemed to speak to something deeper within the artists themselves. Let’s kick back and drift back in time to enjoy some of the best videos that 2009 had to offer.

Taylor Swift – “You Belong with Me”

While the public at large often associates Taylor Swift’s crossover smash “You Belong with Me” with Kanye West’s acceptance speech interruption at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, the video itself gives us an early glimpse of Swift’s duality. Playing both the protagonist and antagonist – nerdy bookworm and preppy cheerleader – the video’s narrative bends in the direction of her innocent side. It’s fascinating that after a decade-long evolution, Swift’s current work finds her exploring the other end of the spectrum.

Boys Like Girls – “Love Drunk”

As an unabashed fan of Boys Like Girls’ self-titled debut album, I was a little more than excited for their follow up in 2009. Love Drunk took all of the saccharine melody from the band’s debut and infused it pulsing beats to form a blend of emo power pop. The video for the album’s first single finds the band performing at an arcade as a bunch of guys awkwardly attempt to win the affections of a young lady. I guess the moral of the story is…that band dudes always get the girl? Or something?

Paramore – “Brick by Boring Brick”

As brand new eyes turns 10 years old, I felt it my obligation to give time of day to the album’s most overlooked single. Perhaps the most divisive track on the album, the video for “Brick by Boring Brick” captures the fairy tale juxtaposition of the song perfectly. Near the end of the video, a glowing Hayley Williams watches Josh Farro dig what can only be understood as the grave for the pre-2010’s era of Paramore. Kinda sad, right?

Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem – “Forever”

While 2009 was a bit of an odd year for hip hop, it’s remembered best for the arrival of Drake. Here he amazingly shares the stage with three hip hop heavyweights in a video that follows the rise of LeBron James from young basketball prodigy to NBA superstar. Has anyone ever called their shot better? Ten years later, Drake is still one of the most powerful forces in music.

Ke$ha – “Tik Tok”

Speaking of introductions, Kesha’s “Tik Tok” was the perfect primer for one of 2009’s polarizing new pop figures and is still just as much fun as it was 10 years ago. After waking up in the bathtub of a vanilla suburban family, Kesha treks out the door to hop on a golden bike, complimented by an American flag. By the end of the video, there’s glitter everywhere. At some point, you have to throw caution to the wind and enjoy the ride.

Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance”

Lady Gaga’s music video for “Bad Romance” is still perfectly weird, featuring wacky costumes, awkward dance moves, people crawling out of futuristic pods and a group of supermodels trying to sell her to the Russian mafia. As wonderful as “A Star is Born”-era Gaga has been to witness, it’s hard not to long for those early days when literally everything she touched was off-the-wall bananas.

Taking Back Sunday – “Sink Into Me”

The dirty little secret about Taking Back Sunday’s most divisive album is that it’s actually pretty good and holds up well 10 years later. The lead single from 2009’s New Again was “Sink Into Me”, which featured a music video of Adam Lazzara and the boys sinking into…a tar pit? It’s messy, but it sure looks like they’re having a good time.

The Devil Wears Prada – “Danger: Wildman”

“I know a ghost!” That opening cry from The Devil Wears Prada frontman Mike Hranica on “Danger: Wildman” has become a late aughts metalcore highlight, as has his missing-tooth appearance in this dark video filled with skeletons and a mysterious bearded man. This track still goes hard and it’s delightful to think about how far this band had come by their big moment in the spotlight in 2009.

Owl City – “Fireflies”

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Adam Young, better known as Owl City, pressed a button on his keyboard marked “Magic” and brought the toys and objects in his bedroom alive? Me neither. It’s still amazing to think about what a phenomenon this song became, and I can’t help but smile when watching the video now. I’m especially fond of the monkey playing the cymbals and the tiny seal on the turntable.

Mayday Parade – “The Silence”

Here’s a bit of trivia you maybe didn’t know: “The Silence” was originally written to be included on the “New Moon” soundtrack. While the song failed to go down in Twilight lore, it’s still works as a pretty great inclusion on Mayday Parade’s sophomore effort (and major label debut) Anywhere But Here. The video is full of color and slo-mo shots of hot air balloons. Neat, huh?

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.

Reflecting On: Say Anything – In Defense of the Genre

In many ways, In Defense of the Genre is the absolute time capsule of pop punk in 2007. The sounds spanning the double album run the gamut of what was popular at the time while still managing to be, arguably, the most “Say Anything” record that exists. Guest vocals appear on over half the songs in unique, significant parts. In Defense of the Genre isn’t for everyone, especially on first listen, but it is an opus that celebrates and challenges the genre in every way.

You can buy In Defense of the Genre on iTunes.

After the success of …Is a Real Boy, Max Bemis faced what seemed an impossible task: topping himself. What he produced is a masterpiece of collaboration, experimentation and craft. In Defense of the Genre brought the outward, judgmental venom of “Admit It!!!” and cast it in every direction. To counterbalance this, Bemis also provided uncomfortably reflective and humbling lyrics of himself. The colorful poetry describing drug addiction, psychosis and coming to terms with indiscriminate anger is equal parts enthralling and sickening.

In Defense of the Genre is a dark album that reflects the time of its release. The golden era of the early 2000’s had faded and the few bands that still seemed to have any traction were heavier and brooding. Nearly everyone took a stab at experimentation, and while some succeeded, this era saw a massive drop off of bands that had been big just a couple years prior.

Rather than remake another punk record, Say Anything delved to see how depraved pop punk could be. The entire album is a blur of genre. Techno, dance, ragtime piano, grunge and pop seamlessly traipse between tempo changes that would kill a song by a lesser writer. Somehow, each sound manages to survive a solid coat of production and make a cohesive sound. In Defense of the Genre is as much a masterful dark pop album as it is the sound of madness itself.

The stories about Max Bemis prior to this album are legendary. Wandering the streets before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mental hospitals, and drug abuse seemed to constantly filter in through the news sites for a while. In his writing, not only did Bemis not shy away from this, the entire album documents the process of finding himself in the midst of madness (“The Church Channel”) and crawling his way out (“Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.”)

While each song attempted something new, some of the true stand outs are the acoustic tracks. “An Insult to the Dead” is one of Say Anything’s most amazing songs. The wrangled guitar, the gentle tambourine and plinking piano, and Max’s voice, accompanied by the faint shout in the background during the chorus, create a haunted effect. More than anything, the heartbreak in Bemis’ voice as he sings, “Oh God, forgive me Moses, Jesus, Allah” is unparalleled.

One true highlight is the use of guest vocals. They’re expertly chosen and provide a snapshot of who was popular. What’s amazing is how many of them are still wildly relevant today. On top of that, their placement in songs reflects the guest’s own personality. Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara provides the evil voice of paranoia on “Surgically Removing the Tracking Device”. Paramore’s Hayley Williams is the defiant angel on his shoulder in “The Church Channel” that urges him to seek help (“You were forlorn in despair / With your drugs and your hardcore porn / Trust me, those days won’t be mourned”).

Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba provides a haunting melody in the background of “Retarded in Love”. Anthony Green is the voice of alcoholism (“Hangover Song”). Gerard Way appears in the title track, a song attempting to make sense of why musicians write. The song breaks into a momentary country western jamboree as Way sings, “I’ve got an empty wallet and a record cover”, reminding himself that the best art doesn’t guarantee reward.

Max Bemis never hid his adoration of Saves The Day. I remember hearing a rumor about how the band dropped off of a tour with Saves The Day, allegedly due to drug problems. “Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.” seems to address this directly. Max asks his bandmates for help, and swears that evil shouldn’t be in their tour van. Saves The Day’s Chris Conley appears after an interlude of people offering help. Hearing Bemis’ personal hero shout, “If you want it, then come and get it /We’re all with you now”, still gives me chills 10 years later.

In Defense of the Genre is a true artistic endeavor. It was a massive risk taken at the height of Say Anything’s popularity. It’s also the last ‘classic’ Say Anything record. After this, the band’s sound became poppier and Max’s struggles less dire. What should be a hot mess of a record manages to be a cohesive concept album that finds the sound of madness itself. It’s an album that truly deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary, even though it may not be to everyone’s liking.

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 is currently fighting the pesky Baratheon hordes! …..Or battling his cat to the death over small flakes of chicken.

Podcast: The Best Music of 2006

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It’s that special time of year again! Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz chat about their favorite albums that turn 10 years old in 2016. Included in the discussion are classic releases from Underoath, My Chemical Romance, Saosin, The Early November, Taking Back Sunday, Saves the Day and many more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here. What are your favorite albums from 2006? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Taste of Chaos 2016: A Reason to Look Forward

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If you’ve followed any of the chatter surrounding this year’s resurrected Taste of Chaos tour, you’ve undoubtedly had your fill of wistful musings of days past. Certainly, it’s easy to get sentimental when glancing at the lineup – a who’s who of scene goliaths that paved the way for the approaching hurricane of nu-emo culture at the turn of the millennium. But to boil this summer trek down to nothing more than a mere nostalgia trip would be to miss the point entirely.

Chris Carrabba has dusted off Dashboard Confessional in recent months, releasing a new song this spring with plans for further recording. Taking Back Sunday is fresh off the heels of 2014’s refreshing Happiness Is and has a new album in the works. Saosin has reunited with original lead vocalist Anthony Green and released a new album, Along the Shadow, to critical acclaim last month. The Early November dropped one of 2015’s best rock records in Imbue just last spring.

All this to say that while it’s fun to reflect on the past, every band on this year’s Taste of Chaos tour is in full swing and primed for another step forward. Even if there’s nothing left to prove, there’s still plenty left to say.

For Early November vocalist Ace Enders, a man who has written and released a mountain of songs through his various creative channels, it’s almost hard to believe that he’s still getting better. Imbue is arguably the band’s best work to date, and on night three of Taste of Chaos in Indianapolis, Enders sounds just as impassioned singing “Narrow Mouth” as he does “Baby Blue”. Playing from a catalogue that stretches across 12 years, The Early November sound tighter than ever.

Saosin

Saosin

Speaking of spans of time, it’s still hard to believe your eyes when Anthony Green takes the stage with Saosin, a band he departed in 2004. Still, after the release of the ambitious Along the Shadow, it’s clear that this reunion means business. With a collection of 13 new songs to draw from, Saosin is able to stretch beyond Translating the Name with their setlist, offering fans the chance to hear the band shred across their new tracks.

While it’s still just as fun to hear “Seven Years” as it was all those years ago, it’s more interesting to hear the band tackle their new creations. In this setting, “Racing Toward a Red Light” sounds like the heaviest song Saosin has ever written. Likewise, “Illusion & Control” allows guitarist Beau Burchell and drummer Alex Rodriguez to let loose on stage during the song’s climactic close. With an expanding setlist, the only downside is not being rewarded with “Voices” or another track from the band’s equally celebrated Cove Reber era.

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday

By the time Taking Back Sunday takes the stage, the lawn at White River State Park has filled out and the sun is beginning to set along the horizon. Rays of light cut through the stage backdrop, highlighting a confident Adam Lazzara as he struts across the stage. It’s a testament to Lazzara’s continued commitment to his craft that the mystifying mic swings are now merely a compliment to his overall performance. On this night, he rips through the set, sounding as solid as ever.

It’s a mix of the old and the new as the band opens with “Cute Without the ‘e’” before shifting to “Liar” and “Flicker, Fade”. With six albums under their belt and a laundry list of hits, it gets harder to know which tracks are the real mainstays. During their set, Taking Back Sunday try out a few new tricks fresh from the studio. “Holy Water” sounds like a suitable evolution from Happiness Is, while Tidal Wave sounds like a Ramones cover.

As intriguing as it is to get a glimpse of the future, it’s still hard to deny the indulgence of “A Decade Under the Influence” and “MakeDamnSure”. With any luck, band’s forthcoming record will only add to the growing list of Taking Back Sunday signature tracks, just as “Better Homes and Gardens” joined the list two years ago.

Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard Confessional

After three provisions of various kinds of chaos, it’s almost appropriate for Dashboard Confessional to bring things to a close. Carrabba has long been one of the most joyful performers in the scene, providing an ironic catharsis in the midst of so many painful songs. Yet to hear the crowd sing along heartily to “Stolen” and “Don’t Wait”, it’s clear that his songs of delight resound just as loudly with fans.

Carrabba has shape-shifted through the years from broken-hearted loner to confident rock icon to pensive folk artist without ever seeming unsure in his step. He’s a crafty songwriter with a knack for connecting with his aging audience, effortlessly meeting them where they are. On stage, he’s just as much a conductor as he is a performer, leading the choir through a history of heartbreak and redemption.

It’s only here that the nostalgia seems prevalent, perhaps because of the subject matter, but also because Carrabba seems to understand his role in 2016. He no doubt wants to revisit Dashboard with the intent of creating new material, but he also seems satisfied to rekindle an old flame with his fans. As is his custom, he regularly steps away from the mic for long periods, letting the crowd carry the band through songs like “The Best Deceptions”, “Saints and Sailors” and even the chorus of Coldplay’s “Fix You”. We’re all Dashboard Confessional, according to Chris.

While it’s not wrong to remember the past, it’s unnecessary to dwell there. On this year’s Taste of Chaos, we reflect on the moments that made us fall in love with music, but we also celebrate the fact that the same voices that sang our soundtracks are still singing new songs. And so are we.

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.

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2016

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Though some may say the art of the music video died with the demise of MTV, we know better. Just take a look at some of the view stats on your favorite videos on YouTube – the art form is alive and well, and with the continued success of online streaming, is still serving as an introduction to some of our favorite bands.

It’s funny how the visuals from a great music video can stick with you years after the fact, popping into your head each time the song comes on. Just as we did last year, we wanted to take a look back at some of our favorite music videos that came out a decade ago. We remember the videos below playing seemingly on the hour on Fuse and waiting 30 minutes to watch a pixelated stream of the videos online. Ten years have passed, but the nostalgia of these clips lives on…

Underoath – “Writing on the Walls”

Directed by Swedish film company Popcore, “Writing on the Walls” immediately became an MTV2 staple and helped launch the band’s powerful Define the Great Line into the stratosphere. The video is a wild murder mystery set in a life-size doll house and would eventually be nominated for a Grammy award. Spencer Chamberlain’s literal in-your-face screams during the song’s crushing conclusion will still send chills down your spine.

Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure”

Speaking of songs that launched band’s to crossover stardom, “MakeDamnSure” served as Taking Back Sunday’s massive breakthrough, thanks in part to this incredible video. Trapped in a wind tunnel, the band sings atop artistic glimpses of tragic scenes turned beautiful with plenty of Adam Lazzara mic swings thrown in for good measure.

Cute is What We Aim For – “The Curse of Curves”

“The Curse of Curves” serves as a poignant reminder of what could have been. Cute is What We Aim For appeared destined to follow in the shoes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco with their emo-drenched debut single, coupled with this video of a dishonest dinner party. Though the band may have not achieved the breakthrough everyone expected, lead singer Shaant Hacikyan’s haircut lives on in infamy.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – “Face Down”

Another breakout single, “Face Down” introduced the world to The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. “Face Down” tells the story of an abusive relationship and the battle to walk away. We’re still not totally sure how they got all of that furniture to fly through the air. Ah, the magic of cinema…

Gym Class Heroes – “Cupid’s Chokehold”

Another year, another Fueled By Ramen breakout. Gym Class Heroes made waves on the radio and television alike with “Cupid’s Chokehold”, featuring Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. The video is as amusing as it is visually pleasing, telling the story of Travie McCoy’s search for that perfect girl, which turns out to be…Katy Perry. Too bad things didn’t work out.

Saosin – “Voices”

Would Saosin lose their edge with their debut full length and a new lead singer? Not after hearing the opening riffs of “Voices”. The song’s chaos is matched with inter-relationship and family fights and struggles, but there is peace to be found. As the song comes to its powerful close, the parties involved all make a decision to fight for peace.

Boys Like Girls – “The Great Escape”

Try to watch this video and not time travel back to 2006. The video for Boys Like Girls’ breakout single finds the story of the band on tour juxtaposed with some dedicated fans’ road trip to witness the performance. It’s the perfect summer anthem and the video captures the mood with brilliance.

Yellowcard – “Rough Landing, Holly”

There’s a good chance that “Rough Landing, Holly” is the most underappreciated pop punk video of all time. A spiritual successor to “Ocean Avenue”, director Marc Webb shows Ryan Key on the run. From what, we’re not sure, but in this universe, windows open into manholes and people can climb out of sinks. Pretty weird. And cool.

Cobra Starship – “Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)”

What a way for Gabe Saporta to make his first splash into the pop rock world. “Bring It” was attached to the end of the movie from which it was inspired, offering a laugh to movie-goers who stayed past the credits. For all of the silliness to be found in this song and video, it’s still exciting to see Saporta, Travie McCoy, William Beckett and Maja Ivarsson share the screen together.

Evanescence – “Call Me When You’re Sober”

After a prolonged absence following their breakthrough debut album, Fallen, Evanescence returned with the explosive “Call Me When You’re Sober”. It’s an over the top arena rock number highlighted by this video, featuring Amy Lee acting as a scorned Red Riding Hood, complete with wolves and levitational powers. Stay out of her way.

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.

Reflecting On: Taking Back Sunday – Louder Now

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To survey the post-punk landscape in 2006 was to witness rippling waves of Taking Back Sunday’s influence. The band inadvertently launched a full-scale outbreak with their landmark debut, Tell All Your Friends, pouring gasoline on a spark set by acts like Thursday and At the Drive-In. Seemingly within a matter of weeks, the underground scene had ballooned with bands anxious to capture that same fire and fans eager for another dose.

By the time Taking Back Sunday released their third full length album, that same scene had reached a fever pitch – Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard were staples on pop radio, Underoath and Saosin were igniting a new brand of post-hardcore, and My Chemical Romance was about to become one of the largest rock bands in the universe. In this new world of scene stardom, was there still room for the band that set it all in motion a half-decade prior?

Yes. Yes, there was.

Never a band to follow suit or settle for ordinary, Taking Back Sunday leapt from their home at Victory Records to the big leagues at Warner Bros. to release Louder Now, the band’s most commercially successful record to date. In true Taking Back Sunday fashion, the album is full of surprises and incredibly divisive.

For contentious fans looking for reasons to be bothered yet again in the wake of Where You Want to Be, reasons abounded. Louder Now is decidedly more polished and well rounded than the band’s previous two releases. It’s an alt-rock record built for radio that dabbles in emo and punk elements without showing its hand. If you demand on pointing to a moment when Taking Back Sunday “jumped the shark,” Louder Now is Exhibit A.

On the other, more level-headed hand, Louder Now is an expertly crafted rock record. Although the band’s tumultuous divorce from guitarist Fred Mascherino lay just around the corner, it’s difficult to deny the cohesive nature of this album. In place of chaos lay deep melodies and tight songwriting. Louder Now was the next logical step for a band seeking to mature beyond its roots and become a bonafied rock band on a grander stage.

Louder Now toned down much of the emotive commotion that put the band on the map without losing any necessary energy. True to its name, the album is loud and brash at the right moments, but also showcases a band that had outgrown its own skin. Opener “What it Feel Like to Be a Ghost” is a shining example of the Taking Back Sunday we never knew – Mascherino and Eddie Reyes’ guitars are tight and crisp, while Mark O’Connell’s finely tuned drums splinter through the mix. It’s a full sound that gave room for Adam Lazzara to stretch his melodies in new and exciting ways.

For all of the sonic changes on Louder Now, the band still made room for some of their best throwback moments. The call and response vocals between Mascherino and Lazzara on “Liar (It Takes One to Know One)” and “MakeDamnSure” harken back to the early days of TBS, with Lazzara still finding room for some of his signature silver-tongued one-liners. His biting delivery of, “My inarticulate store-bought hangover hobby kit it talks / And says, ‘You, oh, you are so cool’” on “MakeDamnSure” still remains one of the most delightfully tongue-twisting moments on tape. When Lazzara hisses, “The abortion that you had left you clinically dead / And made it all that much easier to lie” on “Spin”, it’s clear that ghosts of the old Taking Back Sunday remain.

Nestled in between the more raucous moments rested some of the band’s best songwriting to date and the building blocks for what was to come on later releases. “Miami” remains one of the most criminally underrated tracks in recent rock memory, with its smooth intro leading to a pulse-pounding bridge, highlighted by a sizzling guitar solo and Lazzara’s escalating lines of, “The terror held in wedding bells / The comfort in there’s no one else”.

Likewise, tracks like “Up Against (Blackout)” and “Twenty-Twenty Surgery” provide surprising changes of pace throughout, while showcasing the band’s expanding repertoire and knack for melody. From front to back, Louder Now is a contained fire – one that burns brightly without whipping out of control or descending into unnecessary or forced disorder. It was a necessary evolution that propelled the band into the second stage of their career.

At the time, the resounding triumph of a platinum album that found the band as festival and arena headliners appeared vindication for the painful falling out with John Nolan and Shaun Cooper just a few years prior. Nevertheless, it would be only a year before another painful falling out would lead to another rebirth (New Again), followed by another falling out and a full-circle reunion of the original cast (Taking Back Sunday). Through the tumultuous years that followed, the success of Louder Now sustained the band, leading to 2014’s Happiness Is, a new classic worthy of placement alongside the band’s best work.

Now in their 17th year of existence, internal conflict and constant change has done little to limit the band’s growth. Taking Back Sunday still rests firmly perched atop the scene they helped build all those years ago. Ten years later, Louder Now still reverberates as a classic record – an album that showed up-and-coming bands how to evolve and how to navigate the mainstream. It also made damn sure we all knew one thing: Taking Back Sunday was going to be sticking around for a while. We’re so glad they have.

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.

The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Riot Fest 2015 – Day 2

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Riot Fest is an exhausting weekend. Sticking with what has become a yearly tradition, Day 2 of the festival opened after a full day and night of rain and cool temperatures the day before. Thankfully, Saturday’s weather was gorgeous save for a few threatening clouds, but the rain had left its mark, and it would be felt by dozens before the night was done.

One of the trademarks of Riot Fest is how quickly the earth turns to mud once it rains. Vans shoe after Vans shoe smashes the soft grass into the chunky clay and it tends to become a mess. Everyone at the festival would experience it, but for some, it would become a nightmare.

Let’s jump back though, just a bit, to about midday, when Millencolin blazed away to a large crowd. The band looked eerily relaxed on stage, pacing gently and letting the crowd do the majority of the energetic work for them; we were happy to oblige. It was a quick startup to the day ahead.

The Movielife took the stage early on in their full 2002 glory. Vinnie Caruana paced the stage, screaming as the band blazed through their songs to a large crowd, considering the group has been mostly inactive and haven’t released any material in the last 13 years. Regardless, they carried the torch high for the generation that really launched the pop punk revolution from Drive Thru Records back in the day.

About midday, The Dead Milkmen came up, and basically split the crowd in half. On the one side, there were hardcore fans, singing along to every word, losing their shit and constantly reminding anyone who stood near them that seeing this band live was “something magical that doesn’t happen very often.” The other half couldn’t have given less of a fuck and waited it out or went to see who else was playing.

Midday, several current bands utterly slayed everything in their path. Mayday Parade took the stage by storm, delivering one of the most energetic sets I’ve ever seen, leading the crowd in choruses so strong, some people I brought with me who had never heard of the band before were humming the songs by the end. One of the more memorable moments came when the band played a new song, “One of Them Will Destroy the Other”, allegedly for the first time live. The real surprise though, was when Dan Lambton of Real Friends stormed the stage midway through and sang double vocals with vocalist Derek Sanders.

The Devil Wears Prada are destroyers of all things living and pilot the stage like they were trying to destroy Alderaan. Do you really need to know anything else? It’s an amazing show they put on, and even in peak daylight, their lightshow is perfect.

Alexisonfire recently reunited to a mad swarm of fans. The band danced around the stage to a frenzied crowd, wondering when their next chance would be to see the group live again. Although it didn’t happen at Chicago Riot Fest, a week later, the band would announce their official reunion at Riot Fest Toronto in their native Canada.

That night though, was when the true magic appeared, and for some, pure terror.

Billy Idol headlined his stage to a monstrous crowd. He carried his swagger and demanded the crowd sing along with him. He was truly enigmatic, blasting music across the hills before ending with a massive rendition of “White Wedding” that sent the crowd raging screams as Billy commanded their attention.

Taking Back Sunday helped close off the night with a massive stage show. For being one the smaller stages, they upped the ante from their headlining position the previous year. Even several hundred feet from the stage, fans jumped and sang back. With a massive catalog of older songs and their newer hits, the band blasted the night sky with a huge light show.

Then there was The Academy Is… The instant they stepped on stage, the crowd fell under their spell – the opening lines, “Attention, attention” grabbed the audience completely. Despite the incredible noise the band managed to produce, the crowd sang back almost loud enough to drown them out. Their performance was magnetic, nostalgic and hypnotizing, made all the better with the announcement of the band taking a full tour for the 10th anniversary of Almost Here before ending with one of their most underrated songs, “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands”.

Finally, System of a Down took full reign of the evening. They headlined Day 2 on the biggest stage, and were the unfortunate victims of the day’s muddied frenzy. I only saw the band from the very back of the crowd, as I am not terribly familiar with their music but wanted to see them perform. Several friends jumped headfirst into the gigantic crowd, hoping for a good view and a place to jump. It was catastrophic.

The crowd in front of the stage became too large, too quick, and the mud beneath their feet basically liquefied. Within the first few songs, all hell broke loose as waves of people fell, with more eager fans trampling them further into the mud. The band was forced to stop their set at least twice for minutes at a time to make sure people could get out, but for those in the crowd, it was utter hell. There are dozens of stories about people thinking they were going to die from suffocating in the mud, of people with a bit of space grabbing girls and smaller people and throwing them into the air to crowd surf them to safety.

Although there were officially only a few injuries, several people passed out, and one of my friends emerged with a muddied boot print across his nose and a glassy-eyed, shell shock look on his face as he just mumbled that “he saw a body, face down in the mud, not breathing,” and how the crowd closed in and started jumping before he could get close enough to pull the stranger out of the mud.

It was unfortunate, but a cost of unfortunate weather, and an enormous swarm of loyal fans willing to wade through hell to see their band. At the very least, there are some unique battle stories to be had.

Riot Fest is my favorite festival. So many generations of musicians and fans make it an event that lacks to pompous and annoying crowds that flock to younger shows. This is an event for everyone, and a generous helping of music for whatever genre or era you’re most in love with. With all of the trouble the festival faced this year in Chicago (forced to move venues, sued by a hospital, the mud, so much mud), I fear that we may not see them here again. But Chicago loves this festival, which has quickly become a yearly staple for those who have attended before. I sincerely hope that the festival survives Chicago’s bullshit to reward those loyal enough to come year after year.

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 went to Riot Fest with a man dressed like Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers. He was recognized almost a dozen times and posed for photos, while I stood awkwardly to the side, hoping for the sweet release of beer to take hold.

Taking Back Sunday Release Music Video for “Better Homes and Gardens”

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Taking Back Sunday’s new music video for “Better Homes and Gardens” is now available for viewing. The song is taken from the band’s recent release, Happiness Is. The fiery video was directed by DJay Brawner for Anthem Films. Take a look below:

If you haven’t yet purchased Happiness Is, you can buy it on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The Past is Present: Riot Fest 2014 – Day 2

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Believe it or not, this year marks the 10th anniversary for Riot Fest, Chicago’s own punk rock music festival and carnival. While locals can likely recount the event in its early days, only in recent years has the festival become a full-blown, internationally respected gathering. The 2014 lineup was one for the ages, honoring both past and present movers and shakers in the punk scene and far, far beyond.

Saturday was marked by big names that spanned multiple genres: Indie rock (The National, The Flaming Lips, Metric), hip hop (Wu Tang Clan, Die Antwoord), punk (Samhain, Descendants), rock (Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Dashboard Confessional), and much more.

If you had difficulty putting together your personal schedule, you weren’t the only one. The good news is that no matter where you found yourself, it was nearly impossible to feel disappointed.

One of the things that has made Riot Fest so noteworthy of late is its ability to showcase bands that are reuniting at the event, saying goodbye, or paying homage to their past. At this year’s festival, 10 major bands played classic albums from front to back, adding even further motivation to attend (as if you needed it).

Looking at the massive crowd, it’s easy to tell that this method of attraction is working. Riot Fest feels like Warped Tour grown up, drawing in thousands of former punk rock youths now turned adult, feigning for a chance to see their favorite band one last time. It’s hard to remember an event becoming this relevant by celebrating the past.

Personally, my day was awash in nostalgia. My main reason for attendance was to say goodbye to one of my favorite bands – Saosin. The group recently reunited with original lead vocalist Anthony Green after being dormant for over four years. The resulting one-off shows have appeared to come to an end with their Riot Fest appearance.

Even with their set landing in the middle of the afternoon, Saosin still drew a large crowd of devoted fans who appeared both excited and anxious about what appears to be an impending end. Green appropriately addressed the crowd upon taking the stage by stating, “Hi, we’re Saosin from ten years ago” before launching into “Lost Symphonies”.

These sorts of nods to the past abound throughout the day. Dashboard Confessional took the stage on Saturday for only the fourth time in the past four years as Chris Carrabba’s new project, Twin Forks, has taken the lead. Nevertheless, Carrabba looked elated as the band performed fan favorites from Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most with every crowd member singing the words.

If that last sentence sounds familiar, it’s probably because we’ve all lived it before. There’s something about Riot Fest that causes these performances to seemingly live outside of the norm – a time capsule that allows you to emotionally transport back to youthful excitement.

That’s not to say that this isn’t good music in the present. Far from it. In fact, Say Anything sounds at their best during their set when playing tracks from their latest album, Hebrews, even if they still rope you in with classic cuts from …Is a Real Boy. The Used show off ferocious new songs from Imaginary Enemy, but still bring the house down with “A Box Full of Sharp Objects”.

Finishing off the day at the Rock Stage is Taking Back Sunday, drawing one of the festival’s largest crowds of the day. A veteran band with a large following built during their early days, they waste no time in breaking out “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)” before moving on to newer songs from Happiness Is and older classics. It’s not a trip down memory lane for the crowd – it’s the experience of a band with a now monstrously strong front-to-back catalogue.

Lead vocalist Adam Lazzara may no longer be a spring chicken, but he flashes glimpses of youthful exuberance, highlighted by his signature mic swinging and capped by his climbing of the stage scaffolding during the band’s final song.

Lazzara isn’t alone in his impassioned performance. Carrabba, Green, Bert McCracken, Max Bemis – they all shared a fire on Saturday, looking and sounding as sharp as ever. Call it an anomaly if you will, but there’s something about the friendly confines of Humboldt Park that seem to bring out the best in the bands we’ve loved for the past decade.

Rock and roll is a young man’s game, but if this year’s Riot Fest proves anything, it’s that punk’s current, and even past, generations aren’t quite ready to hand off the baton just yet. Judging from the crowd response, it won’t be any time soon, either.

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.