Riot Fest returned to Chicago, Friday to Sunday, September 11th to 13th. Now moved to Douglas Park, right off the California stop on the Pink Line, this meant for no uncomfortable bus ride from downtown as in prior years. A change of location can spell trouble for a festival, but everything was tight – including the stages, which were relatively close together, meaning no huge hikes to catch the next act.
After two hard-hitting days, early on Sunday it was time to take it a little easier at Riot Fest. There was the intimate Kevin Devine at Riot Stage and the sunny Alvvays at Rise Stage. There was nineties throwbacks Hum and De La Soul and the Riot & Rock Stages (respectively). There was the soul-baring Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness on the Riot Stage – but there was also still time for Yelawolf to throw his mike & mikestand into the crowd at the Rock Stage.
Manchester Orchestra came to the Riot Stage with “friends in all the wrong places.” Their mix of heavy, emo, and rock is the right balance for Riot Fest, as well as their ability to be either indie for the mainstream, or mainstream for the indie-sphere, depending on how you look at them.
But maybe the most appropriate act for Riot Fest – other than GWAR – is Andrew W.K. Of course, the self-proclaimed apostle of partying is pretty appropriate anywhere that there is a good time happening, but his blend of rock, punk, and party worked very well on the Rebel Stage. He thanked sweat for being a “built-in shower,” and advised the crowd not to take that for granted.
Hip-hop took a larger role than perhaps ever before at Riot Fest ’15, in artists like Day One headliner Ice Cube or Cypress Hill on Day Three at the Rock Stage. The artists chosen from the genre all have crossover appeal, which accounted for the big crowd for Cypress Hill – but they did once play Hullabalooza with Peter Frampton, Smashing Pumpkins, and Homer Simpson…
The second Riot Grrrl reunion of Riot Fest ’15 came on Sunday with L7 at the Rebel Stage. Meanwhile, The Airborne Toxic Event delivered effective uplift, with a grand, polished sound.
How is it that only in 2015 Tenacious D finally played Riot Fest? The ‘two kings’ of Jack Black & Kyle Gass took the Rise Stage by force, opening with “Tribute”, “The Pick of Destiny”, and “Rise of the Fenix”, a track each from their three records that pretty much tell the story of The D in three parts. After picking some “Low Hanging Fruit”, Black mocked Chicago’s nickname as ‘The Second City’, saying it was number one, “And I won’t say that in any other city…”
But after “Throw Down” and “Kickapoo”, Black informed the audience that they hated all of those songs, and only played them because they were contractually obligated to, as the band has moved on to “Simply Jazz”. The semi-free-form seven-inch Record Store Day single saw Black scatting to ‘The Jazz’ and Gass playing double-flute. But then Black pulled a hammy and needed “The Metal”. This brought about Black acknowledging and joking about the band’s recent Grammy win for “Best Metal Performance”, and “better luck next time” Mastodon, Slipknot, and the rest, before going into their tribute to Ronny James “Dio”.
Black’s second t-shirt change of the performance brought his nod to his roadie Perry and “The Roadie”, but then he & Gass noticed that their guitarist John Konesky was possessed by Satan, a.k.a. “Beelzeboss”, before introducing the entire band during “Double Team”. While there was no “Ballad of Hollywood Jack and Rage Cage” (which your correspondent wanted), they closed with a song for the ladies, but to the fellas, “Hard Fucking”.
The final big crossover appeal hip-hop artist at Riot Fest ’15 was the one with maybe the biggest crossover draw, the one-and-only Snoop Dogg. Unfortunately, the D-O-double-G came on to the Rock Stage a half-hour late, and despite a whole lot of hype work by his crew, the crowd was not happy, and while he closed with your favorite songs of his, he was still cut off for the headliner.
Because many people love Modest Mouse. Lots of young people consider the act to be their foundational band, in the vein of Arcade Fire or even (for a different age group) Nirvana. This year they finally put out a new record, Strangers To Ourselves (QRO review), though Isaac Brock & co. closed with their breakthrough hit “Float On”, they did manage to do an encore with “Spitting Venom”.