Fall was in the air in my hometown, so I knew it was time for only one thing—Riot Fest! This year actually featured temperatures in the 80s in Chicago, so I was good to go wearing crappy concert T-shirts and shorts the whole time. The venues I was visiting certainly had no dress codes. This would be my fourth time attending this festival, but the first time since they expanded to five days where I would be present for the whole shebang. On Wednesday afternoon I was off to the airport for another WindyCity adventure!
I arrived in Chicago about mid-afternoon. My Riot Fest partner-in-crime Lew “the punk rock guru” was there to greet me and take us from the airport. We caught up on family and work events, but then it was time to get down to the business at hand—discussing punk rock until we were blue in the face.
We headed to Congress Theater first to pick up our five-day wristband. We spotted the festival’s organizer, Riot Mike, in the corner. He was on the phone so we weren’t able to chat. We had to keep the wristband on for the whole event. I elected to rip off any other wristbands we got at the various venues at the end of each night, mainly to avoid gangrene from settling in. Lew decided to keep all his and roll the dice with fate. By the end of the festival he looked more like an escaped hospital patient then a concertgoer.
We went back to the hotel to chillax until showtime. For dinner, it was a big sausage at Portillo’s and a couple adult beverages. I had never been there before and I was impressed. However, this was only the beginning of the culinary delights I would experience on this trip.
On to the show, we arrived at Bottom Lounge around 8 PM. The screening of X’s film The Unheard Music had already started. I have had this on DVD for a couple years, so I was only half paying attention. We met up with Mike, from the punkvinyl site who was shooting pictures, and Bill of the Riot Fest crew. Then around 9:30 PM X started. This was my fifth time seeing X (fourth with Billy Zoom), but Lew’s first. They raged through Los Angeles from top to bottom. Then they played more favorites after that for over an hour. They sounded great and the crowd was rocking along. My one minor complaint is that when Exene and John Doe did an acoustic song, it was not a non-Zoom tune (like “See How We Are”). Zoom doesn’t play anything live that he was not originally on back in the day. I know I am in the minority—but there are some Tony Gilkyson fans out there! Still a great show. Lew and I stayed for some more “drinkability,” and then it was back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow.
After taking it easy in the morning and missing the free hotel breakfast once again (9:00 AM just came too early to fall out of bed), we headed off to lunch. Today was Kuma’s Corner for big-ass burgers. Didn’t have to wait too long and the metal was cranking at the restaurant. I got the Megadeth burger. Lew got the Zep burger. Then it was off to Reckless Records (two locations) to spend way too much on CDs. No Naked Raygun matchbook like last year, but some good finds nonetheless.
Then it was off to Congress Theater to catch Social Distortion. Tonight was actually Lew’s pick. I am not much of a Social D fan. I have seen them twice before tonight and they just don’t do it for me. Before they hit the stage, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band played. If hillbilly rock with a splash of moonshine is your thing, then these guys will rock your world. They did have a washboard player, but she was not as good as Skid Roper.
Next up were The Tossers, local favorites who have been around awhile and paid their dues. They kind of reminded me of Flogging Molly, who are only marginally entertaining. The set picked up a little bit towards the end, but not enough to gain a lot of momentum. Finally, Social D took the stage. The crowd was into it. I recognized more songs than I thought I would, but the sameness of the songs started to drag things down about halfway through the set. At one point, Mike Ness brought out female backing singers. Is that ‘cause he thinks he’s Mick Jagger or something? I’m still perplexed with that move. We were out of there before they were done,off to Bottom Lounge to catch the first set from the three-headed ALL! Before that, we were able to catch The Pavers, which is Scott Reynolds post-ALL outfit. I really enjoyed their set. I ended up picking up their CDs at the merch stand. Then it was ALL with Chad. I thought they put on a killer show. Really energizing, the vocals were very passionate as well. I was able to snag the setlist at the end. Lew and I were also able to talk to Jeff Pezzati (Naked Raygun/The Bomb) for quite a while. Later on outside the club, I was able to chat briefly with guitarist Stephen Egerton. It was a superb way to cap off an excellent night of punk rock.
Back at Bottom Lounge to catch the entire bill. We were joined by Tom on this night. Afterwards, we would also catch up with two members of The Gerunds (Mickey and Ben). First up was The Holy Mess, from Philly. They had some decent songs but seemed to be talking a lot to pad the set time.
Then out came Chinese Telephones. Their lead guitarist was having major equipment issues. I lost track of how many times he broke a guitar string. They still put on a cool show. I hope the rumors of their demise are untrue. It was awesome to see Amos from Tenement still rockin’ the kit with the band.
Next was Down By Law. This was only my second time seeing the band and first time to get to meet their lead guitarist, Sam Williams III. Go online and check out his multiple side projects—Pseudo Heroes and The Spears being two of my favorites. DBL was great. They played all the favorites and a Dag Nasty tune at the end. Then Dave Smalley was tasked with double duty. He came out right afterwards and did a quick mini-set with ALL. Only four songs, but they sounded fantastic.
Then Scott Reynolds came out to do his set. He came out dressed like Danzig until Bill Stevenson escorted him off the stage. It was really funny. Later on, Scott had to issue an apology online. That’s because Danzig fans have no sense of humor. One fan even threatened to stab Scott over this incident. Draw your own conclusions on that one! ALL with Scott continued. Incredible show and I was able to again snag the setlist. The viewing of the three-headed monster of ALL was now complete!
Saturday was “tape up your ankles” day. It started at 2:30 PM and lasted until 11 PM. The “secret show” with The Business was cancelled, so Lew talked me out of going to see The Cro-Mags (the fill-in band) that night. I agreed only if he stood strong on going to see the secret show on Sunday. He agreed to the hard-fought deal.
But first, we had this afternoon to get through. The highlights for me were The Copyrights, Shot Baker, and Suicide Machines. The lowlights were Larry And His Flask and Leftover Crack. Larry was boring and Leftover Crack are just so god-awful I had to leave before the first song was over. Luckily, there was delicious Congress Pizza available in the lobby. We did meet up with Jeff of The Bomb/Noise By Numbers and Anthony of Shot Baker and Justin of Underground Communiqué Records. Definitely cool to catch up with everyone once again.
This all led up to The Descendents. They went on a little after ten and blew the place apart. Milo’s voice was in fine form; the band was on full throttle. It was amazing. We left completely satisfied.
Not as many bands today, plus I was a little sad knowing this was the last day of the festival, but I soldiered on. It was back to the Bottom Lounge to catch Dan Vapid & The Cheats and 7 Seconds. Dan Vapid’s new band is basically The Methadones minus Pete Mittler. Maybe he is too busy now because he is doing fill-in work with Naked Raygun, in addition to The Bomb and The Neutron Bombs. Not sure. Besides Methadones favorites, there were Riverdales and Sludgeworth songs too. Entertaining set. I noticed Eric Spicer of Raygun was there to catch it.
Then came 7 Seconds. They were top notch. So many good songs and Kevin Seconds is a great frontman. Could anything top them tonight? Well, no, but the one “secret show” we would attend did come close.
The last band was at AAA, a cool performance space that would be even better if they added more toilet stalls. Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg was there, with Michale Graves (ex-Misfits) on vocals. Although nothing could replace a real Ramones show (I was lucky enough to see two), this was fun. All the hits were played and the crowd really was fired up.
It was a great way to end Riot Fest and another incredible event. I just hope I’ll be back again next year.
Long live Riot Fest!