Over the course of three days in a park in West Chicago last weekend, I saw The Vandals, Ween, GZA, Descendents, Method Man & Redman, Social Distortion, NOFX, NAS, Andrew W.K., Tiger Army, Chevy Metal, Bad Religion, Rob Zombie, Sleater-Kinney, and the Misfits with Glenn Danzig. This is Riot Fest. Basically, it was a live version of the CDs that I had in my car in my teens and twenties. The same could be said for most of the other attendees based on number singing along with the bands at the top of their lungs.
The thought did cross my mind that Riot Fest is a nostalgia fest, seeing as most of the bands peaked around 1995 or earlier, but I think the the timeline of rock has been extended. It just seems like 90s bands are more relevant now than 40s big bands were in the 60s or even 60s rockers in the 80s. This might be a function of extended young-adulthood or just the fact that there has not been much good guitar-based music in the last ten years with the ascendence of hip hop, EDM, and soulless pop gods.
The best shows that I saw were the The Vandals, Method Man & Redman, and Andrew W.K. The Vandals played a highly energetic punk set with the drummer from the Alkaline Trio on Friday. They knew how to use the space with the singer running out into the crowd and climbing the sound tent while their music sounded great. Method M
an & Redman were the most blatant about milking the 90s memories for all they were worth. They went as far as playing House of Pain’s Jump Around and even Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirt. They are true masters of party rap. Andrew W.K. was perhaps the hardest working musician at Riot Fest. I saw him twice on Sunday. Once on a main stage where there was some intense moshing and crowd surfing and later in the day at a smallish tent sponsored by StubHub. Both times were bone-rattling and intense with a surprisingly positive message. Andrew was going on a 50 state speaking tour encouraging friendship through partying. Interesting.
Judging by the t-shirts, most of he people are Riot Fest were most excited for Glenn Danzig reuniting with with the Misfits after 33 years of feuding and lawsuits. It was the last show and it was good as would be expected. Danzing kept antagonizing the audience for lack of energy over why trying to catch his breath. It was a great novelty and I saw Where Eagles Dare with the Original Misfits. Not a bad way to conclude the festivities.
Logistically, I highly recommend the VIP package unless you are into heatstroke, long lines, and disgusting porta-potties. The VIP wristband gets you into two areas with tent, food without long lines, tents, and tolerably clean bathrooms in air conditioned trailers. Both sections also had semi-obstructed views of a couple of the stages. In the general admission area the lines for food and water were very long and there was little shelter from the glaring sun. There is a Deluxe VIP option that gets you unlimited food and drinks as well as a few reserved areas for viewing the concerts in front of the sound tent.