Day two of Riot Fest: Bootsy Collins, alien jizz, and senior citizens kicking everyone's asses | Bleader

Day two of Riot Fest: Bootsy Collins, alien jizz, and senior citizens kicking everyone's asses

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If Iggy Pop were just 40 feet taller, he could get work as a stand-in for Iron Maiden's Eddie the Head. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • If Iggy Pop were just 40 feet taller, he could get work as a stand-in for Iron Maiden's Eddie the Head.

Gwynedd Stuart:
I'm impressed that Chicago weather is so predictable. A rainy morning gave way to an incredibly beautiful Saturday. I started my day late with the Damned, who were fucking great. I heard a friend say they were low energy—I'd say they were exactly the right energy for playing a way-too-early slot. The Dead Milkmen agreed. I was walking back toward the press area when I heard Rodney Linderman say what a bummer it was that the Damned had to play so early, because Dave Vanian is a vampire. A vampire who still looks young. He does—even with black lipstick.

Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian of the Damned. The fanfic about this set is going to be filthy. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian of the Damned. The fanfic about this set is going to be filthy.

Desaparecidos were predictably great. Thurston Moore played behind a music stand, which made me afraid he didn't know the words to his own songs. And System of a Down were amazing.

Kevin Warwick:
 
Thanks to some morning showers, day two of Riot Fest was still pretty damn sloppy, and I found myself taking a bizarre, convoluted route around the park that I assumed at the time would minimize the amount of mud splattered on the back of my jeans. It didn’t. Anyway, because of its number of stages, Riot Fest is best experienced in spurts. 
Josh Holden and Wesley Eisold of American Nightmare - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Josh Holden and Wesley Eisold of American Nightmare
It seems more natural to catch 20 minutes of a set at a time and then move on, rather than watching bands all the way through. After seeing American Nightmare tear through their too-short set of earnest, early-aughts hardcore all dressed in black—by the end, front man Wesley Eisold had abandoned his deafening screaming for something much less intense—I mapped out my trek to Civ, who started more than an hour later. You have to plan stages and hours ahead, unless you want to rely on just happening across bands that you give a shit about.

Anyway, I love Anthony Civarelli. He still jumps up and down and warms up his arms before the set, like a guy who's been singing in hardcore bands his entire life or something. The former Gorilla Biscuits front man is no shell of his former self: he stokes the fire just as well as he ever has, whether he’s inviting a crowd of ladies onstage during "Set Your Goals" to kinda-sorta dance and skank or ranting about how he and the band came up in shitbag clubs playing to who fucking knows. “Friendship over everything,” he said at one point. God, I love old hardcore dudes. They’re the best.

Bootsy Collins is definitely in the running for "best dressed at Riot Fest." Hell, he's in the running wherever he goes. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Bootsy Collins is definitely in the running for "best dressed at Riot Fest." Hell, he's in the running wherever he goes.

Because I'm from Cincinnati, I was contractually obligated to catch at least some of Bootsy Collins's set. Decked out in a blue-sequined getup and an outrageous feathered cap, the funk master fell victim to a sound system that didn't seem to know how to deal with spacey wah-wah bass and a chorus of background singers. But the band is still sharp as hell, and Bootsy is still awesomely ridiculous: the most outrageous line I heard him deliver was "I'm gonna come all over your face so that you can see where I'm coming from." #riotfest

You do not want to get between John Reis and his guitar. - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • You do not want to get between John Reis and his guitar.

Drive Like Jehu were chilly onstage—or so said Rick Froberg—but I reveled in John Reis the superhuman and his guitar playing off Froberg. They seem to play together in one band or another on a regular basis these days, but it's still not often enough. They sounded the best—meaning the actual mix coming out of the speakers—of all the bands I saw at day two. Godspeed to those of you attending day three.

Sasha Geffen:
Gwar never change. The heavy-metal gross-out monsters have been dragging their one-band genre to its most theatrical extremes for 30 years, and sure enough, 
Chris Sutter of Meat Wave - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Chris Sutter of Meat Wave
they showed up bright and early on Saturday afternoon to spray a couple hundred people with all colors of slime.  The most vivid effluvium came during a skit referencing the lawsuit that Dave Brockie’s father filed against the band earlier this year; decked out in hunchback regalia, a stand-in for the man Oderus Urungus's real-life counterpart once called "dad" pissed blue out of a giant prosthetic member all over the stage and the crowd. The band dedicated the last song of its quick afternoon set to Brockie himself, who passed away a little over a year ago. His presence still inflected Gwar's showmanship, even as they soldier on without their former leader.

Over on the Revolt Stage, local screamers Meat Wave previewed a good slice of the LP they're putting out next week, Delusion Moon. These three write hard songs with heavy turns that keep things punk, albeit only in texture. They were awed to be playing alongside some of their favorite bands, like the Brokedowns, who followed on the adjacent Radicals Stage. Knotty and encompassing, Meat Wave's set churned up a good midday burn.

Looks like Roy Batty from Blade Runner figured out how to get around that incept date. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Looks like Roy Batty from Blade Runner figured out how to get around that incept date.

Most of the early evening felt packed with legacy acts: I drifted easily from Echo & the Bunnymen to Merle Haggard to Billy Idol, and each was fascinating to watch in its own way. But I'd been waiting all day for System of a Down, who gathered a dense crowd at the Riot Stage. Though they had to pause twice to let fallen moshers get unstuck from the mud, System of a Down kept the energy high, muscling through a set of mostly older cuts with remarkable flair and precision. Serj Tankian is still one of the most colorful, playful vocalists around, and his quick flips from rich melody to growls to falsetto whines felt as elastic as they do on record. The band ended the night with the triple punch of "Prison Song," "Toxicity," and "Sugar," 
Come on, Lifetime guy. It wasn't cold enough for a hat and a jacket. (Sorry, his name's Ari Katz.) - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Come on, Lifetime guy. It wasn't cold enough for a hat and a jacket. (Sorry, his name's Ari Katz.)
all songs heavy with feeling and sharp with humor, all getting us to jump up and down like maniacs despite the pound of mud clinging to each foot.  

Leor Galil:
I'd been properly satisfied by the time Drive Like Jehu wrapped up an extended version of "Luau" to close their set on day two of Riot Fest; the rest of the festival could suck like the mud, which threatened to wrestle my boots from under me. I'd seen what I came for, and "Luau" was as tightly wound and fierce as I could've hoped. I could check that off my list.

A list—a bucket list, a checklist, whatever you want to call it—wasn't what drove me to Drive Like Jehu as much as my desire to see a band I never thought I'd be able to catch. I can't say the same for some of the other groups of the day. While Riot Fest's overcrowded-jukebox approach makes it easy to stumble upon unexpected delights, sometimes I realized that I wanted to see a band just to be able to say I'd seen them. 
Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland has a voice that can strip the chrome off a bumper. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland has a voice that can strip the chrome off a bumper.
As much as I appreciate Lifetime for their eminence, I headed over to their stage just because I could—thankfully their early-afternoon set was tight, propulsive, and fun.

Some of the best action of the day went down on the smallest stages. I can't begrudge anyone for focusing on the big names, but I wish more folks had turned up for the ripping sets from younger acts such as Meat Wave and Joyce Manor (the latter of whom had a sizable crowd anyway). Not that the bigger bands weren't a good time too! Babes in Toyland were fierce. The Damned came out suave and cool while the sun heated things up. System of a Down instantly reminded me why I'd practically glued my copy of Toxicity to my stereo in high school. I'm most thankful for the moments when I forgot I had an agenda except to watch what was right in front of me.

Honestly,  if you get onstage with Gwar, about the nicest thing you can expect is decapitation. At least that way you can't see what they do to your body. - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Honestly, if you get onstage with Gwar, about the nicest thing you can expect is decapitation. At least that way you can't see what they do to your body.

Luca Cimarusti:
 Even though I knew I was going to Riot Fest, the last thing I expected when I woke up this morning was that the highlight of my afternoon would be seeing a gigantic alien cock spewing neon-blue ejaculate onto an eager crowd. But I walked into Douglas Park, and that was what I saw in the middle of Gwar's set—and it really was glorious. It's good to see the Scumdogs still going strong after the death of their fearless leader, Oderus Urungus. They delivered just what their rabid fans expect: tons of severed limbs and huge penises dousing the crowd in multicolored fluids.

Blothar's "wings" are made from the antlers of a Spectral Moon Moose he killed eons ago. - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Blothar's "wings" are made from the antlers of a Spectral Moon Moose he killed eons ago.
Another highlight of the day was the set from hometown heroes Meat Wave, who absolutely killed it—a totally solid performance from three of the hardest-hitting musicians in town.  It was really great to see a huge, adoring crowd form for the trio, and really funny to see a full-on circle pit for their closer, "Brother"—something that bassist Joe Gac described as "a first."

Philip Montoro: It's taken me a few years to arrive at this conviction, but music festivals in neighborhood parks should be free—lots of people treat that sort of green space as the front lawn they wish they had, and a festival isn't being a good guest if it has to put up fences to keep out anybody without a ticket. (Three years ago I dated a woman who lived a few blocks from Douglas Park, and we often walked her dog there. I'm not just assuming that the park sees a lot of use.) If I were God, I'd magic into existence a Chicago counterpart to Henry W. Maier Festival Park, which exists mainly to host Milwaukee's gargantuan Summerfest every year, and make Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Riot Fest, and North Coast move in.

Like everybody else, though, I've got to live in the world as it is, and as a music editor I went to Riot Fest on Saturday. I couldn't avoid tromping on Douglas Park's already traumatized turf, but at least I didn't litter. With the festival's new layout, it's easier to get around, and the sound bleed between stages is rarely more annoying than standing next to loud talkers. (If city dwellers are never more than five feet from a rat, then festivalgoers are never more than five feet from a drunk idiot yelling about something.) On Saturday the wind blew from the north—the same direction the four main stages face—and until it died down after dark, its shifts and gusts could make the bands sound oddly underwater.

Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen has returned encouraging results in early wind-tunnel tests. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen has returned encouraging results in early wind-tunnel tests.

Gratifyingly, Echo & the Bunnymen played "Lips Like Sugar," "Over the Wall," and "Jimmy Brown" (the "break it till it falls apart" song). And of course they did "Killing Moon." Their interpolation of "Walk on the Wild Side" was unconvincing, but they managed to make the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" tolerable. Ian McCulloch doesn't exactly sound grizzled, but he doesn't sound like a dewy lad with tousled hair and a purple velvet jacket anymore either.

This is just an educated guess, but I think Bootsy Collins and his band were trying to tell us that they had the funk. He may also have unseated Lee "Scratch" Perry for best dressed. I didn’t catch a lot of Bootsy, alas, because I had a date with Drive Like Jehu. Until their concert on Friday night, I hadn't seen them since 1994, when my first band opened for them in Houston—but the frustratingly opaque mix at Bottom Lounge almost made me wish I'd kept those old memories pristine. (As far as I could tell, they played great, but I couldn't make out enough detail to be sure.) That's the shitty thing about seeing a band 21 years after one of their shows changed your life—there's no way they can fill the aura you've conjured around them in your head.

Rick Froberg and Mike Kennedy of Drive Like Jehu. If you don't know where they got their name, look up 2 Kings 9:20 in your King James. - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Rick Froberg and Mike Kennedy of Drive Like Jehu. If you don't know where they got their name, look up 2 Kings 9:20 in your King James.

Miraculously, though, Drive Like Jehu sounded better outdoors on Saturday. (It probably helped that I made it to within 30 feet of the stage.) I wish they’d played "Good Luck in Jail," "New Math," and "If It Kills You" at Riot Fest too, but they did repeat "Sinews," "Do You Compute," "Here Come the Rome Plows," and "Bullet Train to Vegas" (or, as my iPhone prefers it, "Bullet Train to Vegetables"). I even got some "dancing" in, though the mud meant I had to be pretty conservative about moving my feet. During the closer, "Luau," guitarist John Reis pulled an amplifier head off his rig and finished his solo with it dangling from his left hand. At the end of the song, he lobbed his guitar at a member of the crew, who caught it like they’d been rehearsing.

Merle Haggard thinks you kids with your "punk rock" are just adorable. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Merle Haggard thinks you kids with your "punk rock" are just adorable.

I'd have no regrets about getting sucked into Drive Like Jehu's set, except that I missed all but the last two minutes of Merle Haggard. After paying ten bucks for a single barely reheated pork skewer and a "salad" of shredded iceberg lettuce and three pale tomato slices, I headed for Rancid. In transit I heard Billy Idol commit the day's second Doors cover, "L.A. Woman." 
Who thinks Tim Armstrong from Rancid should shave his beard into a Mohawk? - ALISON GREEN
  • Alison Green
  • Who thinks Tim Armstrong from Rancid should shave his beard into a Mohawk?
I barely recognized Rancid front man Tim Armstrong with close-cropped hair and a beard, but his voice has always been so busted that it sounds exactly the same now. I was reminded that the main wonderful thing about Rancid, besides their stirring shout-along choruses, is Matt Freeman's amazingly nimble, wickedly hooky bass playing. During their encore they played "Radio," from the 1994 album Let's Go, whose chorus contains a sentiment I can get behind 100 percent: "When I've got the music, I've got a place to go."

Iggy Pop took the stage for "No Fun" in a leather jacket and no shirt, and you'd better believe he popped that jacket off within two minutes. "I wanna be a god right now," he said, assuming a Jesus pose with the microphone cord hanging from his mouth, and launched into "I Wanna Be Your Dog." He played hit after hit: next came "The Passenger," then "Lust for Life." An exasperated gray-haired guy in a blazer kept running out from the side of the stage to set Iggy's mike stand back upright or untangle that extravagantly long cord. The best part, though, was that even after all these years, nothing about Iggy's wildness feels pro forma or scripted.

Iggy Pop sets the mood for "I Wanna Be Your Dog." This might blow your mind a little, but he was born just ten years after Merle Haggard. - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Iggy Pop sets the mood for "I Wanna Be Your Dog." This might blow your mind a little, but he was born just ten years after Merle Haggard.

I'll give Mr. Pop the last word. "Turn the lights on again," he asked the crew, so he could see us watching him. "It's fun to look," he explained. "You look good. I'd like to pee on you."

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