Riot Fest tests the limits of the 'album in full' set | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

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Riot Fest tests the limits of the 'album in full' set

Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Rancid, and the Dwarves have the material to justify the gimmick. The other acts playing their old records? Not so much.



Once again Riot Fest has enlisted a slew of acts to play their "classic" albums front to back. How have the years treated these allegedly timeless recordings? I listened to them all so you wouldn't have to.


Artist: N.W.A
Album: Straight Outta Compton (1988)
Set time: Ice Cube and special guests, Fri 9/11, 9 PM, Roots Stage

The verdict: This album has aged remarkably well. It's still tough, angry, and even occasionally shocking—and most of the subject matter, especially in the landmark "Fuck tha Police," is as relevant now as it ever has been. This set could greatly benefit from a hologram Eazy-E.


Artist: Snoop Doggy Dogg
Album: Doggystyle (1993)
Set time: Sun 9/13, 7:45 PM, Rock Stage

The verdict: Snoop Dogg is so silly now that it's easy to forget what an amazing rapper he is. This nearly flawless record demonstrates exactly why Snoop became a superstar. It's also really, really raunchy—I now totally understand why my parents flipped out when they caught an eight-year-old me listening to this tape in my bedroom.


Artist: Rancid
Album: . . . And out Come the Wolves (1995)
Set time: Sat 9/12, 7:40 PM, Rise Stage

The verdict: This record is heralded as a modern-­day punk classic for a reason. Perfectly crafted and immaculately recorded, Wolves brilliantly blends polish and grit, and there's not a single stinker among its 19 tracks.


Artist: The Dwarves
Album: Blood Guts & Pussy (1990)
Set time: Sun 9/13, 2:10 PM, Rebel Stage

The verdict: Some of the gross-out, hypervulgar lyrics on this are pretty asinine when you hear them as an adult, but this record is otherwise a frenzied 13-minute blast of hardcore punk perfection.


Artist: Modern Life Is War
Album: Witness (2005)
Set time: Sat 9/12, 7:45 PM, Radicals Stage

The verdict: When hardcore gets this dramatic, it starts to sound kind of silly. And this record is very dramatic. Why are the vocals mixed so high? Witness is a headache machine.


Artist: The Academy Is . . .
Album: Almost Here (2005)
Set time: Sat 9/12, 7:15 PM, Roots Stage

The verdict: What the hell is this crap? Proof that "post-Fall Out Boy" is an actual genre, and that it totally sucks.


Artist: The Ataris
Album: Blue Skies, Broken Hearts . . . Next 12 Exits (1999)
Set time: Sat 9/12, 12 PM, Roots Stage

The verdict: Oh my God, it gets worse. Faceless, flaccid pop-punk with cringeworthy "cute" lyrics full of sophomoric musings on how girls are mean. This shit makes Blink-182 sound sophisticated.  v

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