Ever since Woodstock ’94, visions of mud-fueled mayhem have gone hand-in-hand with summer music festivals in America. In Chicago, that hasn’t been far-off these past couple of years, as soggy weather has made for some challenging festival-going, turning once lush green grass into foot-deep bogs of sticky slop. As Chicago’s Riot Fest & Carnival got underway in its new home at Douglas Park yesterday, the scene was much like last year on the weather front, though thankfully the skies opened early enough in the day that concertgoers were able to enjoy most of the festivities rain-free… despite the muck underfoot. Families were out in full-force for Riot Fest, with new generations experiencing some of their parents’ favorite bands, likely for the very first time.
While my wife and I had originally intended to bring our girls to Riot Fest this year, I’m glad that we changed the plans. While the Fest is pure excitement, I do think that at just three and six, the experience would’ve been sensory overload between the genre-spanning seven stages, the carnival and the extensive selection of merchandise and food vendors.
Using the Riot Fest App, I went prepared with a full list of 27 must-see acts for the weekend, but that was in no way something to stick to – I didn’t, and in some cases, couldn’t. The stacked nature of festivals always brings some tricky overlaps, and thus I was bouncing around to check out bits and pieces of sets by ATREYU and MEST, COHEED & CAMBRIA and THRICE. Quite noticeably, fans of Chicago bands were out in-force, particularly those for ALKALINE TRIO, whose inclusion on the bill was appreciated by many.
I detoured from seeing FLOGGING MOLLY to catch up with an old friend who I’d come across unexpectedly and hadn’t seen in a few years, then I hopped into the photo pit for ANTHRAX, not only a long-time favorite, but a band I’ve shot in the past.
This is the second time that I’ve seen the band since they added SHADOWS FALL guitarist Jon Donais to their ranks, and they put on a tight set that delighted the hardcore in the front row – prompting some sing-alongs that were more than I’d expected to see from the Riot Fest crowd.
The highlight for me was the second Chicago appearance by FAITH NO MORE this year, the first of which my wife and I attended back in May. Now, if you’re reading this, then you might already know that FNM is my favorite band of all-time, and thus the only band whose entire set I caught for Day One of Riot Fest. There were some technical issues that delayed the start of their performance and some alterations to the planned setlist, but it was still good. Not as tight as when I’d seen them last, but still excellent.
After playing “Superhero” from the new album, it looked as though they were done – but with just two minutes left on the clock, Mike Patton announced that they “have time for one more, but we’re in a hurry!” They closed things out with “Introduce Yourself,” the studio version of which only clocks about a minute and a half.
FAITH NO MORE – RIOT FEST Chicago Setlist
- Be Aggressive
- Black Friday
- Midlife Crisis
- The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
- Separation Anxiety
- Ashes to Ashes
- Introduce Yourself
Almost immediately after FNM ended on the “Rock Stage,” the “Riot Stage” directly to the left burst to life with the opening grooves to NO DOUBT’s “Hella Good,” Gwen Stefani and Co. getting tens of thousands to “just keep on dancing.” Thing is, NO DOUBT happened to be performing during the most conflicting slot of the night – up against MOTORHEAD (a sad moment that I just couldn’t watch due to Lemmy’s incredibly poor health) and on the “Roots Stage,” a spectacle that I couldn’t miss – ICE CUBE & SPECIAL GUESTS doing the “Straight Outta Compton Remix.” It got started with one of my favorites from ‘CUBE – “Natural Born Killaz.” P.S. – Gwen says she ordered “15 Chicago pizzas” to be sent home for a party.
No one expected the N.W.A. biopic to be tops at the box office for weeks in a row this summer, and “in case you’ve been living under a rock” (as ‘Cube told the crowd), 3/5 of the group (ICE CUBE, MC REN, DJ YELLA) made sure you knew what was up, by screening a trailer for the film prior to “taking things back to 1989.”