While Chicago’s Riot Fest & Carnival can take many shapes for many people, Day Two was all about the “legends” in my eyes. A genre-bending day filled with plenty of punk (THE DAMNED, CIV, THE DEAD MILKMEN, PENNYWISE, THE LAWRENCE ARMS+) tied to Riot Fest’s roots, the biggest moments for me were stacked as night began to fall.
I jumped in the photo pit for BOOTSY COLLINS’ RUBBER BAND, and while the Bootzilla Funkship arrived a few minutes late due to some technical hiccups, the performance was everything that I’d hoped for. Performing familiar jams from his time with P-Funk and beyond, I’m fairly confident that Collins picked up some new fans in addition to delighting the front-row crowd that chanted “We want Bootsy” before the first groove dropped.
MERLE HAGGARD was somewhat of a wild card on the Riot Fest bill – many wondering how this country icon would go over. Let me tell you this – country works at Riot Fest – and Haggard proved it. With his son on lead guitar, Haggard’s band provided a slick and swingin’ backdrop for one of the last living “outlaws” – a man carrying the torch for real country at age 78.
Bonus Fact: Two acts from Riot Fest 2015 also appeared at the very first festival that I was ever paid to cover – Lollapalooza 1993. The artists – BABES IN TOYLAND and FISHBONE
As a kid growing up in the 1980s, BILLY IDOL became a permanent fixture in my mind – a staple of MTV’s glory days. Last night he took the stage at the same time as a band who I had to jump in the pit for – and that’s RANCID. While I caught the end of Idol’s energetic and glorious set – I couldn’t resist singing along to the beginnings of ...AND OUT COME THE WOLVES, an album that I bought on day one – and a record that RANCID played in its entirety for the Riot Fest crowd. Of all the bands I checked out this weekend, there was only one that had a bigger sing-along crowd than RANCID – who even packed the stage with close friends… friends including Phil Brooks, once again violating the festival ban on “CM Punk,” former WWE Superstar and current UFC fighter.
The final slots of the night were layered with three distinct flavors: IGGY POP, TAKING BACK SUNDAY and SYSTEM OF A DOWN. TBS and IGGY certainly drew quite the crowds, but a huge portion of festival-goers were there specifically to see SYSTEM OF A DOWN. While POP is undeniably a legend, I’d argue that SOAD fall into that category as well – a band whose albums I’ve bought consistently, but also one who have created demand by making themselves scarce. In fact, I’m not entirely sure when their last U.S. tour took place, but this year they’ve played just three dates here in the ‘States – Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago. The band that had the biggest sing-along crowd of the day was SYSTEM OF A DOWN.
The muddy conditions certainly didn’t make it easy to handle the massive and energized crowd, and that was evident when the SOAD set had to be stopped after just three songs to allow emergency personnel to assist a couple of fans who went down in the pit. But when things resumed… the madness was appreciated by all.
Back at Rock Father HQ today, I carry evidence of the battlefield… where the battle was ROCK: