Riot Fest Chicago day 1 in pics (Jane’s Addiction, Mastodon, Pussy Riot panel, Gwar, Title Fight, All, NOFX, Clutch, more)
photos by James Richards IV, words by Zach Pollack
Jane's Addiction / GWAR fans / Title Fight
Riot Fest Chicago is currently underway at Chicago's beautiful Humboldt Park. It kicked off on Friday (9/12) and that first day was plagued by light to heavy rains that pretty much continued from doors until the headliners. But the weather didn't seem to slow down the bands or the audience much at all, and it was an opening day with something for everyone. On the heavier end, there was American thrash kings Slayer performing Reign In Blood in its entirety, resilient interplanetary scumdogs Gwar, and Mastodon; classic punks Stiff Little Fingers and ALL; alternative rock flag bearers Jane's Addiction; anthemic and melodic punks The Offspring (performing Smash), Gogol Bordello, The Hotelier, Pity Sex, and Title Fight; the excellent Pussy Riot -- Discussion Panel; and much more packed in there.
We began day 1 of Riot Fest Chicago by catching Boston-based melodic punks Somos at the Revolt Stage -- one of the festival's two smaller setups. The four-piece drew a decent crowd with their punchy output, including the especially catchy "Dead Wrong" and "Lives of Others" from their 2014 debut Temple of Plenty. Title Fight were up next, over at the larger Roots Stage. The Pennsylvania-based road dogs impressed with tunes from their debut LP, huge-sounding 2012 album Floral Green, and their many EPs. They got the crowd moving with the Hot Water Music-like "Secret Society," and kept the momentum up throughout their set, which closed with the thrashy "27." After the combination attack opening of "Numb, But I Still Feel It," "Shed," and "Like a Ritual," the band brought things down a bit with the great Floral Green shoegaze number "Head in the Ceiling Fan."
GWAR have a hell of a lot to be proud of, and not just the troves of blood-caked fans who were easy to spot throughout the park for the remainder of the day. The Oderus-less (RIP) outfit are indeed back in fine form, with a thrilling new stage show in Dave Brockie's honor. The interplanetary warriors delivered seven-songs (or acts) throughout their set, each coming from a different album. Bloody Pit of Horror's "Hail, Genocide!" was the absolute highlight, with blood baths both by way of a rotating circular saw and vocalist Blothar (aka Michael Bishop, formerly Beefcake the Mighty)'s chest. Yummy.
Taking things down a notch from GWAR were Worcester, MA's The Hotelier, who we caught next on the Revolt Stage. Christian Holden and his band gave 110% while delivering nearly all of their anthemic second album Home, Like Noplace Is There. The packed crowd braced along with Holden and co. for the multiple cathartic full-band crashes, as well as the din of the album's more subdued and vocal-only moments. After a few tunes, Holden seemed as if he couldn't help but to share that this was the largest crowd that had ever paid attention to the band at once. He also had his bass turned waaaay up, which cranked up the intensity for punchy numbers like "The Scope of All of This Rebuilding" and "In Framing."
We then headed over to the one-day Riot Fest Speaks stage to watch a bit of the Pussy Riot Discussion Panel go down. The Henry Rollins-moderated panel consisted of Pussy Riot/Zona Prava members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina, with guests Greg Graffin (Bad Religion), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Marcelle Karp (writer/activist), and Michael A. Petryshyn (Riot Fest Founder - aka Riot Mike). As we approached, Rollins and Karp were in the middle of a back-and-forth about feminist journalism in relation to the now six-month-old Zona Prava. Karp spoke of writing provocative messages on her and friends' bare chests, and Rollins brought up the old flyers he made while in Black Flag (ie "cop with a boner handing a child a lollipop with Black Flag scrawled across the top of the page"). It was an insightful discussion. Hopefully they bring the Riot Fest Speaks stage back in years to come.
Mastodon was the next mark we hit, over at the Rebel Stage. Touring on this year's classic rock-ish Once More 'Round the Sun, the band delivered a few tunes from that album -- including the fun single "High Road" -- some from The Hunter, as well as a bunch of their older meatier tunes. We got "Aqua Dementia" and "Hearts Alive" off Leviathan, "Bladecatcher" and "Crystal Skull" from Blood Mountain, and Crack the Skye favorites "Divinations" and "Oblivion." They were as tight as ever.
We capped off the night by catching alternative rock giants Jane's Addiction, who were performing their 1988 debut studio effort Nothing's Shocking in its entirety. Pit against American thrash gods Slayer playing Reign In Blood at the other side of the park, Perry Farrell and co. went for a much flashier approach while delivering the attitude-packed hits like "Jane Says," "Mountain Song," and "Ocean Size." It was nice to finish off the night with a feel-good set of songs.
Day 2 pics and review are HERE. Day 3 HERE. Pictures of all the day 1 bands mentioned above, plus a few others like Clutch, NOFX (they performed Punk In Drublic) and Radkey, are in this post. They continue below...
Stiff Little Fingers