I cut out to Rochester early in the morning because for some reason it’s $150 cheaper to fly to Chicago from there than from Syracuse. I don’t question it, I just roll with it. Everything goes smooth and I’m in the air and then back on the ground again before I know it.
I got my crib sheet for stuff to do today and it pretty much goes out the window when I realize easier plans can be made. The new Chicago Diner is very hip and packed. Get me a bar seat and feed me too much food. I’m in over my head before the main course even shows up and move it straight from the plate to a to-go container because I’m way too full to eat anymore. I walk a good mile down the street to Wicker Park. I know the area a little bit so I check what I’m familiar with. Quimbys and Reckless Records fall before my powers of perusal (is that a word?). I scour bins and books, make serious business of viewing things over and make some astute purchases. Once complete I figure I may as well head over to Humboldt Park to take in what I can of this Riot Fest thing, or at least get a lay of the land. Plus, it’s awesome outside, chilling in a park all day is not an altogether bad option.
I get close and I can hear the strains of Flag playing. The future is then commodified, reunited, and sponsored by energy drinks. Actually, I couldn’t see in so I had no idea if it was good or bad. I could hear “Rise Above” and “Damaged” echoing for blocks. I wandered up and down the length of the park area as seas of punkers wandered about. The usual lowly caste of crusty punk beggars loitered in one smelly mass across the street like the bums they are and failed to realize the irony of begging for change to other punk kids. When you stare into the abyss it stares back at you. Whatever’s left of Blondie could be heard off in the distance and I took a good walk around the perimeter to get an idea of what was what.
Soon darkness began to fall. I noticed some kids sneak in through a gap in the fence before Public Enemy started playing and I figured I could do the same. I cased the area a bit only to come back and find security guys beefing right in the area I saw the kids go through, so forget it. I could see and hear well enough from the other side of the fence and caught PE play a weird set that consisted of portions of their songs, and rapping over AC/DC and mash-up’s of Nirvana. What happened? Is this the same group of musical terrorists I knew and loved from my youth? I got a call from my group saying they were bailing out and in good time too. This was getting weird.
We headed back to the Wicker Park area to see an after show by the one and only Rocket From the Crypt at the Double Door. I haven’t seen them since 2001 so this was a real treat for me. Of course, two other bands had to play first. Tight Phantomz opened and the legendary Mike Lust was in top form. Not much had changed in the 15 years since I’d seen him front the massively underrated Lustre King. The Flatliners were next. I realized these were the same guys who were holding up the line at the Chicago Diner earlier in the day so my opinion was a little negative from the get-go. But they played fast, short songs, had respectable stage banter, were quick and to the point, and then got the fuck out of the way. I can get behind that.
Waiting for RFTC to start some dude next to me asks me to save his spot so he can take a leak and offers me and another fellow drinks to do so. Seems reasonable. In the meantime, some mouth breather literally three of me wide rolls her way through to ‘talk to her friend’ and budges (if getting steamrolled by a house on stubs can be considered ‘budging’) right in front of me where this dude was standing. Forget a polite shimmy past a person, or even a diplomatic negotiation of making some space. No. Your McMansion-sized ass (with two car garage) just plows right through with false pretense like you own the damn place. I always get some basketball player standing in front of me, or some drunk disoriented push-pitter rolling into me. This time I get the human personification of Lumpy Space Princess taking up the whole damn front row. So the dude comes back with a water for me and somehow squeezes into some space. I finish the water and throw the bottle under this enormous humans feet. I hope she slips on it and crushes a cankle. With my luck though she’ll step on it and the pressure will form a diamond or something.
So Rocket From the Crypt gets on. Speedos’s stage banter is in full effect and they launch into “Dollar”. And odd opening pick, but incredible nonetheless. I’m shouting, jumping, flexing, hooting, hollering, and loving life. They dive into “Don’t Darlene” and four songs straight from “Scream Dracula Scream”. Speedo goes on a rant about ND being in a leg cast and how he’s persevering despite having ‘foot cancer’ and kick into “SturdyWrists”. This all goes on for a good hour, song after wonderful song. I came into the show tired, and I left feeling like I could stay up another three days. Heck, Speedo even got the crowd to give each other back rubs before closing the night out.
We take the train back and it’s nearly 3 AM before I turn in. The next morning it’s already dreary out before I even leave. Nevertheless, we gear up and head out to Riot Fest.
Braving the cold drizzle we check out Peter Hook and The Light. Picture this- the bass player from Joy Division covering Joy Division with a scab backing band. The dude plays bass about half the time while a scab bass player does the majority of the work. Hook looks fairly fat and tired, gives a lot of defiant rock poses while singing nothing like Ian Curtis. I guess for a cover band they were pretty decent.
I bailed about halfway through to see Mission Of Burma on another stage. Now there’s a bunch of much older guys still making relevant music and doing what they used to do just as good as ever. So given that they had all of about 40 minutes to play they mostly threw out the well-known stuff, peppered in a few newer songs, and all in all played a good set from across their large catalog. Surprisingly, the only song off of “Vs.” they played was “That’s How I Escaped My CertainFate”. Weird.
Right afterwards Quicksand started on another stage. They seemed a little out of place in a more punk-oriented fest and played mostly their slower, heavier stuff. Again, not a long set s a lot of great stuff was cut out. But I didn’t mind, I’d see them again tonight. Their sound was a little funny for such a huge stage. Overall, pretty cool, but not at their best.
I took a little break to take in the scenery and rain. For Upstate NY people out there just imagine a punk version of the New York State Fair with four Chevy Courts (no seats though) instead of one. That’s what this looks like. Definitely a lot less white trash, but I don’t know, punks can hide that pretty well under enough hair dye.
After getting soaked and eating overpriced vegan pizza under a tree I took in the reunited Dismemberment Plan. They still play incredibly well. Travis Morrison still has a perfect voice and has not lost any of his vocal range. Hell, they don’t even look like they aged at all. Were they teleported here directly from 2002? They played a mix of older songs and some promising new ones that made for a dancey, catchy, and fun set. Good stage humor as well.
I decided next to watch a bit of Bob Mould. Good god, that man can play. His band is incredible, his voice is still golden, the songs are still blasting. He was not on my to-see list, per se, but I’m glad I did. And he looked as if he pulled the entire thing off with ease, like kicking everyone else’s ass was no more difficult than brewing a cup of morning coffee. The man threw in a number of Sugar and Husker Du songs in the set. Very fun, very energetic.
Duty then called because Rocket From the Crypt were gearing up to play. The song order was switched up a bit from last night, and banter was similar as well, just abridged a little to account for a slightly shorter set. Instead of repeatedly calling Chicago the Windy (wine-dee) City he kept calling Riot Fest Diarrhea Island like he really didn’t know where he was. Classic. Everything else sounded perfect. He even did the back rub thing again. The club show was better, but this wasn’t far behind. Still, no “State Of the Art…” songs either night.
It was getting colder and wetter and we weren’t sure how much longer we wanted to stay. We wandered off to see what we could of Suicidal Tendencies. And that was pretty wild. I don’t know who all the dudes on the stage were aside from Mike Muir. I assume it’s either Infectious Grooves, or scabs from Body Count or something. They sure could play their asses off though and had boundless energy to run around and get wild. Their stage banner had the whole family of band names going around it so I guess if Infectious Grooves plays they can just turn the banner ninety degrees and all of a sudden it’s an I.G. banner! Turn again and it’s a Cyco Mike-o solo gig! Comedy aside, I’d never seen ST and they were really pretty awesome. Not many bands can insert their name in some way into as many song titles as ST does and still make it sound like a new song.
At this point it was decided that we were all too old, tired, and wet to go on without some adult-baby nourishment from the elements so we headed back to where were staying, dried off, got something to eat, and then I made my way out to see Quicksand play a show in a place about the size of a shoebox. I got front row center to witness them play a place smaller than I’d ever seen them play before (even in ‘94/’95 they were playing places bigger than this). They plowed through about 15 songs, most of which was from “Slip” with a few jams from “Manic Compression”, as well as “Shovel”. No opener, just them, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. It was definitely the best set I’d ever seen them play. I knew I’d never get an opportunity like that again, and even if I did, it wouldn’t compare.
In the AM it was back to sunny Fall weather and no rain. I caught the train to the airport, blew through the skies, and was back in Syracuse before I knew it. Even though I was only out of town for a couple days it felt like a long time. I guess having some fun experiences like this will do that to a person.