If there’s one thing to be learned from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s that German roots run deep in Chicago. But did you know that fast food restaurants have long looked to the Midwest as a place to test new products?
I started my Riot Fest off with a bratwurst from Burger King, because nothing get’s me ready for Glassjaw like some good old fashion fast food.
The Long Island hardcore heroes are still the best in the biz. After taking a few years off to do his pop projects and hang out with Damon Albarn, Daryl Pulumbo has recently started to take back to screaming like he never left. Glassjaw is as tight as ever, each member of the band contributing something just a little different then the standard fair mosh and roll. What happens in return is something rarely imitated but surely inspirational to many heavy bands who have singers who, surprisingly, sing.
Trying not to miss Glassjaw, I had actually raced through Pennywise’s audience without letting a full song finish, but they sounded exactly the same as they did 20 years ago. If punk rock had a guidance councilor, he/she/it would probably tell you that skate punk ages very well, but everything else, not so much.
Unlike yesterday, which was almost entirely a punk show with some alt hip hop from Dessa and Atmosphere, today had a small block of standard fair festival rock. There was Dinosaur Jr., Devotchka, and Guided by Voices. Which meant one thing: fucking hippies. Where I was once bouncing around to Bad Religion, there were now people just… sitting. Disgusting. Someone actually tied up a hammock between to trees. I needed some fucking punk.
Flag, not Black Flag (as was clearly mentioned by Keith Morris in a passionate introduction), put on an insane show to an equally insane audience. There was everyone from the 12 year-old who knew every word to “Up Against the Wall,” to the drunken Dad who shouted “TV Party” over an over again without understanding that it was written by original Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn. The rocky relationship with Ginn was best explained by Morris’ repeated shouts of “fuck Greg Ginn!”
Here is a basic breakdown of the Flag/Black Flag Controversy: there are two bands touring as an entity of black flag that are both equally Black Flag if you follow the numbers. Flag has Keith Morris, the first singer from the nervous breakdown era who later went on to start Circle Jerks, along with original bassist, Chuck Dukowski, and guitarist, Dez Cadena, who also had a temporary stint as a singer in the early 80’s. However, Greg Ginn was indeed the founder of Black Flag and thus claims to be the trademark owner the name, logo, and songs. His Black Flag only has one original member, singer Ron Reyes, who did vocals after Morris, but before Cadena and Rollins.
Got it? No. Who gives a shit. What matters is that everyone at the Flag show was having a great time. Circle pits broke out left and right, kicking up dirt from the converted baseball field. Slowly, the eyes began to realize a thick fog of soil had blocked the view. Once sight had returned like a cleared cataract, you could actually feel the difference in air quality in your lungs. Almost as refreshing as seeing a teenage shit-kicking during “Rise Above” in almost 20 years.
Blondie sucked. Who needs a segue when that’s the consensus? I had actually ditched a very close friend under the premise I would see Blondie to make my mom proud. At some point between any radical performance she gave in the past 30 years and the entire bottle of wine she must have consumed before going on stage, some sort of prankster must have convinced Debbie Harry to don a witch’s robe and hat to further alienate herself from the post-disco crowd. Opening with “One Way or Another,” Harry stood still on stage as she gargled her words over an unevenly mixed band. I tried to run away as fast as I could. Halfway across the park the song rang out with repetitive ending. The Doppler effect made it sound like an ambulance going over the railing a or bridge. What a disaster.
Luckily, the shrill was quickly drowned out by SoCal melodic punkers, The Implants. Strung together from many groups from the area scene, the Implants are a formidable, fast-paced good time with guitar solos that melt faces. They’re touring with NOFX and Masked Intruder this winter.
A common theme for my Riot Fest experience was running and singing. Sure enough, as soon as the Implants had finished I faintly heard Rancid’s “Radio” from a quarter mile away and started sprinting. I charged my way through the crowd of punks and made it dead center. The sun had set and with my eyes unable to process the dust, my lungs were convinced nothing was wrong. Deep breaths were enjoyed by punks of all shapes and sizes, lovingly bouncing around to fan favorites from all of their albums. A young girl with an orange Mohawk skanked through “Old Friend” with me as I tripped and fell over a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. That was weird.
Tim Armstrong and Lars Friedricksen took turns shouting out the audience and the family that their music career has created, including wrestler CM Punk who joined them onstage. It’s crazy that Rancid had been a band for 21 years. The boys asked “Do you want to hear something from an album called ‘And Out Come the Wolves’?” At no point did they seem tired to be playing old songs and no one was tired of hearing them. It was a great breath of fresh air before the hell storm that was Blink-182.
When Rancid cleared the stage, most of the audience decided to stay in place and wait out the hour before the Blink 182 set on the same stage. The most dedicated, who unfortunately were youngest and smallest, squeezed their way through the thick crowd to make it to the front. I was using my flashlight to make silly faces at strangers when a girl asked me if I could help her find we missing cellphone. She was a bit frantic, and apparently Canadian, so I crawled on the ground and began hunting. I asked her where she thought she might have lost it and she pointed up front a few feet.
As I tried to squeeze through and motivate other to look down for this phone, a group of teenage girls accused me of lying about a missing phone in order to get closer to the front. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a group of young women chastise you, but it’s pretty infuriating. First, they are unwavering. There is no stopping them. And there is no comeback that is right to say. If you insult them back on their level it bounces off like they were rubber and you were glue. Pull out the big guns, and you just feel awful. After about a minute of “liar” chants, I snapped.
“I am a fucking full grown adult trying to be a nice guy. I don’t need to lie to get past you, I can just push you out of the way.”
I didn’t find her phone.
Blink burst on to the stage with an unexpected “Feeling This” off of their 2003 self titled album. What I shouldn’t have done was push myself past those girls. I also shouldn’t have called them cunts as I passed. Blink was sloppy and weird. Travis Barkers fills, which sound so great on recording and on Instagram sounded muddled and out of sync with the familiar rhythms. Tom DeLonge decided a few years ago that he needed to sing like an adult, maybe to appease the aliens, which sounded like utter garbage. The man cannot sing. If Fat Mike can do the same teenage whine for 45 years so can you, Tom. Mark is still perfect
I also probably shouldn’t have head-walked during “What’s My Age Again” replacing “23” with “26” as I drifted across a sea of people too small to support my girlish figure. I definitely shouldn’t have refused to go down, instead taking a knee on top of someone’s skull and singing like a churchgoer.
When I got to the ground, I saw the aftermath of my destruction. People were crying and miserable in the close front. Screams of “I want out” and “Stop crowd surfing” we’re lost in the abyss of human meat churning like harsh seas. People were thrown left and right with arms trapped in the mix. Someone wrapped their arm around my neck in desperation to not get sucked in the undertow. I managed to break free when a crying girl begged me to get her out. The only way out this close to the stage was to attempt crowd surfing the remaining few feet to the stage barrier and getting tugged out by security. I tried my hardest to lift her up, but my arms were pressed against my sides in medieval fashion. I tried to lie back and open up a pocket of pit but the resulting push only cause me to get bowled over by a surge of tormented souls screaming for free space during “Down” and “Dog Eat Dog.”
The heat was tangible and each pocket of space meant cool air. I was in hell and Mark, Tom and Travis taunted us with their compliments as bouncers worked like angels judging who was worthy of salvation.
I pulled myself up before anyone could step on my organs, but I lost my left shoe in the process. I reached down in desperation, only luring in other shoes to small to be mine. And then and iPhone. It wasn’t my Canadian friend’s and I pocketed it anyways.
I finally found my shoe when a boy was dragged up to me with a bloody nose. He begged anyone to save him. I knew he didn’t have a chance of getting to the surface. I said “grab on to me and we’re going to charge our way through” but he didn’t believe me. A young girl in a fresh “Blink 182 plays crappy punk” hoodie said “take me with you” and we took off. I turned around and saw bloody nose get on top of the crowd only to get kicked by another surfer and fall back into the sludge. Then he turned into a pillar of salt. That would have been really gnarly, right?
We traversed the crowd slowly, carefully even. People ogled us for leaving so early into the set. Some were reluctant to let us pass. This was my punishment, I thought. Ye who casts judgement. The walk, which had taken me only two minutes without a crowd took the entirety of “I Miss You” and “Wishing Well.” Each agonizing step cleansed my soul of sin.
I made it to the refreshment tent and bought two bottles of water and a coke. I turned around to give one to my friend and she had left, like I was her prison buddy who helped her escape. I had to borrow some duct tape to tie my shoes back together as the stress of the past thirty minutes had separated the rubber from the boot.
When I caught my breath I wandered over to the Ferris wheel to watch the rest of the set from a far with Lennon and friends. We waited patiently for “Dammit” before Lennon jumped on my back and we ran back to the crowd screaming at people.
Two years ago, we were driving during a rare visit to my home town when we got a call that our friend’s Dad had died. When we turned on the radio to break the tension, there was the end of “Dammit.”
“I guess this is growing up” is a nice reminder that maturity is not a one step process. Maybe the reason we never feel like true adults is because we never truly stop growing up.
Later that night, I charged up the found phone and worked out a plan to get it back to the owner the next day.
It’s a slow process.
Sent from Space Station MIR