(ED.NOTE: I couldn’t make it out to Riot Fest on Saturday, so I had my friend Jeremy head over and give me his perspective on it. He was more than happy to oblige, and wrote me this chronicle of his adventure.)
OK, so when my dear friend at Music.Defined. invited me to cover day 2 of Riot Fest 2015, I couldn’t have been more excited. First impressions: muddiest festival ever, and I’ve been to some pretty muddy shows.
Also, I was conservatively, and unfortunately, dressed in a Columbia pullover and a freshly purchased pair of Nikes.
1st stop: Gwar, because, obviously; it was every bit as fantastic as I imagined. Short set though. Lots of blood spray. A really creepy troll who spewed some kind of blue jelly from his face. I was wise enough to keep a safe distance.
2nd stop: The Joy Formidable. I didn’t know much about the band, but I was instantly captivated. They were fun, aggressive, loud, and amazing. A new fan was born right then and there.
3rd stop: The Dead Milkmen: not my style, but the crowd seemed to be into it.
Fun in the press tent…actually got to hang out with Gwar! Hilarious and awesome! A lifelong quest fulfilled. (Ed. Note: This morning Jeremy told me he HATES the song “Punk Rock Girl” so our friendship is a little on the rocks)
After a few free drinks, i worked up the courage to approach the The Joy Formidable’s lead singer/guitarist and drummer…. The lead singer, Ritzy Bryan, was incredibility beautiful and completely Welsh. She and Matt were simply amazing, friendly, and had wonderfully charming accents. And they let me take a great picture with them. They hooked me up with their music, but won me for life with how approachable and nice they were as people.
After leaving the press tent in a starstruck daze of confidence, I worked my way to the rock stage and posted up for Desaparacidos. As a long time Conor Oberst fan, I was buzzing with anticipation to see this incarnation. It was weirdly exciting to hear new songs coming from someone I felt I knew so well….I guess I was expecting to hear just a more punked out version of Bright Eyes…but what I got was something different. A fully matured band with a sound all its own. Sure the voice was Conor’s, but the songs were something completely unexpected. Back at the press tent I was hoping to see Conor, but it was not to be. I tempered my disappointment with free beer, and a delicious bacon cheeseburger.
Back to the Riot Stage for Merle Haggard…
For some reason I expected to be the only person there who loved him as much as I did, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was so far away from the stage that I could barely even see the man. He sounded aged, but the crowd was loving it. Mama Tried, Okie From Muskogee, Workingmans Blues. I was in outlaw country music heaven.
I stumbled around the grounds for a while, making friends, and growing increasingly muddier…I found myself in front of the rock stage again waiting for one of the nights headliners, System Of A Down..
After a nearly 10 year hiatus, we were all mutually pumped for this show. It was fantastic. I felt bad that I missed Billy Idol and Iggy Pop for it, but not that bad. They ran through their catalogue of modern rock hits, along with some deeper cuts, and it just seemed to be over a little too soon. But I’ve always been a big fan, so I could have listened to them all night.
Overall my maiden Riot Fest experience was an overwhelming success. Midwestern concertgoers have to be some of the best in the country. Everyone was incredibility friendly and the vibe of every show was one of camaraderie and musical appreciation. Except for the weird Antonio Banderas-looking guy who called me a creep in the press tent for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Maybe he wasn’t talking to me. I’m pretty sure that he was, though. But everything else, from the mud, to the carnival rides, to the freak shows, to the music, made for a fully realized, completely enjoyable festival experience.