Riot Fest 2014: Here comes the rain again for Day 1

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If there’s a music festival, there will be rain. And there will be mud. And Riot Fest is no exception.

The Chicago Sun-Times had three writers on the grounds of the tenth annual Riot Fest: Digital Editor Brandon Wall (BW), Sun-Times reporter Tina Sfondeles (TS) and Pioneer Press editor Ben Meyerson (BM) to capture the first day. Our photographers Peter Holderness and James Fostercaptured the best of the muddy, but rocking, fest.

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Music

NOFX is no longer a band of young whippersnappers at this point, but if you can be old whippersnappers, they fit the bill. It wouldn’t have been a NOFX set without some off-color comments from headman Fat Mike, and he didn’t disappoint. No one was spared — Hispanics, Jews, whites, fans, fellow bands, even the city of Chicago as a whole. Still, the influential pop-punk group with a touch of ska and a lot of attitude showed they’re still as sharp as ever, tearing through their seminal record “Punk in Drublic,” or at least an approximation of it. In the end, they were cut off mid-song by the festival staff when it was time for Gogol Bordello’s set. That didn’t please the audience, who began to pelt Fat Mike with garbage and other obstacles amid half-hearted apologies from the slightly bemused singer. —BM

Last saw Jane’s Addiction at the inaugural Lollapalooza in 1991. Like a fine wine, my expectations for a 23-year vintage band, the pioneers of the music festival scene, were high. Perry Ferrell fronted a great band (David Navarro did make this concertgoer forget the crap conditions) but just couldn’t bring back the awe from 1991. Which is a tall order indeed.

It’s hard to describe the ramblings of a mad man, so suffice it to say Farrell indulged in a few adult beverages before the set. He said as much before launching into a barely-audible “Jane Says.” Keeping the microphone in range of his mouth was an arduous task for Farrell, so that kept the show from ever truly taking off. Add the constant stream of non sequiturs (at least once Navarro gave a wicked side eye) and the blast from my past just didn’t measure up.

My colleague described it best: “Perry is a new Liberace.” — Meg Moore

People

I spotted a couple of smart young people hiding under a decorative tent as From Indian Lakes took the stage. The teens said they didn’t put the tent together. It belongs to fest organizers. “No, no. This isn’t ours. But we’re planning to stay out here to avoid some of the rain,” said Abigail Czajka, 16, of Oak Park. Francis Farbee, also 16 staked out the hammock. “It just looked like a good place to chill out,” she said. Next to her was a man reading a book, avoiding both the music and the rain. —TS

Matthew Tapey brought his 3-year-old daughter Mos to Riot Fest. “My wife laid out both of our outfits. So I’m basically just wearing what she told me to,” Matthew Tapey, of Humboldt Park said. Little Mos donned some stylish green headphones, paired with green boots, a green and gray raincoat and a winter hat. “I’m not sure what we would have worn without my wife,” Tapey said. —TS

Cass Page walked briskly, somehow, into Riot Fest. She wore white platform sneakers. And didn’t seem to be having a hard time in the mud and cold. She was just faking it. “This is awful. This is pretty bad,” Page said of wearing the stylish shoes in the moist and messy mud. “It’s probably the dumbest decision I made.” The 24-year-old Minnesota native said she hoped the rain would taper. “We’ll see what happens.” —TS

Experience

Fest gets bigger — but navigation much worse

Riot Fest has almost quadrupled its size this year, moving from the small parcel of Humboldt Park south of Division Street to take over the main part of the park. That means the fest has more space to work, allowing six stages compared to last year’s five, with less sound bleed. Oh, also more food, Port-a-potties and carnival rides. But that doesn’t mean the layout makes sense, or is practical. The fest’s “main entrance” is at the park’s southeast corner, at California Avenue and Division Street. But the nearest stage is at North Avenue and California — half a mile away. That makes for a very long, slow trek for festgoerswho get through the gates and want to hit their first band of the day quickly. If you want to go to the “Rock” stage — where bands like Dashboard Confessional, The Used and Taking Back Sunday are playing on Saturday — be prepared to walk three quarters of the way around the park, nearly a mile and a half through the crowds. It was confusing to walk through the main gates see nothing. Adding a bit of aggravation, no one at the front gates had a map. Instead, staff encouraged festgoers to download the Riot Fest app — impossible, given overloaded cell towers at the scene.

There is a smaller, much more convenient entrance, at North and Albany Avenues. Highly recommended if you don’t want to walk for 20 minutes before you find your way into the fest. —BM

The Chicago Park District on Wednesday passed a smoking ban. And guess what? Humboldt Park is a giant Chicago park. Although the ban is “effective immediately,” the park district said police wouldn’t be tapping on the shoulders of Riot Fest-ers. And it’s clear no one paid attention to the new resolution. I saw plenty of cigarette smokers and er, other types of smokers.

If you followed any tweets from Riot Fest, you know it was damn cold all day Friday. My fingers started to stiffen up about an hour into the fest. The rain was falling so lightly but consistently for hours, which meant wet mud that sometimes felt sticky and heavy like quicksand. People wearing canvas shoes, or Converse, immediately regretted their fashion decision. So how did people warm up? Winter hats, scarves, gloves, the warmth of friends and spouses, and also coffee. Dark Matter Coffee offered up a tiny cup of coffee that had festivalgoers ditching alcohol for caffeine. Not sure I’ve ever seen coffee outsell alcohol at a festival.

Come to Riot Fest hungry. You’ll find every food known to man. Turkey legs, hot dogs, hamburgers, Asian buns, fried Oreos, pierogi, gyros – just to name a few. The food, by far, was far more impressive than the alcohol choices, which included Strongbow cider, Dos Equis Amber and Tecate. I spotted a cute stand that was near and dear to my heart, selling Polish sausage, blintzes and pierogi. The women smiled and cooked their food, even before I took out my phone to snap a pic.

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