Riot Fest 2014: Day 2 brings better weather, great lineup

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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 four writers on the grounds of the tenth annual Riot Fest: Digital Editor Brandon Wall (BW), Sun-Times reporter Tina Sfondeles (TS), music writer Mark Guarino (MG) 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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Get Up Kids

When you are an emo band from Missouri that has released one album in the last decade, playing opposite of the Wu-Tang Clan is a guaranteed way to ensure your audience is made up of diehard fans.

The diehard fans who showed up weren’t disappointed as The Get Up Kids played Something To Write Home About as part of Riot Fest’s 10-year anniversary celebration. It was no surprise then that the band’s set was an energetic singalong as they worked their way through the album’s 12 songs of love, heartbreak and friendship that helped define The Get Up Kids as the prototypical emo band.

Despite the album’s serious tones, the band was clearly having fun. There was plenty of stage banter (and bottles of whiskey) in between songs. At one point, the band lamented that “getting old doesn’t have to suck.”

Nearly 15 years after “Something To Write Home About” was released, The Get Up Kids proved the album title to be accurate. –BW


The Elmhurst, Illinois natives continue to impress, delivering a delightfully sloppy performance that coursed with energy as the band played their limited discography.

The Orwells seemed right at home at Riot Fest. Beyond amps occasionally popping from maybe a little too much rock and roll, lead singer Mario Cuomo summed it up perfectly as they neared the end of their set: “Let’s destroy these vocal chords!” —BW

Pizza Underground

Yes, this is Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band. It’s an amusing concept that’s mediocre in its execution. If Culkin wasn’t in the group, they’d be written off instantly as a stoned art-school student project.

But the 34-year-old formerly known as Kevin McCallister leads the band, so they snagged a spot opening up Riot Fest day two. Their jams are cleverly titled — “All the Pizza Parties,” “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice,” to name a few.

The joke gets old after a few songs, though, and then you’re left with some rather unremarkable acoustic covers. I did want to eat pizza afterwards, though. -BM


For a fun, high-tempo surf-rock punk band, Wavves has surprisingly little stage presence. I don’t think frontman Nathan Williams moved further than three feet in any direction during the band’s entire set. -BM

Tokyo Police Club

You know you’ve finally made it as a band when you share a trailer with Wu-Tang Clan, at least according to Tokyo Police Club lead singer David Monks. That’s as good an indicator as any.

Despite the band’s more subdued tone and swaths of mud keeping the crowd spread out, those who made it to Humboldt Park in time for Tokyo Police Club’s 1:30 set were treated to a band that clearly loves what they do. The band smoothly moved from hit to hit, stopping just long enough for the prerequisite stage banter. They recounted their first time playing in Chicago (at Schubas), their second time in town (two shows at Schubas), and their third (three shows, yes, at Schubas). Humboldt Park is certainly a change of scenery from the Lake view bar, but the band didn’t seem to mind. —TS


Emily Haines of Metric looked pretty excited to get such a great timeslot at Riot Fest. The Canadian rock band — Haines of Broken Social Scene fame — played all their big hits. She danced, she shook her hair around, and played some great music. Their set coincided with the sunset, meaning people stopped feeling so grateful for the warmer temperature on Saturday and started preparing for a chilly night. —TS

Emily Haines is a pure frontwoman. The Metric singer can belt out lyrics with the best of them, but she somehow keeps a bit of croon in her voice as she shouts across the field at Riot Fest. Mesmerizing. -BM

Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne’s music has changed in the past few years. The Flaming Lips’ most recent full-length album, 2013’s “The Terror,” was a bleak soundscape — a big departure from the energetic, happy pop they’re known for.

Just a few months after that album was released, his common-law wife of 25 years filed for divorce.

It’s not hard to draw the connection. And in fact, Coyne’s stage personality has changed drastically in the last few years.

No longer is he the happy-go-lucky frontman he once was. The band still put on a hell of a show at Riot Fest, but instead of being a giant party, a good amount of the material now seemed dark or melancholy. His banter with the crowd isn’t playful — it’s slightly bitter and impatient.

Of course, it could have simply just been a bad night. The band’s intricate stage setup overloaded the power on Riot Fest’s “Roots” stage, knocking electricity out in the middle of their first song, as massive confetti cannons fired for the first time. That’d be enough to put anyone in a foul mood. -BM

The National

The National had a travel issue that led to a 25-minute late start. How did fans deal? They listened to Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips play a couple of extra songs, including fan favorite “Do You Realize?” and a cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” That’s no surprise, since the band is releasing a “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” tribute album next month. They also launched into a chant of the word “love” for about two minutes. Chanting the word — for two minutes. I didn’t quite get it, but it looked cool on the big screen. Coyne showed off his always intriguing stage presence, which included his sparkly white jacket, and his actions, like holding a baby doll for a song and then dangling it by the feet by the end of the tune (?). He also crowd-surfed in a giant plastic bubble, something he’s done before. He actually did the same stage stunt in 2006 at Chicago’s own Lollapalooza.

The National started their set at 9:10 p.m., instead of 8:45 p.m. Oops. But frontman Matt Berninger immediately addressed the late start, joking that the band was “catching up on emails.” He later apologized about two more times. He seemed genuine. Apparently the group was stuck in Canada. The band launched into some of their greatest hits for the shortened set including “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Squalor Victoria” and “Afraid of Everyone.” The consistently good band ended their set with “Terrible Love.” A very pleasant end to day two. —TS


Renn Fontana, 24, of Pilsen walked around during Die Antwood’s set with a giant mohawk, violet at the both the roots and a bit in front, and blonde throughout. She said it took her awhile to style, to get the perfect height. Fontana said the weather messed up her Friday schedule, but she was ready to hear some great music the rest of the weekend. —TS

Paola Chalurand danced around with her 2-year-old son Allian. The toddler seemed to enjoy the tunes while sitting on top of his mom’s shoulders. “We’re visiting from Guadalajara, Mexico,” said Uri Espinosa. “He’s having a good time listening to all these bands,” Espinosa said of his son. —TS

Pain for gain

Hannah McGinnis, 19, of Maywood, and David Jeselski, 24, of Oak Park, have contorted their bodies and walked on glass at Riot Fest for the past three years.

The couple got their first taste of the circus with a group at Triton College in River Grove before deciding to strike off on their own. They’ve performed at Bulls games and on the Steve Harvey show.

The glasswalking is self-taught, though.

“We’ve gotten street-smart about it,” Jeselski said. “It’s a lot of mental strength … it hurts like heck.” –BM


Keeping it cool

Saturday was remarkably better weather, although that isn’t saying much. Temperatures floated around 50 degrees for most of the day; warm enough to feel good in the sun, cool enough that you’d shiver in the shade.

Sunday could be even colder. When fall arrives in Chicago, it makes sure you know about it. Bundle up! —BW

Mud fight continues

Things started to dry up a bit from Friday night’s rains, but for the most part, Humboldt Park was still a mud pit Saturday. After an afternoon of intense sun, though, some spots had started to dry up by the end of the day. -BM


Smoking ban?

E-cigarette vendor Blu handed out samples of their e-cigs to festivalgoers Saturday. I spoke with a Blu employee who told me “everyone” was asking them whether it was OK to smoke at the festival. He said they stayed out of the fray, but told festivalgoers it was their choice where to smoke. —TS All of the lights Humboldt Park is a big place, and there is a lot of ground to cover. So why was so much of it shrouded in darkness? —BW

“A little muddy.” Any attempt to reach the far-off Rock stage required navigating the swampy mudscape in the dark. Are you about to walk on relatively stable mud, or an inch of standing water? Only one way to find out! A few enterprising individuals used their cell phones to lead the way, but at least one iPhone that I saw ended up accidentally getting dropped. Bummer. Carnival!

Sunday will be my day to put Riot Fest’s carnival experience through its paces, but credit where credit is due: organizers have put together a great carnival vibe in Humboldt Park. From the wafting smell of corn dogs and funnel cake to festival hands goading you into playing games, Riot Fest’s carnival environment is in full force. —BW

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