Riot Fest 2014: The Cure, Weezer close out a sunny Day 3

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Robert Smith of The Cure closes out Riot Fest. | Peter Holderness~Sun-Times

The last day of Riot Fest featured The Cure, Weezer and Patti Smith — and the muddy conditions improved the scene.

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 last day. Our photographers Peter Holderness and James Fostercaptured the best of the muddy, but rocking, fest.

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Music

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Weezer

I’ll admit, I was nervous.

There was a palpable energy in the air as crowds packed in to see Weezer perform the Blue Album – one of the most beloved albums of all time – in its entirety. Primus’ set ended on the rivaling stage, and the “Weezer!” chants began.

Out to the stage they came. Rivers, Pat, Brian and Scott. Hanging behind the stage was the cover of the band’s most recent album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Feedback filled the air, and the band launched into a song barely two months old, certainly nothing from the 20-year-old Blue Album. The crowd was confused, but they went with it. There were plenty of people in the crowd who knew the words to “Back To The Shack.”

At the very least, it felt appropriate. The crowd knew where we needed to go as Rivers crooned the chorus, pining for the old days – “Take me back, back to the shack // Back to the strat with the lightning strap // Kick in the door, more hardcore // Rockin’ out like it’s 94.”

The next song came and the next song went, Pork and Beans off 2008’s Red Album. A fine song, no doubt, but it was no Blue Album. Had Weezer gone colorblind? Just as a certain attendee (spoiler alert: me) started to grow weary, it all made sense.

Rivers was taking us back to the shack.

A cut from the band’s 2005 album, Make Believe. Two from the Green Album. ‘El Scorcho’ off Pinkerton. And then it was time.

The lights dimmed. Down came the band’s newest album cover. Up went the iconic electric-blue artwork. The opening notes of My Name Is Jonas rang out, and all doubt fell to the wayside.

Weezer proceeded to shred through the Blue Album as fans belted every word.

At the beginning of the set, Rivers Cuomo promised a special night, a special Weezer show. His captive audience was more than happy to take a special trip back to the shack.

I left “The Cure” to see Weezer. And I wasn’t the only one. I was swarmed as soon as I got near Weezer’s stage. No place to go. You had to stake out a spot at least an hour or more to get anywhere near the band. I ended up behind a tree, watching the band from behind the Ferris Wheel. Still it was a great time. Rivers Cuomo confused the crowd at first, not immediately playing the “Blue Album.” But he had good reason. Ever check the time on that album? It’s only 41 minutes. So naturally Cuomo and the band had to fill in some time. They did it well, taking fans from present, their newest song, to their best hits from the “Green Album,” and “Pinkerton.”

By the time they played “My Name is Jonas” fans were geared up and ready to sing along. Every person who passed by knew every word. —TS https://twitter.com/Walldo/status/511351446907158529

Team Spirit

One of my favorite up-and-coming bands right now is Team Spirit, who played “early” at 1:30 Sunday on the tiny “Radical” stage. The group plays an exceptionally catchy brand of power-pop punk. Their infectious hooks aren’t surprising, given that frontman Ayad Al Adhamy’s former gig was as Passion Pit’s lead keyboard player. Though I could walk right up to the front of the stage as their set started, by the time it ended, there was a sizable crowd. Don’t be surprised to see these guys playing a bigger stage in years to come. —BM

The Hold Steady

Frontman Craig Finn’s been one of the quirkiest — and best — frontmen in the indie-rock circuit for years. His formula’s tried and true: He jitters and pogos around the stage, stepping away from the mic for a few seconds to call out to the crowd, unheard. Then, he skitters back to holler out in his trademark sing-speaking style. It threw me off the first time I saw them perform, at the Pitchfork Music Festival’s forerunner, Intonation, in 2005. But it’s grown on me since then, and there are few groups that are consistently as much fun to see live as The Hold Steady. Don’t ever change, Craig. —BM

Lucero

If you’re looking for music to listen to while you drink beer and think about life and ladies, there’s not much better for a Sunday afternoon than Lucero. Their roots-rock, replete with a slide guitar, gets so much grit and emotion from lead singer Ben Nichols’ raspy growl of a voice. Listening to him talk about drinking, smoking and all the misfortunes accompanying those activities, it’s easy to believe every word that comes out of his mouth. —BM

Cheap Trick/Weezer

The “Rebel” stage might as well have been called the sing-along stage on Sunday. When Cheap Trick played “I Want You to Want Me” late in their evening set, it seemed like everyone within earshot was singing along.

After an interlude from Les Claypool’s lovable band of weirdos Primus, Weezer picked up the sing-along ball and ran with it.

The group kicked their set off Sunday with “Back to the Shack,” the first single off their forthcoming record “Everything Will Be All Right in the End.” Appropriately, the song references the band trying to get back to their roots “like it’s ’94” — the year they released their seminal “Blue Album,” which they were slated to play start-to-finish.

As the distinctive guitar plucking of album opener “My Name is Jonas” began, the crowd began to sing along with such passion that it was difficult at times to hear frontman Rivers Cuomo sing. That lasted through most of their run through the album, reaching its peak on “Buddy Holly.”

Standing in that crowd, packed like sardines, it’s not hard to see why “The Blue Album” consistently rates so highly on best-of lists. The choruses are infectious and memorable, the guitar is sharp, but perhaps most importantly, Cuomos’s passion is contagious. —BM

The Cure

People

Hellzapoppin

Riot Fest touts itself as a carnival, too, and a big part of that is the Hellzapoppin freak show.

Led by emcee Bryce Graves (stage name Bryce the Gov’na), the show features fire breathing, sword swallowing, a bed of nails and a man with no legs called “Shorty.”

Graves says he started Hellzapoppin on a whim seven years ago, and the show’s been touring almost nonstop ever since.

It’s left the performers with their fair share of injuries — stomachs punctured by swords, fingers nearly sliced off and a disease called “fire lung” from inhaling too much flammable fluid.

But Graves says he wouldn’t give it up for the world.

“We wake up in so much pain,” he said. “I’m doing it ’til I’m dead. It’ll kill me, but I love it.”

—BM

Experience

Humboldt Park smelled terrible

h3 Follow @Riotfest

The Chicago festival might be over, but here is your obligatory reminder that you should follow @RiotFest on Twitter all year round. The account’s secret manager keeps the snark, attitude and humor all year long.

Beer shortage

Ever heard of a festival running out of beer on day one? That’s what happened on Friday at one of the fest’s many tents. I thought it was just a fluke. But it wasn’t. Nearly all of the beer tents on Sunday ran out of at least one beer. The fest even ran out of Strongbow Cider, a major sponsor, heavily advertised throughout the park. As an experienced festivalgoer, who has been going to these things for at least a decade, I can say I’ve never seen such broad lack of booze. There was one place to get cider on Sunday night, in a comfy “cider bar,” area — fashioned like a wine bar. An employee there told me there was apparently a delivery error on Friday. But he didn’t know why many of the beer tents ran out of so many beers on Sunday. Perhaps someone miscalculated the beer order? —TS

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