Review: Saturday At Riot Fest

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 15, 2013 7:00PM

Weather-wise, Saturday was the opposite of Friday: absolutely blissful. This vibe carried throughout the crowds I saw, which was good since the crowds were definitely bigger than I experienced last year. I admit I went in with a little trepidation that as the festival bookings grew more varied that it might draw in the more traditional festival party ‘til you puke crew, but that doesn’t seem to be the case so far. I think a true sign of this is how few blanket camps—the annoying people that plant a collection of blankets on the ground in a single spot and can’t understand why people keep tripping over them—were in evidence on the grounds. People seem to be there for the music primarily, and a little shopping and the food secondarily. I even took time during Dinosaur Jr.’s set to take a ride in the Ferris Wheel and take in an aerial view of the grounds. If the rain clears long enough for you to do so it’s a ride I highly recommend undertaking. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Stars, 1:30 p.. at the Rise Stage
“We were intimidated to play Riot Fest because—well, look at us!” said Torquil Campbell near the beginning of Stars’ set. The Canadian group’s music is a lighter shade of emotive dance rock and the members of the band look more like suburban parents than rawk stars, so Campbell went on to explain why they fit into the bill, because at their core, rockers are a bunch of softies, and we’re all angry with the person we just broke up with. And Stars channeled the strength of that power, framing many of the songs as a discussion between the sexes conducted by Campbell and Amy Millan as their vocals acted as a call and response while occasionally intertwining with each other. Near the end of the set the band played “Take Me To The Riot,” a song Campbell explained was written in 2007, so it “only took Riot Fest six years to invite us here to play their theme song.” Here’s hoping they invite them again. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Environmental Encroachment, 2 p.m. at the Rebel Stage
The small, seated crowd at Rebel Stage grew quickly when Environmental Encroachment Came parading in from behind the audience, stirring everyone to their feet. The marching band crowded on stage—some two dozen musicians equipped with saxophones, trumpets, trombones, sousaphones, drums and, of course, cowbell. The visual display is a huge part of their performance. Most were in costume (pink tutus, bunny ears galore, etc.), while others wore only EE-branded underwear. Performers maneuvered hoops, flags and batons as a juggler in a luchador mask threw around bowling pins and rings. The band played half a dozen songs in their short, 30-minute set full of gorgeous brass harmonies, Moroccan rhythms and a stunning sousaphone solo, delivering songs such as “1970,” “Triumphant Elephant” and an excellent rendition of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem.” But it’s always a little dissatisfying to see a band with this much energy constrained by a stage; They should be out in the grass playing their hearts out while fans dance around them. — Sarah Cobarrubias

Dinosaur Jr., 3:15 p.m. at the Roots Stage
No sooner after this writer texted “Dino Jr kinda a snooze” to a friend did the alt-rock veterans finally kick it into high gear after several songs of competently performed, but absolutely same-sounding rock. For too much of their set, Dinosaur Jr. strangely proved that being solidly locked into a groove can work against a band--if the group in question frontloads their set with songs that are indistinguishable from one another, what good would the band’s playing do? Dinosaur Jr. are still great musicians---tasty licks from singer/guitarist J. Mascis; nimble, punk by way of Geezer Butler bass-playing from Lou Barlow; and rock-steady time-keeping from drummer Murph prove that. But until “Feel The Pain,” the group’s fluke MTV hit from their non-original members ‘90s line-up, Dino seemed on auto-pilot. Luckily for fans, the song’s stop-start dynamics seemed to wake the band up, and they finished strongly with fierce renditions of “Little Fury Things,” “Freak Scene,” and a charmingly mucked-up cover of “Just Like Heaven.” They even threw in a sardonic anti-college song from Deep Wound, the Mascis/Barlow hardcore group which planted the seeds for Dinosaur Jr. With this strong finish, music fans can be grateful that the band’s afternoon coffee apparently kicked in when it did. — Jon Graef

Glassjaw, 3:45 p.m. at the Rock Stage
Glassjaw does not fuck around. The band took to their instruments and went straight to work, jumping into “Mu Empire” followed by “Pink Roses” without even a pause to let the crowd cheer. From the moment Daryl Palumbo opened his mouth, we were all singing along, a mosh pit had formed at the front, and people were crowd-surfing their way toward the stage. Palumbo’s croon is as stunning as ever: a kaleidoscope ranging from rich, impassioned wails to manic, growling screams, lending itself to the crushing riffs of gems such as “Pretty Lush,” “Tip Your Bartender” and “The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports.” The set started out with a stunning rigor and precision, though halfway through (most noticeably when they slowed things down for “Ape Dos Mil”) that strong delivery started to waver and rhythms strayed offbeat. The band may have tired themselves out a bit, but it didn’t quite affect the energy at Rock Stage—anyone lucky enough to catch a rare Glassjaw performance doesn’t waste time nitpicking. — Sarah Cobarrubias

Radkey, 4 p.m. at the Rebel Stage
Discovering bands like Radkey is the reason people should go to music fests in the first place. Their effortless, effervescent afternoon set of So-Cal-inspired punk had a sparse, but enthusiastic crowd at Riot Fest’s Rebel Stage in the palm of their hand from note one--if not even before. “We’re Radkey. If you like rock music, you’re gonna hate us,” bassist Isaiah said by way of self-deprecating introduction. From then on, this literal band of brothers from St. Joseph, Missouri, tore up a twenty-minute set comprised of songs from their Cat and Mouse E.P. The title track inspired a fierce circle pit, while tracks like “Mind Crime” and “Start Freaking Out” caused the audience to do exactly that. Singer Dee wailed like Elvis and shredded like Greg Ginn, while aforementioned bassist Isaiah and his youngest brother, drummer Solomon, were absolutely locked into a ferocious uptempo groove. The band were so on that they had a handful of crowd members chanted, “One More Song!” when they finished. Mark these words, for whatever they’re worth: Radkey is going places, and people will say they saw their set here, even if they didn’t. Radkey is the stuff punk dreams are made of. — Jon Graef

Rancid, 7:45 p.m. at the Riot Stage
When I was in college if you had told me that members of Operation Ivy would be playing to festival sized crowds packed with people losing their minds and singing along to every song I would’ve said, “Jesse Michaels started a new band?” I would’ve never thought that Tim Armstrong and matt Freeman would be the ones to break out. But they did and it appears the timelines vein of punk Rancid mines is still as rich as ever since the band put on one of the most energetically received sets of the weekend thus far. It’s hard to believe the band has been around for twenty years, because the four men onstage played as if they were as excited as teenagers at a basement show. No fancy stage antics, no necessary showboating; just raw slabs of fun punk rock glory. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy


Blink 182, 9:45 at the Riot Stage
Blink 182 brought Saturday to a solid close with their headlining set on the Riot Stage. The trio proved they still know how to party, treating fans to show packed with favorites. Blink focused on the more recent end of their material including “Wishing Well” and “After Midnight” off 2011’s Neighborhoods as well as “Down,” “Rock Show,” and “I Miss You.” Fans jumped up and down to Enema of the State classics like “All the Small Things” and “Dumpweed” with a few reminders from Mark to “take two steps back” as things got crazy up front. There was less silly stage banter than Blink fans are used to with the band packing in hit after hit for a quick moving show. Travis Barker didn’t miss a beat behind the drums, and it was good to see him hammering away after sustaining severe injuries in a plane crash a few years back. After a pause for their “fake encore,” Blink 182 ran back onstage to bring it home with “Carousel” and “Dammit.” We would have loved to hear more deep cuts from their first few albums, but the performance was fest perfection proving that after all this time Blink still ain’t no small thing. - Jessica Mlinaric