What's Rocking Our World At Riot Fest This Weekend: Chicagoist Staff Picks

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 11, 2014 4:20PM

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Fans at Weezer's last Riot Fest appearance. Photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Writing a Riot Fest preview almost feels like an act of futility. There is such a wealth and breadth of music happening over the next three days in Humboldt Park you literally can’t go wrong no matter what stage you’re at. Yes, there are difficult decision to be made—it’s just not fair to make us choose between Superchunk and Andrew W.K.!—but we trust that when it comes to close calls like that you can make up your own mind and know best. So instead of telling you what to see and what to skip, we thought we’d just ask members of our staff to share a few of their personal picks, just in case you’re looking for advice in those few open spots left in your personal viewing schedule. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Who needs coffee when you’ve got this?
Title Fight at The Roots stage on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Title Fights tight mix of stoner metal and melodic punk shoved into bite-sized blasts always puts a smile on our face so since we know that this early you’re going to be wandering around Humboldt Park slightly dazed by your surroundings, these folks shold make a nice beacon to draw your attention, kick you in the ass and start your weekend off right. Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

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Plague Vendor, photo via their Facebook page

Best Way to Incite Your Riot Weekend
Plague Vendor at the Revolt stage on Friday at 4 p.m.

Ditch your day job early and plunge right into Riot mode with the feverish garage punk of Plague Vendor. The California quartet's debut Free to Eat is an adrenaline rush of yowling hooks, grating instrumentation, and coastal undertones in only 18 minutes. You may not know what hit you, and that's probably the perfect theme for the weekend.
— Jessica Mlinaric

That band High Fidelity said was ripped off by Green Day
Stiff Little Fingers at The Roots stage on Friday at 4:45 p.m.

Was Stiff Little Fingers the first “pop-punk” band? Does it matter? The band’s early material showed that you could graft super catchy hooks onto super speedy melodies and the band has barely looked back since. The group has been on the road recently so the incarnation we’ll see at Riot Fest should be limbered up and firing on all cylinders, so don’t miss this set sure to be filled with inflammable material. Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Most exciting quick turnaround act.
Failure at the Riot Stage on Friday at 5:15 p.m.

Failure blew us away when they performed at Metro last May. It easily was one of the best shows we’ve seen all year, and if you missed it you’ve got a chance to catch them again this week. They’ve continued to tour since then, so perhaps the set could be tighter, even if it will lack the intimacy of the Metro show. Our only gripe about May’s performance was a lack of new material, which the band has released this year. Let’s see if they remedy that this time around. — Casey Moffitt

Best chance for a good ass whipping.
Clutch at Rebel Stage Friday 5:30 p.m.

Clutch has been in the ass kicking business for more than 20 years now and they keep going strong. We’ve seen plenty of sets from this hard rocking quartet and they never have let us down. There’s no reason to think they’ll start now. Plus Jean-Paul Gaster is an elite talent behind the drumkit and perhaps one of rock’s most underappreciated percussionists. His performance alone should be worth the price of admission.— Casey Moffitt

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Jane's Addiction, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Band you might have expected to see on another festival’s lineup.
Jane’s Addiction at the Riot Stage on Friday 8:45 p.m.

Nothing's Shocking? We'll tell you what's shocking; That Perry Farrell is playing the tenth anniversary of Riot Fest the same year that the festival he founded as Jane's big good-bye party celebrates it's own tenth birthday as a Chicago staple. My how things have changed over the last decade. Of course we all know that the alternative band has reunited several times since that initial farewell tour, resulting in a couple of new albums, but this weekend they'll play that first major label album from 1988, one of the ten classics of the weekend, Nothing's Shocking. —Michelle Meywes

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Most amusing contrast to Samhain.
Rose’s Pawn Shop at The Revolt stage on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The fact that you can hear essentially ANY style of music at Riot Fest is far and away its best quality. Start your Saturday with a twang (if that's your thing) courtesy of Rose's Pawn Shop. The beautiful harmonies of this Los Angeles five piece combine folk sounds with a punk rock spirit. — Katie Karpowicz

Best reason to dust off your Hot Topic belt buckle and snap it to the side.
Saosin at The Rock stage on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

If you followed the slew of popular post-hardcore bands that smattered the pages of Alternative Press magazine in the mid-2000s, you know Saosin's past with vocalist Anthony Green. The band gave him the boot after recording only a handful of songs together and Green went on to form experimental prog-rock act Circa Survive (also playing Riot Fest). I'm not arguing that this is the most talented group of musicians you'll see all weekend, but there's bound to be some electric onstage chemistry when the two long-considered-separate camps come together again. (PS - See: sidebelt) — Katie Karpowicz

Your only opportunity to see South African Rave-Rap
Die Antwoord at The Riot stage on Saturday at 3:45 p.m.

Rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er hardly fit in with their Riot Fest peers. The Cape Town duo won’t be smashing guitars, lamenting about relationships, or beating the hell out of a drum kit this weekend. Instead, they’ll throw one of the biggest parties this side of the Atlantic. A bizarre combo of thumping beats and rapid fire flow, Die Antwoord is evidence of the bold booking that has kept the festival growing year after year. No artist at Riot Fest sounds even close to this. Die Antwoord defies logic and everything we thought we knew about hip-hop and we love them for that. — Robert Martin

Best Set to Fist Pump to Like it’s 2005
Say Anything at The Rock Stage on Saturday at 4:45 p.m.

Say Anything were on the bill for Riot Fest 2013 and unfortunately had to drop out last minute due to an illness in the band. Barring any last-minute mishaps, the group, fronted by Max Bemis, is slated to bring their part pop punk, part emo tunes to The Rock stage on Saturday afternoon. It’s been a decade since the group has released their influential …Is a Real Boy album so expect to hear a number of songs and sing-a-longs that will bring you right back to the mid-2000s. — Gina Provenzano

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Paul Weller, photo via his Facebook page

Arguably the biggest—yet easily the most inconspicuous—punk at Humboldt Park this weekend. Paul Weller at Riot Stage on Saturday at 5:15 p.m.
Paul Weller was the defacto leader of The Jam. Boom. It won’t get too much more punk than that at this festival. However, since The Jam split in 1982, Weller has taken many twists in his long and accomplished musical career. Don’t expect too much “punk” music from this set, but it is a cool opportunity to see a legendary talent, and he still should deliver a diverse and fun set.Don’t be surprised if he starts or ends the set with some classic songs from The Jam, though. — Casey Moffitt

Best reason to wear your heart on your sleeve.
The Get Up Kids at The Rise stage on Saturday at 5:55 p.m.

The Get Up Kids are the quintessential example of why "emo" should never be considered a derogatory term. Seeing them perform Something To Write Home About in its entirety on Saturday should have us going through all the feelings, exorcising them with the help of loud (likely off-pitch) sing-a-longs. Despite the band's on-again-off-again past, they still consistently rock it out whenever the members do cross paths onstage. — Katie Karpowicz

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All of the fest rolled into one 30 minute set.
Only Crime at the Rock stage on Sunday at 1:15 p.m.

Roots and evolution are a big part of Riot Fest, and while we're always excited for the big headlining legends, it can be easy to forget some others that slip by. Only Crime is essentially a punk/hardcore supergroup, made from members of Good Riddance, Bane, Gwar, Converge and the Descendents. The meld of poppier Descendents style drumming with thrashy riffs, Russ Rankin's melodic vocals and just a smidge of 90's hardcore breakdowns is a great way to wake up on Sunday. Drummer Bill Stevenson has either played in or produced more bands on Riot Fest than we can count, and their set might be the best blend of past, present and future elements of the fest. — Aaron Cynic

The Most Poetic Bar Band We Know.
The Hold Steady at The Rebel stage on Sunday at 2:10 p.m.

Craig Finn and company have a knack for storytelling. The kind of stories that are born out of long nights at 4 a.m. bars and the cruel mornings that follow. Stories that start with a few stiff drinks and end with hard earned redemption. For a decade, The Hold Steady has been weaving these tales into rock ‘n’ roll classics. Finn’s lyricism is unrivaled and while comparisons to the bossman are unavoidable, the band is still one of the most distinct indie rock acts to come out of Brooklyn in years. — Robert Martin

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Andrew WK, photo via his Facebook page

PARTY! PARTY! PARTY! PARTY!
Andrew W.K. on The Rise stage on Sunday at 3 p.m.

This one feels like a no-brainer to us and honestly we’re a little surprised Andrew W.K. is scheduled to play so early in the afternoon on Sunday. If the crowd is at all weary on day three, we think a solid set by the hyperactive front man will bring them right back to life. Expect a big crowd of Rioters in party mode hoping to see Mr. W.K rage and give his trademark life advice and mantras between songs. Can’t wait? Check out his latest piece of advice in his "Ask Andrew W.K." advice column. — Gina Provenzano

Best headliner to see in the middle of the afternoon.
Naked Raygun at The Roots stage on Sunday at 3:35 p.m.

Local legends Naked Raygun are Riot Fest mainstays but they are also bona fide musical legeds whose early concerts were fundamental in establishing the early days of The Metro as a punk and college rock mecca for music. They also were pretty much at ground zero for the second huge wave of punk that swept over the nation in the ‘80s. The group lay dormant for a number of years but in the last decade or so since they became active again they haven’t slowed down one whit. And their shows never disappoint. So we’ll see you there? — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Holy shit, how did they get these guys back together?!
Blue Meanies at The Rock stage on Sunday at 6 p.m.

The Blue Meanies went from being some insane mixture of funk, punk and ska in the late’ 80s and early ‘90s to transform into an act that defied genres as it whirled across stages like a nuclear dervish. The Blue Meanies were on of the few bands that could turn political fury that bordered on nihilism into a party that you never wanted to leave, and Riot Fest is a rare chance to see that combination brought to life again. Don’t show up to the stage with any expectations, because the Blue Meanies are just gonna blow them all to hell anyway. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

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Cheap Trick, photo from their Facebook page

The most fun over-the-top classic rock that’s not full of itself.
Cheap Trick at the Rebel stage Sunday at 6:40 p.m.

If you don't think you're familiar with Cheap Trick’s catalog, you might be surprised to learn how familiar you already are. With hits like "Surrender," "I Want You To Want Me" and "Dream Police," they were everywhere in the late 70s and 80s, and influenced many of the bands on this very roster. Nearly a local band--they hail from nearby Rockford, IL--they were the final band just announced to play one of the ten classic albums at the fest, Heaven Tonight. —Michelle Meywes

Quickest trip from the bottom of the line-up to near the top of the bill
Archie Powell and The Exports at The Radical stage on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

We love Archie and the gang, so we won’t go on about this, but the fact that they were near the end of the listings on the initial Riot Fest line-up and have since then found a prime time-slot near the top of Sunday’s bill should tell you all you need to know. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Perfect nostalgia sing-a-long.
Weezer at The Rebel stage on Sunday at 8:40 p.m.

Weezer has the unfortunate job of playing opposite The Cure Sunday night, but I think nostalgia will rule supreme in the end, especially if you are a certain age, and Weezer will have a hefty crowd ready to croon along to “Buddy Holly.” The band is participating in Riot Fest’s 10 years, 10 essential albums which means festival attendees will get to enjoy The Blue Album from start to finish, no “Beverly Hills” or Pork And Beans” interrupting the flow. Love or hate their more recent work (and every Weezer fan has an opinion on it), all fans can agree that this classic album is what put Weezer on the map and left many a nerdy youth singing along to “Say It Ain’t So” to aid their broken youthful heart. I expect a crowd singing along come Sunday, maybe a bit wiser and older but still finding solace in the words of Rivers Cuomo. — Lisa White