Photos: The Misfits Rise Again, Trump Effigies Fall At Riot Fest Day 3

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 19, 2016 12:50PM

Additional reporting by Stephen Gossett

We have never seen so many Misfits T-shirts in one place in our entire lives, not even at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning at the Exit. But on Sunday at Riot Fest, that band seemed to be emblazoned on 97% of the crowd's chests, and mentions of the band made it into nearly every set we saw. Brendan Kelly of Chicago punk supergroup The Falcon introduced a song with, "Thank you to The Misfits for having us on this show." And Me First and the Gimme Gimmes repeatedly mentioned the seeming impossibility of the Misfits reunion—which includes both original members Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig. At various times, bassist Fat Mike observed, "I'm thankful Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig are friends again!" and "I think if The Misfits hugged more they'd be all right. You never see them hug, do you?"

So, had The Misfits hugged it out? Did their set satisfy the legions that packed Douglas Park late last night, brought together to a single massive field to see, for only the second time since 1983, Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only share a stage after decades of suing and counter-suing each other? Would this "reunion that would never happen" be able to live up to expectations?

Tl;dr—yes.

The south end of Douglas Park was packed elbow to elbow by the time The Misfits took the stage, and the roar as the band started was an almost physical presence from where we stood. Early in the set, the band pulled no punches, hammering out "20 Eyes," "I Turned Into a Martian," "Where Eagles Dare," and "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" in quick succession while flanked by two huge Halloween pumpkins with glowing eyes and backlit by a video screen playing various horror movie clips.. And while it was great to hear those songs, in our estimation the band didn't really kick into high gear until a few songs later, with a performance of "Teenagers From Mars" that sounded as if it was being played by a band of young twenty-somethings playing "shit-hole clubs in New Jersey"—that is to say this line-up in its prime. By the time the band reached "Horror Business" roughly halfway through the set, both Danzig and Only had eschewed power stances and were running around the stage in excitement, appearing to actually—gasp!—be enjoying themselves. This was followed by a completely reenergized version of "We Are 138," a song we've admittedly considered a lesser entry in their catalog, and now view differently after hearing the reformed band breathe fire and life into it.

Of course the set had hiccups. Uncle Glenn complained about the sound and his mic set-up from time to time, but when has he not? By the time the band got to "Skulls," Danzig was in the best mood we think we've ever seen him in, quipping, "I guess I'm having a fucking good time because my zipper fell all the way down," before launching into the set-closing group singalong "Last Caress." The band came back out for a curfew-breaking encore (if Riot Fest ends up having to pay a fine, we think these songs were well worth the price). The group ripped through "Bullet," "Night of the Living Dead" and ""She," their first single that Danzig said, "cost sixty bucks to record back in the day." Up until that point the setlist included all the same songs the band played in Denver two weeks before, but at the very end Danzig told us we were getting one more song they hadn't played since 1983, "Attitude." The field erupted and as the final feedback from the band started to fade out at the sets ultimate conclusion we felt like we had seen a once in a lifetime set.

Rob Zombie warmed the crowd up earlier in the evening with his own set of horror metal that is a direct descendent of The Misfits' horror-punk. He played Astro Creep 2000 from start to finish, including songs Zombie himself observed he hadn't played in over 23 years; and it was a fitting vibe-setter. Live, Zombie comes across like a disco ringmaster from some lower tier of anime and slasher-film hell. But it's all injected with a healthy dose of humor and fun. And it's hard to deny Zombie's own influence on bands that have followed in his wake and mixed foot-stomping metal with an industrial swagger to create something akin to party music for parking lots. Just dial Z-O-M-B-I-E if you're looking for a good time.

We still prefer singer Geoff Rickly’s political screamo side project, United Nations, but Thursday’s surprisingly broad influence is undeniable. The reunited post-hardcore heroes form New Jersey told the crowd they got all the “slow jams and obscure cuts” out of the way at their satellite show the night before, and they did indeed bring some stirring bombast on Sunday. It wasn’t the crowning lap we expected, given their high standing among the emergent nth-wave emo crowd, but we guess they can’t all be transcendental.

Sleater-Kinney on the other hand… Competing sets by Death Grips and Rob Zombie drew big crowds, but there were no regrets among those who took in what should simply be called one of the very best rock bands of all time. The visionary indie trio (plus touring side player) touched bases from nearly every phase of their career—the early riot grrrl era through last year’s excellent comeback—and their chemistry is enough to make one believe in telepathy. Yeah, we like Portlandia and all but, good lord, it’s great to have them back.

2016_09_juliette_lewis.jpg
Juliette And The Licks, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Speaking of coming back, Juliette Lewis brought out her reformed band The Licks (who had been on hiatus for a few years) to treat the crowd to a raucous set of her melting pot of music. Lewis mixes punk, blues, and even a bit of funk at times and injects it with her powerful personality, offering a live show that pulls no punches. We've seen her in festival setting and we've seen her in small clubs, and she treats all venues the same—she gives her all to each and every set no matter what. Lewis also played new material, including "Any Way You Want" and "Hello Hero," that has us excited to see what else is up her sleeve. Mix solid songs with a mesmerizing front-person and you've just described the set we saw from Juliette And The Licks.

Five or six? Bubblegum-rock cheerleader and Riot Fest lifer Andrew WK couldn’t remember exactly how many times he’s been on the festival bill over the years, but here’s hoping it only increases. Even if you find his grinny, major-key schtick wearisome in large doses, it just works here. “It is the most challenging times when we must party most,” said the party-hard guru—a reminder that there’s a knowing, warm-hearted communal impulse behind all the cornball overjoy.

The award for Best Anti-Trump Action (there were many) goes to War on Women, for this impassioned effigy smash:

The only thing more tedious than experiencing live sound problems is reading about live sound problems, so we won’t belabor it. But suffice to say Joey Bada$$ was pissed with his “fuckin’ amateur hour” technical difficulties. Fifteen minutes delayed and a dozen apologies later, the rapper still never really found his feet—which is a shame since his ‘90s-throwback-y NYC hip-hop remains so favored among Riot Festers. (From our vantage, the sound wasn’t that bad.) Another bummer: he didn’t offer any scoops on the Mr. Robot finale. File under missed opportunities.

No sound problems plagued The Wonder Years' set; in fact the band's sound seemed to trigger some deep base response in the audience that triggered immediate mass sing-alongs and non-stop crowd surfing. It would be hard to exaggerate that last point. A sea of crowd-surfing kids kept rushing toward and breaking like waves over the barriers as the crowd processed SO MANY FEELS during the band's emo-tastic set. Near the end singer Matt Brasch said, "This city has had our back for a long time. And I want to say thank you Chicago"} Judging by the crowd, we think they wanted to say thank you right back.

The pressure to stand out among the approximately 6,000 acts that fill festival cards seems to steer many bands toward bigger, louder, more—especially at Riot Fest. So one of the best ways to actually stand apart is to zig against that zag. Scrappy Columbus, OH quartet All Dogs can certainly rock, but their un-rushed, mid-tempo take on the classic indie rock template was mainly a welcome juxtaposition to so much muchness. Singer Maryn Jones’ gut-punch emotional lyrics will slow your step, too.

2016_09_lewis_hawkins.jpg
Juliette Lewis and Taylor Hawkins, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
And the award for most unexpectedly enjoyable set of the day goes to Chevy Metal, the cover-band side project that includes Foo Fighters Taylor Hawkins and Chris Shiflett amongst its ranks. The band specializes in running the gamut from hair metal to glam rock to '60s and '70s hard rock; the only thing their songs have in common is that the band has a blast performing them. The band members traded off vocals, with Hawkins delivering an especially amazing rendition of The Faces' "Stay With Me" and a grandiose version of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust." And the band was joined onstage at different times by Juliette Lewis (handling Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love") and Dee Snider (who slayed on both Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" and a set-closing duet with Hawkins on Queen's"Tie Your Mother Down").

Speaking of cover bands, we'd be remiss if we didn't also report on what an astoundingly hilarious and enjoyable time we had watching Me First and The Gimme Gimmes as they delivered a set high on between-song banter that prominently featured wildly inappropriate yet hilarious observations not fit for a family publication. Then they delivered punk-rock versions of everything from '70s soft-rock standards to disco tunes to showtunes and even R Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." We simultaneously laughed and choked so hard it felt like a choking hazard. Even the security guards—who initially seemed flummoxed by this Hawaiin-shirt-wearing crew kicking out songs that seemed out of place at a punk-rock fest—ended up smiling and singing along by the end.

It reminded us that Riot Fest is a community where anything can happen and everyone is invited. And we are so into that.

Be sure to check out more coverage from Riot Fest weekend:
- Photos: Flaming Lips Return To Gonzo Form At Riot Fest Day 1
- Photos: Meat-Banning Morrissey Amazingly DGAF At Riot Fest Day 2