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Riot Fest 2017 Friday pics/recap (NIN, New Order, Buzzcocks, Ministry, more)

UPDATE: Find a second set of Riot Fest Friday pics HERE.

We’ve already applauded Chicago’s Riot Fest 2017 for its stacked lineup, but praise is also due for its schedule. Of the festival’s five stages, the two main stages (Riot Stage and Roots Stage) are right next to each other, meaning you’re never waiting around for music to start and you hardly have to move to catch the next act on the adjacent stage. I got to those stages around 2 PM for Liars, and just stayed there the whole time as X, Buzzcocks, Death From Above, Ministry, New Order and Nine Inch Nails played. I bet I’m not the only one who did that, either. That did of course meant missing some great acts like Action Bronson and The Hotelier, but you can never see everyone at these huge fests. My takeaway is still: more festivals should have adjacent stages.

Liars were a great way to kick off the day. As he’s been known to do, Angus Andrew played in a wedding dress, and he spent the whole set running around the stage and screaming like it was a small club. His backing band gives the songs all the power they need, really reminding you why — of all the early-2000s Brooklyn art rock bands — Liars really excel at a punk festival.

X are celebrating their 40th anniversary as a band, and it’s a real treat that they’ve got the original lineup of Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake for these shows. Billy had to forfeit some recent tours due to his battle with cancer, and, while he needed to sit down for the entirety of X’s set at Riot Fest, it was still great to have him back. Even if they’re a bit calmer on stage today than they once were, songs like “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” “Los Angeles,” “In This House That I Call Home,” and their cover of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” still sound great.

Right after X was another veteran punk band, the Buzzcocks, who only have half the original lineup but still have a lot of muscle and youthful spirit. Steve Diggle still looks and performs like a young Pete Townshend, and Pete Shelley may not move around as much, but he’s still got that punk attitude. (Also, perhaps it helps that their rhythm section, who they’ve had for about a decade, is literally more youthful.) Buzzcocks’ songs also just haven’t aged a bit. Classics like “Fast Cars,” “Love Battery,” “Love You More,” “What Do I Get?,” “Why Can’t I Touch It” and of course “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” sounded as ripping on stage at Riot Fest as they do on those early recordings. Buzzcocks’ clear influence on Green Day, Rancid, and other still-popular modern bands has helped keep their sound timeless, and they reminded you at Riot Fest that they can still compete with bands half their age as a live act.

Death From Above (who dropped the “1979” from their name) were fresh off releasing a new album, Outrage! Is Now, the followup to 2014’s The Physical World which was their first in ten years. They played at least one song off the new album live for the first time at Riot Fest, and with a band like DFA, the new songs always fit perfectly with the early faves. The drums-bass-and-vocals duo established a highly unique sound on that first album, and they’ve basically never changed it. As a loud, kinetic live band, they’re always a good time.

After opening with the title track of 1992’s Psalm 69, Ministry opted to play a set of mostly modern (or comparatively modern) material, saving classics “N.W.O.,” “Just One Fix,” “Thieves,” and “So What” for the end. Some very modern songs like “Punch in the Face” off 2013’s From Beer to Eternity and the brand new “Antifa” came early on, and they came with very of-the-moment political visuals. The former was aided by animated clips of Trump getting punched in the face, and the latter compiled footage of Antifa rallies. Whether it was a new one or a fan favorite, Al Jourgensen & co delivered their thrashy industrial like they mean business. They were all dressed in black, all rocking the fuck out, and never breaking character.

The sun finally set for New Order, and while they’re without Peter Hook these days, they still know how to put on a fantastic festival set. With a great light show, a big sound, and Bernard Sumner in fine form as a frontman, New Order would presumably be just as successful at a fest where they didn’t play after three other veteran bands. Like Buzzcocks, their sound remains so modern and influential. They only played two songs off their latest album, and the rest were all classics like “Blue Monday,” “Ultraviolence,” “Temptation,” “True Faith,” Joy Divison’s “Disorder,” and “Sub-Culture” which all sound like they could’ve been released yesterday. The biggest crowdpleaser of all was the encore of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which had “JOY DIVISION FOREVER” written on the screen behind on them.

Nine Inch Nails wrapped up the day, and my review of their set, plus videos and setlist, is HERE.

Pictures of Riot Fest day one, including Action Bronson, Vic Mensa, The Cribs, Saul Williams and Warm Brew, are in the gallery above. Find a second set of pictures from Friday HERE.

Riot Fest continued Saturday (9/16) with At the Drive In, Queens of the Stone Age, and more; pics and recaps HERE. The fest wraps up on Sunday (9/17); stay tuned for more. If you missed it, check out 32 essential songs by acts playing Riot Fest 2017.

photos by James Richards IV

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