Riot Fest Chicago 2013 day 1 pics & review (Joan Jett, Bad Religion, Andrew W.K., Dessa, Smoking Popes & more)
Andrew WK / Smoking Popes
We began the first day (9/13) of Riot Fest 2013 by catching Dessa, who played the very first set on the Roots Stage. She riled up the early crowds with a set of slinky, soulful hip hop. "I'm determined to make it feel like 9:30PM," she asserted. And she definitely did, with the help of her talented backing band. They were impressively able to turn on a dime from harder-edged hip hop to more ballad-y numbers. --ZP
Next up was Saul Williams over at the nearby Riot Stage. Williams, known for his successful poetry and writing career, performed just that rather than music. He gathered and managed to keep a large crowd while rifling through social and political commentary. It was great to see how many people (myself included) were way into it. --ZP
Smoking Popes amassed a large crowd for their late afternoon set on the Roots Stage. Amidst a cool fall breeze, the Chicago crew played a slew of staples from their back catalogue which served to transport many fans to the 90s. Their tight and enjoyable set was a reminder of the Popes' serious heyday. --MM
The Ambassador of Party (aka Andrew W.K.) played a raucous set on the Rise Stage. Decked out in his white-on-white uniform, W.K. gave a brief spoken word introduction for each song. "This song is about party; this song is about partying all night," and so on. The crowd broke out into circle pits as Andrew and co. continued to bring the rock... I mean party. --ZP
Not long after that on the Roots Stage, part-time UCLA professor and full-time punk rocker Greg Graffin joined his band Bad Religion. The great thing about the California punk veterans is that the majority of their songs (in true punk rock fashion) rarely pass the two-minute mark. We were treated to a nice variety of songs from their 30+ year career, including classics like "I Want to Conquer the World," "We're Only Gonna Die," and "Infected." They also performed a few tunes from this year's True North, such as "Fuck You," "Dharma and the Bomb," and the LP's title track. The members threw around some self-depreciating humor, poking fun at their age. "We've been around since the 80s!" said Graffin, now fully greyed. Their songs are timeless, and some are even more relevant now than ever. Just go re-listen to "21st Century Digital Boy." --MM
One of the things I miss in hip hop today is the old school scratching that was once as common in production as guitars are in rock music. Atmosphere didn't just bring back scratching with one DJ, but two. Onstage the duo scratched and mixed beats while Slug spit fire and got people's "hands hammering" the air. Fans went nuts for "Woman with the Tattooed Hands" and nodded their heads along to the fat beats. --MM
Joan Jett and her Blackhearts blazed through their set performing fan favorites "Bad Reputation" and "Do You Want To Touch Me." She played a few new songs including one co-written with Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace, a close friend of Jett's, who joined her on stage for the song. Later in the set Jett told the crowd how she empathized with people's experiences with natural disasters after she recently experienced Hurricane Sandy at her home in New York. She was inspired by people's hope and resilience and penned the song "Any Weather." Jett is one of the all time great rock icons and she played a set that lived up to her reputation (not that she gives a damn). --MM
The festival is on its third and final day (9/15) as we speak (set times); stay tuned for more coverage.
More day 1 pictures at BrooklynVegan and below...
Fall Out Boy
More day 1 pictures, including shots of Danzig, Gwar, Bad Religion, Joan Jett, and more, at BrooklynVegan.