Riot Fest 2014 Reflections

Ramblings, Reflections, and Tiny Confessions

(Concise Music Journalism this Is Not…)

Back in MY day, music festivals TOURED, dammit. None of this all day-weekend 80 hundred bands kinda thing. I went to the first four Lollapalooza tours from 1991-1994, a period spanning high school into college. I stayed in Kalamazoo in the summer of 1995 for theatre stuff, and then didn’t Metallica headline at one point? I mean, no offense to Metallica (I dig ’em), but Metallica? Whatever. I’ve not gone back to Lolla even though it sits in my own backyard.

I would’ve last year. For The Cure of course. Alas, I was unavoidabley out of town, and that post-Lolla Monday, I sulked on my hotel bed in Stratford, Ontario while my husband and his parents went swimming. I watched the video of the entire set on my phone. I wished I’d been there, despite all the…people.

So when Riot Fest announced The Cure as a headliner, it was a no brainer that I’d go. If I missed them AGAIN for this their second summer in a row in Chicago, then I’d officially suck and have to turn in my Cure card. I bit the bullet and got a 3-day pass (thank you, honey!) as they hadn’t announced each day’s line-ups (that’s how they get ya!) and I didn’t want to stress over single-day ticket stuff. No VIP thing for me (I was tempted by the better bathrooms and lounges…) For the last September of my 30s, I thought I’d “slum it with the kids” and just deal with the mess. Didn’t imagine how messy it was going to be. But we were all in this together: the “babies” (literal babies and teen-and-20-somethings both) and the more vintage of us. And really, there was something for everyone based on age and styles. I had an awesome time, and now that my bones are like Oh, you’re not going to be standing in mud all day? and they don’t hate me so much, I get back into the groove of my week and take some time to reflect on my adventure.

Friday

The early weather forecasts for this first Riot day had called for cloudy and 72. Yeah, not so much. Ever the Boy Scout, I packed my satchel with essentials including a travel poncho, sanitizer, earplugs (!), water bottle, sunscreen (for later in the weekend…), my ticket folded into a plastic bag, and Cold-Eze to fight the cold I picked up on Monday after my dentist appointment. I was actually feeling better by the weekend, but ya know, keeping myself in check. Properly layered with my outer jacket good for any light to moderate rain. I made it to Ashland after work and took the bus down to North. Was going to take the North bus, but kept waiting and waiting and, eff it I’ll walk. I joined up with others doing to same thing and talked with Javier and Kristie (??) along the way. We parted ways at the gate. Hope they had fun.

Okay, so here we. My goal was for a 5:00 arrival, and I made it with time to spare. My first band of the weekend was The Hotelier over at the smaller Revolt Stage. Found a tree on the edges of the healthy crowd to hold off the rain that was somewhere between a mist and a light drizzle. Good opening act for me! They describe themselves as a anti-pop anarcho punk band, but they still have some catchy pop sensibilities. In the best, accessible way if I’m making sense. I preferred when the vocals were melodic and clear over when they got screamy. The inner sanctum of the crowd was way into them, and they had their fans who knew the words and communally thrashed their heads. My favorite was the dude in the pink plastic hat thing. Looking forward to listening to more of their recordings.

After a little time to peruse the spiky jewelry and t-shirts with cool stuff on them that I’d never buy or wear and getting better acquainted with the lay of the land, I was back at the Revolt Stage for From Indian Lakes. They brought a more chill Northern California vibe. A slightly cleaner sound, though I felt like the bass levels were way up in general on this stage. Listening to them as I type, and I dig how they can switch from Fleet Foxes mellow (but not as wispy if that makes sense) to punk rock heavy without missing a beat. Again, I look forward to listening to more of their stuff.

Good starting at this smaller stage. Got me acclimated to the festival, the crowds, the people watching opportunities, and I didn’t feel like the world was pressing in on my organs. That would be later. From there, I made my way to the main Riot Stage and saw my friend Anna. Cool! I helped lead her to the left side of the sound booth where her friend Trish said to meet her. The weather was getting worse–colder and rainier. But I was good. Anna not as much. Trish arrived, and we were there in time for Gogol Bordello. They obviously have a large fan base, and I know they’ve been around, but they’re new to me. A Gypsy punk band with a Ukrainian lead singer (Eugene Hütz from Everything Is Illuminated!) The music is exactly what you’d expect, and it was awesome! One song intro sounded very traditional, and I said to Anna, this is the part of the show where Ernie’s mother starts dancing a traditional Romanian peasant dance. Loved every second! So now I’m sold, and I’ll listen to them more. During the show, the rain fell harder, but Trish had an umbrella even though they were on the No-no list. Since were further back, I didn’t feel so bad. From my angle, I loved watching the Pokeman and lit-up Mario on sticks bouncing in the crowd. The girls were done and over it for the evening after GB. So as the crowd moved out, I moved up and got a pretty sweet spot for Jane’s Addiction.

The rain continued, but never so torrential that I was like I hate my life. My poncho never did make it out of my bag, though it probably should have. My layers and Makers Mark baseball cap kept me decently dry, but I asked a lot of them. Got to talking to folks waiting with me. A few of my vintage who also remembered seeing Jane’s headline the first Lollapalooza tour. Tim and Desiree. And nutty Jean from Pensacola, Florida who flew up here primarily for Jane’s. She wasn’t letting anything rain on HER parade, yo. She loved how everyone in Chicago was so nice to her and made her feel like a part of the city. Glad we’re doing our part to be hospitable.

So Jane’s: effin rad. A handful of bands were set to play an entire album in its entirety. Jane’s played all of Nothing’s Shocking from “Up the Beach” to “Pigs in Zen,” and including of course “Jane Says” (when they brought out the kettle drum), “Mountain Song,” and “Standing in the Shower…Thinking.” I hadn’t listened to it straight through in a while so I had fun listening and remembering. Perry Ferrel was crazy and cooky as ever and I loved him for it. Dave Navaro was tank- topped and rocker-hot as usual. Perry would just start monologuing about whatever, including how he could take a bubble bath on stage with all the rain water. A few times, a bass note would hit and it felt like the who city shook, like something was off with the sound booth (guess bass is a tricky wicket). Glad I had my earplugs. Looked like Dave yelled at one of the stage guys about it after the second time it happened. Perry did make his way into the crowd on my side. I was just out of reach, but I was so close. Jean freaked out, and was very explicit about the brick she shit. Ha! I grabbed a couple photos that turned out decent enough. Pretty awesome! The closed with a couple songs of Ritual de lo Habitual which is the album I got into them with, really based on my age and time of life and all that. “Been Caught Stealing,” where at the first Lolla, Perry introed the song by asking the crowd, “Do you like my pants? Well, why don’t you steal ’em?!” The closed with “Stop!” which is one of my faves. No “Classic Girl” unfortunately. In fact they stopped a few minutes early, I think cos of the rain. Looked like the fire marshall was on stage there. Perry was afraid we’d all catch pneumonia. With all that rain (among other rules…), there were of course no bonfires behind me like on the hill at Lolla where when I looked back during Jane’s, I counted at least 14 of them. Listening to Shocking as I type. I only have Ritual on cassette with the censored cover. Of all my old faves, that one never made the digital transition. Not even a CD from the South Bend library. I should fix that. Jean and I walked part of the way to the gate together. We gave each other a big wet hug before parting ways. I hope she had a fun rest of her weekend!

Getting home. Best way really was the North Ave bus to the Red Line. I waited in line to get on one of the extra long CTA buses, and managed to snag the last seat across from the back door because the couple sitting there kept smiling at folks so no one sat next to them. I didn’t even notice their moves and saw the empty seat. Getting out of the way plus getting off my muddy (!) feet were my motives. Very friendly folks. Didn’t catch their names. But the guy, a cute buzz cut Latino was jovial and conversational. He asked a number of questions including what art form I’d perform on (he named a plaza) in Madrid, and how many wash cloths I could stack on my erect penis (we got a little more in depth about the varietals involved, but I’ll spare you all that as perhaps I’ve already gotten a little TMI here, ha.) We all talked about our experience so far, comparing notes and commiserating/celebrating the rain and mud.

When my new friends got off at the Blue Line, another couple sat next to me. A New York couple where the fella was very tattooed and I think ear gauged. We got to talking, and then they asked me the best way to get back to Lincoln Park. I started to suggest they take the Red Line one stop up to Fullerton, but then I didn’t know which part of LP they needed to go. Further up to the Halsted and Diversey area. Since the Red Line station is right at Halsted, they I think asked if they could walk, and I said Yeah, that it was only a half mile up. BUT. As I rode up the train toward Fullerton, I realized I had them walking up from Fullerton and not North, which adds another mile to their walk. Ugh! I felt SO bad. Like Mortified at my dingbattedness. My brain did not reboot from the earlier part of the conversation. So yeah, I should’ve had them come with me to the train and then they could walk from there. Here I was trying to be nice and helpful and welcoming to our fair city and I totally bombed. I was like They hate me! I am cursed! If they see me the rest of the weekend they’re going to kick my ass. I knew where they were staying and even thought of calling the hotel to leave a message apologizing. But that would’ve been weird, eh? So, I Tweeted my apology along with sending it through the more traditional Through the Universe route. My Tweet was randomly re-tweeted by a couple folks with not very many followers. Not sure if they were trying to help or laughing at me. I deserve both I guess. At least my new friends who probably hate me got to pass such Chicago cultural institutions such as Steppenwolf and Kingston Mines. So there’s that. Again, SORRY! I obsessed about it some, but as I started thinking about how I’d write about it (here and through more creative means), I calmed down. The power of turning ridiculousness into art. 🙂

Saturday Wait, Sunday Always Comes to Late (Click “more” for the rest! Scroll Down for The Cure.)

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