Macaulay Culkin (far left) and the Pizza Underground
  • Andrea Bauer
  • Macaulay Culkin (far left) and the Pizza Underground

The Reader crew reports from Riot Fest’s much less disgusting second day.

Leor Galil: Friday’s clusterfuck loosened me up for Riot Fest‘s second day. No matter how well I planned my day, I knew I couldn’t see everything I wanted, and that freed me to enjoy what was in front of me, even when that was the Pizza Underground. Not that they were particularly good, but the original song they debuted—a tribute to the Velvet Underground that was actually about themselves—was a funny bit of metacommentary.

By adopting a carefree mood, I got through the murky sound for the Orwells, the sticky-as-hell mud that kept trying to suck my shoes off my feet during Buzzcocks and Television, the tough decision to miss the Get Up Kids for Wu-Tang (who were OK), the power outage that interrupted the Flaming Lips halfway through their first song, and the delay to the start of the National’s set. On the other hand, I would’ve liked Lemuria and Tokyo Police Club no matter what mood I’d been in—the former ripped through their catchy songs with raw vigor, and the latter felt like a gleeful last blast of summer. And though I ended up watching a small fraction of Say Anything’s set from a faraway perch atop a hill the lovely view of Chicago’s skyline made my day.

Brianna Wellen: Today started out exponentially better: the weather was perfect, and the mud-defying boots everyone wore out of necessity were super rock ‘n’ roll. Though traffic and long lines kept me from the Pizza Underground (the crowds this year are claustrophobia inducing), I showed up in time to watch the Buzzcocks tear the stage apart. They sound exactly the same as their 1970s records, even if they look significantly more like dads. Alas, the same can’t be said about Television, to whom the years have not been kind. Maybe it was their haggard appearance, or maybe it was the sleepy set list full of slow songs, but they were one of the biggest disappointments of the day. Good thing Die Antwoord were there to cheer me up. I could watch them jump around and shriek all day, they were just the thing for my midday dance break. But I can unapologetically say that my favorite set of the day was Dashboard Confessional. My teenage self had worshipped Chris Carrabba, and it was so redeeming to finally scream along with him to “Hands Down.” For a group who have only played four shows in four years, they sounded great live—and they were clearly having such a good time that the crowd couldn’t help but have a good time right along with them.

Molly Raskin: Day two of Riot Fest was full of surprises. Not only did I see a one-eyed dog in a pink dinosaur costume, I also learned that portable toilets can actually be well-maintained—and that people still really dig Dashboard Confessional.

The afternoon started off pretty mellow with the Orwells’ set, which drew fairly well for a local act. Then I hit Tokyo Police Club, where it was easy to catch up with old friends.

For me, the Revolt Stage is definitely the front-runner at this year’s festival. I’d been looking forward to Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas for weeks. When a band gets you dancing in your kitchen, you know it’ll be excellent live. So when 4 PM rolled around, I was ready to groove to the Deltas’ soulful beats. Despite a few issues with wonky sound (and Die Antwood blaring from a stage away), Hernandez totally commanded the stage with her impeccable vocals. Her enthusiasm to be back in Humboldt Park—where the Detroit native said she’d lived before—helped bring the crowd alive for her rollicking set. Who would’ve thought that a guy dancing with a giant turkey leg would set the mood.

A few hours and a few snacks later, I was excited to get back to the Revolt Stage for Lemuria’s set. The Buffalo threesome’s gritty riffs and head-banging jams proved to be an effective antidote to fatigue (which has me wondering what I’ll use on Sunday).

The biggest surprise of the night definitely came from the Flaming Lips. It wasn’t until they started up again after a brief power-outage that I remembered how much I used to enjoy this band. With its twee mushrooms and rainbows, its Yellow Submarine-esque graphics, and the life-size hamster ball that Wayne Coyne used to crowd surf, their stage show was theatrical as hell, and not necessarily in a bad way. If I’ve learned anything from reality television, it’s that even when you don’t agree with what someone is doing, you can give them credit for taking a risk. In this case, Coyne left his brains splattered all over the stage, and I was in awe as often as I cringed (yes, I’m talking about that weird part when he held a fake baby). I left after “Do You Realize??,” even though the Lips weren’t finished. So did a lot of other people, but not because they were going home—the National were starting their delayed set on the adjacent stage.

I have high hopes for Sunday, but if the past two days have taught me anything, it’s that I won’t be waking up early to wash my jeans.

Drew Hunt: Riot Fest groups its four major stages in pairs, and if your schedule lines up just right, you can bounce between two rather than traipse around the entire park. I spent the first part of my day hanging around the Rebel and Rise stages, where I caught consecutive sets by Anti-Flag, Samiam, 7 Seconds, the Buzzcocks, and Television. It’s amazing how long each of these bands have been in the game, particularly because none show their age: Anti-Flag brought the show into the extremely muddy pit, Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle high-kicked around the stage, and Television were their tight and technically sound selves. After a steady diet of guitar rock, Die Antwoord provided a needed if completely bizarre change of pace. I’m still not entirely sure if the ultravulgar South African hip-hop group means to be taken seriously, but their live show is a real trip: energetic, theatrical, funny, and a even little scary. (Female MC Yolandi Visser delivers raunchy, occasionally disturbing lyrics in a babyish coo, like a background character in a David Lynch movie.)

I moved over to the Rock Stage for a double dose of nostalgia. I was and still am a big fan of Say Anything’s breakout LP, . . . Is a Real Boy, but each subsequent release has been increasingly maudlin and self-important, and during yesterday’s set, which was painfully devoid of songs from Real Boy, Max Bemis’s faux-metal vocal style was borderline intolerable. The best moment came when Saves the Day mastermind Chris Conley joined Bemis onstage for raucous Real Boy opener “Belt.” It got me excited for their upcoming coheadlining tour, in which Say Anything plays Real Boy in its entirety and Saves the Day performs its pop-punk masterpiece, Through Being Cool. Next was Dashboard Confessional, a sentimental favorite from my early high school days. I know nothing about the band’s post-2003 output, but luckily lead singer Chris Carrabba and company stuck almost exclusively to songs from third-wave emo bellwethers The Swiss Army Romance and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most. Dashboard shows are known for their sing-along vibe—and I’m still hoarse.

I didn’t do my vocal cords any favors during the Descendents, my favorite band on the entire lineup and one of my favorite bands, period. They played the seminal Milo Goes to College in its entirety and were joined by original bassist Frank Lombardo, whose signature bass lines sounded amazing alongside Bill Stevenson’s sturdy drumming, just like on the album. The band breezed through that record before their hourlong set was even halfway over; then current bassist Karl Alvarez rejoined them, and together they played choice cuts off their classic LPs Everything Sucks (“I’m the One,” “Coffee Mug,” and the title track), I Don’t Want Grow Up (“Silly Girl” and closer “Descendents”), and All (“Van,” “Clean Sheets,” and “Coolidge”). I’d never seen the band prior to Riot Fest, and I can’t imagine a better set than the one they played last night—the perfect capstone to a day only slightly marred by the fact that Humboldt Park is now a fucking disaster.