Philip Montoro Riot Fest trades in nostalgia, as absolutely everybody who’s written about it has noted. So what do we think of the reunions and full-album sets this year?
J.R. Nelson I think the entire concept of album performances blows chunks. Prepared to lustily argue that.
Anna White I’m with J.R. on that one for sure—not a fan of album performances.
J.R. One of my friends, who used to work at Reckless, still goes on endless rants about how greatest-hits albums suck and people who buy them are hash-headed poseurs. I disagree completely. It’s very rare that, if I see a band, any one of their albums will have all songs I want to see. I want a band to bring the hits. Unless you’ve got, like, Nas doing Illmatic, there’s always filler.
Brianna Wellen Here’s the plus side of a full-album set for me: you know exactly what you’re getting. No waiting around to see if they play a favorite.
J.R. Damn it, that’s a good point.
Brianna And in the case of Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, sometimes that’s an album filled with songs some people really loved in high school and really want to hear. (It’s me—I’m some people.)
Leor Galil As much as I go to bat for Blink-182, I am not thrilled about seeing Enema of the State, which has three hits and loads of filler.
Fri 9/13, 6:35-7:35 PM, Riot Stage
Sat 9/14, 3:25-4:15 PM, Radicals Stage
Sun 9/15, 3:55-5:10 PM, Riot Stage
Sun 9/15, 6:45-8:45 PM, Radicals Stage
Sun 9/15, 8:30-9:45 PM, Riot Stage
Brianna I do always wonder how much fun the bands have playing their most beloved albums. Do they like focusing on other ones more, just for themselves?
Salem Collo-Julin I agree with J.R. on some level, but I’d rather go to a show and get slapped in the face with what’s happening onstage.
Anna Have any of you ever seen a full-album set where the band reimagined something beloved? I’m curious if that ever happens—I feel like I’d really be here for that.
Philip The very notion of a full-album set is an exercise in nostalgia, isn’t it, since the album format has lost so much of its relevance, and streaming and shuffling mean fewer people even listen to the albums they have top to bottom?
J.R. Yes, exactly. Sets them up for an older audience.
Philip Which acts on the bill are reunited? Bikini Kill, maybe Jawbreaker still counts . . . who else?
J.R. Also, who in the hell under the age of 60 wants to see Senses Fail?
Leor Jawbreaker’s been touring pretty hard since reuniting for Riot Fest two years ago. This is one of the first Avail reunion shows outside of Virginia.
J.R. Do Avail still tour in a van? If so, I imagine a lot of dogs in bandanas in that van.
Leor I’m not sure how many reunion shows the Ergs! have played since they regrouped, but I feel like it’s only a handful.
Anna Bikini Kill are playing their first dates since ’97 this year, though they started the reunion tour in April. I am stoked.
Brianna Bikini Kill is the biggest for sure, and even though I’ve heard mixed reviews about their tour so far, I (like Anna) am stoked. Maybe it’s because we were both way too young to even think about seeing them before. I’d see them do anything.
Leor I imagine roughly half the lineup has broken up and gotten back together, just not specifically for this festival this year.
Brianna As much as the reunions and full-album sets might feel like they’re for the older folks, there’s definitely a draw for younger crowds who’ll finally get to see some of these acts live.
J.R. I think most reunions are suspect, but Bikini Kill is worth any kind of effort to see live.
Anna Brianna, I so agree with that. I think the lineup this year, with Bikini Kill and Patti Smith, is really exciting for a lot of us who were too young to see them first time around but kind of grew up on the riot-grrrl mythos.
Salem I am also excited for Bikini Kill—I haven’t seen Tobi Vail perform since the 90s. I saw the first Chicago BK show in 1991 at a bar in Wrigleyville along with a handful of people and . . . walked out (because I was a stupid person). But then I saw them again at Czar Bar and stayed till they kicked us all out.
J.R. Salem wins all the old-person points.
Bikini Kill perform near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 1992.
Salem But I do love the idea that BK’s appearance is a full original-member lineup. Are there any other people that are going to be playing that haven’t been in the public eye for a while?
Brianna This conversation does make me wonder who will be reuniting at Riot Fest (should it still exist) in 20 years. Who are the bands Anna and I will be bragging about? What current full albums are nostalgia fuel in the making?
J.R. You’re assuming that anyone will care about rock music in 20 years, which . . . I hope so.
Philip I’m assuming the biosphere will be in pretty bad shape in 20 years.
Brianna What I will own up to is that I’m most excited to see the full-album performance from Dashboard Confessional, even though I’ve listened to that album in full recently and I know it’s not that good!
I am a victim to exactly what Riot Fest feeds on: nostalgia.
I listened to that CD until it nearly snapped in half when I was in high school, and I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.
Philip Can you get weepy about a band after you’ve been standing in the sun for seven hours, Brianna? That’s part of my problem here, I think—big outdoor festivals make me so grouchy that it really dampens my ability to engage with the music. Even when I like it.
Brianna Philip, I’m a Cancer. I’ll cry anytime, anywhere.
Leor I’m a little curious why Dashboard went with that specific album.
Brianna “Screaming Infidelities.” That’s why.
Philip As in they know you’ll wait through the filler to hear that song? Are we proving J.R.’s point?
Leor The band doing a full-album set that seems silly to me is Taking Back Sunday, who’ve played the fest at least five other times! They’ve had to get to all these songs before this year.
Philip Bloc Party doing one of these makes me feel pretty AARP-y.
Anna Is Against Me!‘s Transgender Dysphoria Blues the most recently released album getting a full performance? I feel like that’s a bit of an outlier.
Salem Yes, and they’re also doing Reinventing Axl Rose.
J.R. The Selecter has been playing Too Much Pressure since reuniting in 2014, which I’d consider a bit of a state-fair booking for Riot Fest . . . if it wasn’t the Selecter, who rule (and I’m a guy who is not really into ska).
Philip I think that’s probably the oldest album getting played, by a significant stretch. It came out in 1980.
Leor Are there any Senses Fail fans here? Anyone stoked on the Glassjaw full-album set?
J.R. I’ve heard that people like Glassjaw. I saw them at the Fireside in 2002, because one of my friends was dating the singer, and the place was bananas. I was, once again, confronted with the dark knowledge that people love bands that dismay me.
Anna Smaller with a cult following as opposed to more widely recognizable might be a better formula for full-album festival sets?
Salem I think the Against Me! sets are going to be great, with a totally hyped-up audience.
Brianna Very true, Anna. It feels like people would want the hits and the hits only from the bigger reunited bands.
Salem I honestly don’t even want to see the Flaming Lips with Miley, and I like Miley.
J.R. What’s the band with Chuck D and Tom Morello? Where they mash up Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine hits? Kings of Chowder? I’m kind of surprised Riot Fest doesn’t book more blend-o bands that range around multiple discographies.
Philip Everyone please make a note: Prophets of Rage are now called Kings of Chowder in all Reader contexts. I’m pretty sure I have that authority.
Leor I mean, there’s a reason a lot of musicians haven’t tried the Prophets of Rage formula. But there is a band with members of Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, and a couple other 90s hit makers I’m forgetting about.
Brianna I knew Leor would mention Smash Mouth somehow.
Philip I’m bummed about the album Ween picked, because I find the idea of them performing The Pod at a huge festival extremely funny. Try to imagine the aimless nonsense of “Pollo Asado” through giant stacks of speakers.
J.R.The Mollusk is a weird choice!
Leor It came out 22 years ago—it’s not like this is a significant anniversary.
J.R. Also, 12 Golden Country Greats would be a great festival hose down. It’s also the only Ween album I can really tolerate, and I have no idea why.
Philip I suppose Ween need to play one of their later, more coherent records because the early stuff depends so much on the bizarre, fucked-up recordings, which you really couldn’t duplicate live except by just singing along to canned tracks. Which is usually boring.
Brianna So who is everyone’s number one pick for the full album and reunions? If you could only go to one? I’d have to say Bikini Kill.
Philip Never a ska guy here (unless you count Fishbone), but I might pick the Selecter on the principle that they’re the most likely to never do this again. And I’ve already seen Bikini Kill.
J.R. Bikini Kill and the Selecter for sure. Let’s toss in Against Me!, because I’ve seen them play before and they’re shit hot.
Brianna I said only one! But I’ll let it slide, because those are great choices.
Anna Bikini Kill for reunion, Against Me! for full album—you said you’ve heard mixed things about Bikini Kill live sets recently, Brianna, but I saw Julie Ruin a few years ago, and Kathleen Hanna still definitely brings it.
J.R. Julie Ruin played Pitchfork a few years back, and that was fire.
Leor I’m here for the spectacle of seeing Bikini Kill headline this massive event. And Against Me! doing two full albums—I think that’ll be a set that’s more about reflecting what those albums mean now rather than just rehashing them.
Against Me! perform the song “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” on Sound Opinions in 2015.
Salem I’m hot for teacher on seeing Against Me! for what Leor said. I think that’s a group that might reinvigorate those older songs.
Anna Leor, I also think if anyone’s going to reinterpret anything live in the full-album sets, it’ll be Against Me! because they’re more recent releases—less of a nostalgia bid.
Brianna I can’t wait for Bikini Kill! See you all there! Olds and all! v
Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.