Nostalgia is the name of the game at Riot Fest. Since its early days, the festival has featured artists playing their most-loved albums front to back, and this year it’s ramped up the number of these sets to ten. But how have the years treated these alleged classics? I’ve listened to all ten, and they’re arranged below in order of initial release.
You’re Living All Over Me (1987)
Sunday 6:35, Riot Stage
This album suffers from mid-80s SST Records-standard production quality (no low end, drums that sound like milk cartons), but its songs are still the type of heartfelt bangers that can give you warm fuzzies all day long. Dino’s best effort hands-down—totally timeless.
Truth and Soul (1988)
Saturday 1:45, Radicals Stage
I realize that a lot of people hold Fishbone in high regard, but in this day and age Truth and Soul just sounds like a ska-funk version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sorry? At least they’re probably more exciting than this live.
Danzig III: How the Gods Kill (1992)
Saturday 5:20, Roots Stage
It’s such a bummer how badly Danzig has ruined his reputation. All the little ways he’s embarrassed himself—the asinine stage banter, the prima donna antics, the three-foot Taz figurine left behind in his vacant LA mansion—make it easy to forget that his early work with his eponymous metal band is completely fucking sick. Their third album is so good: heavy, dark, catchy, and fun, beefing up and slowing down the energy that made the Misfits so great a few years before.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
Saturday 8:00, Radicals Stage
Stone. Cold. Classic. Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers might be the best hip-hop album of all time. It still sounds as fresh, intimidating, and brilliant as the day it was released. Are “hologram” versions of dead band members still a thing at festivals? Wu-Tang badly needs one of ODB for this set.
Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Let’s Face It (1997)
Sunday 3:20, Roots Stage
As far as third-wave ska goes, this has got to be the best out there. On Let’s Face It the Bosstones sound almost like a modern-day version of the Specials, with tons of monster choruses and excellent musicianship. I even think Dicky Barrett is kind of an awesome singer. This was the record I most dreaded revisiting, but shockingly it holds up. That “knock on wood” song still sucks, though.
Retreat From the Sun (1997)
Sunday 2:15, Riot Stage
It’s a shame Retreat From the Sun didn’t propel That Dog. to superstardom, because this is some gorgeous, next-level pop majesty. And why don’t you hear rock bands working out vocal harmonies like this anymore? Occasional flourishes of 90s alt-rock angst date this album a bit, but from That Dog. they’re charming, not gross.
Built to Spill
Keep It Like a Secret (1999)
Sunday 4:20 PM, Rise Stage
Breezy, pretty indie rock like this will never go out of style, especially when it’s executed so flawlessly. Keep It Like a Secret is the type of album that transcends generations, and it will probably inspire kids to start jangly little bands for as long as the biosphere holds up.
Oh! Calcutta! (2006)
Saturday 5:30, Rise Stage
The Lawrence Arms play beery, obnoxious midwestern pop punk, and this gruffly catchy album is probably as good as that sort of thing gets. Unfortunately, the years haven’t been kind to the band—at the end of the day, Oh! Calcutta! is just kind of annoying.
A Lesson in Romantics (2007)
Friday 7:00, Radicals Stage
Leave it to Riot Fest to remind me that some people actually get nostalgic about post-Fall Out Boy bands. Incredibly flaccid and safe, Mayday Parade’s pop punk reeks of the mid-aughts in the worst way. This makes the Lawrence Arms sound like Slayer. Hard pass.
The Walking Wounded (2007)
Saturday 4:00, Rise Stage
This sounds exactly like the Mayday Parade, except with some minor-key “darkness” added. Overall a better result, but I can’t say I’m jazzed about having to listen to it. v