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Riot Fest

Chicago is totally bogarting all the good acts.

Ladies and Gents, for my last write-up on Riotfest, I started by explaining how it can be difficult to write a piece on the same or any number of festivals year after year. Often, the stories and themes are the same, so finding a new angle can be tricky. I had no doubt that Riotfest would repeat the same formula this year after last year was such a success. This could have led to another bout of writer’s block, but NAY, Holy Mother of Lineups! Riot Mike and crew have really outdone themselves this time. Like, really. For serious.

In just two year’s time, Riotfest has gone from being a contender amongst a host of annual punk fests (Fest, Pouzzafest, Punk Rock Bowling, etc.) to being the Motherfucking Lollapalooza of Punk. This lineup kicks your ass. Literally. Lemmy is God. And God is headlining. Well, sorta headlining. I guess Fall Out Boy and Blink 182 are headlining headlining, but Motorhead is spiritually headlining. And despite what the punker-than-thou contingent might say, Fall Out Boy and Blink 182 don’t even suck. Sure, they are probably on the lineup, along with some other names, like Brand New; Pierce the Veil; Yellowcard and Say Anything, to draw a younger crowd, thereby skyrocketing attendance to unspeakable heights, but Patrick Stump can fucking sing, y’all. And Travis Barker can fucking drum. I remember being 17, watching Blink 182 open for Less Than Jake to a crowd of 40 in an Otterbein College basement and saying to my friends “yo, that drummer has got to fucking go. Weakest link.” A few years later, enter Travis Barker and superstardom follows. No surprise.

I’ve seen my favorite bands in excess of 30 times each. Less Than Jake, the Bouncing Souls, the Queers, Groovie Ghoulies…some nearly 50 times. I have seen most bands in the various punk subgenres multiple times. Even the ones I don’t particularly care for, I’ve seen before. Yet somehow, Riotfest has managed to book no fewer than five acts that I have never seen before and must see or else will /wrist. I sent the image of the lineup poster to a friend with the knowledge that one of these names in particular would force him to join me. He called me later and said “you fucker. You knew what you were doing.” That band, featured waaaay down at the bottom of the lineup, is Mephiskapheles. Hail Satan! This is my number one must see. Remove half the bands from this lineup and I would still go to see Mephiskapheles. That is a genius booking.

I never shunned ska! All these flavor of the month punkers turned hater right when that emo shit got big, like, “I never liked ska … blah blah blah.” Well, I’ve been calling for the fourth wave for five years now and it might actually be upon us. Ska is represented to the fullest on this lineup … The Selecter, Toots and the Maytals, Sublime with Rome, Blondie (hey, they do one ska song) and Rancid, plus the aforementioned Mephiskapheles. With more bands to come, I’d really like to see an act like the Slackers added.

Possibly tied for first, another must see for me is Rocket From The Crypt. I never got to see these guys back in the day, and I am psyched that they’re playing. Scream, Dracula, Scream is one of the greatest albums of all time. Rounding out my must sees are Dinosaur Jr., another legendary heavy hitter, Motorhead and the Lillingtons. J Mascis basically scored the soundtrack to every skate video that ever mattered (metaphorically speaking – 90s skaters just loved Dinosaur Jr.) and I can’t wait to finally see them. I was lucky enough to see the Lillingtons a handful of times, but they are on my must see list because I may not get the chance again.

Here’s a few others not to miss just based on my past experiences:

Violent Femmes – While their songs might seem kinda simplistic on album, every one of these guys is a multi-instrumentalist. Their live show is unbelievable. Don’t miss them if you haven’t seen them before.

Reggie and the Full Effect – Reggie has a pretty cray live show. Haven’t seen them since Krazyfest back in 2003, but I remember really enjoying the show despite owning zero of their albums.

Screeching Weasel – First of all, I never took a public stance on the Ben Weasel SxSw incident, mostly because I was on a bit of a hiatus from Racket (life happens), but if I had, I’d have sided with him. The next time you want to take the side of the sloppy drunk audience members who harass and throw things at bands, remember this story about another Riotfest headliner: http://wtvr.com/2013/05/26/toots-and-the-maytals-cancel-tour-after-bottle-incident/ Please take note of what happened to the culprit in the audience for the above story. If this dumb chick in Austin had been drinking a High Life instead of a vodka cran, what do you think she would have thrown at Ben instead of ice cubes (as if those can’t do damage)?

But enough about bullshit, overblown drama; let’s talk about the fact that Ben Weasel is one of the best showmen in punk rock. I’ve had the good fortune to see Screeching Weasel some 4 or 5 times since those first 30 minutes of Screeching Weasel shows in 2000 or whenever, and each occasion was a significant experience. I don’t care who is backing him, this won’t be any different.

Saul Williams – Probably the most brilliant spoken word artist living today. He is an outspoken critic of everything wrong with modern rap (not to be confused with hip-hop), and speaks intelligently and eloquently about basically any topic ever.

Masked Intruder – The best thing going in pop-punk, possibly the best thing going in punk period. Nevermind the gimmick, these fellas fucking shred and put on one helluva live show. Consider the gimmick, and you get clever banter and stage antics, plus witty branding like “allegedly” and their twist on the Ramones logo, bested only by Too Many Daves. Their incredible self-titled album technically came out in 2012, but 2013 is definitely all about Masked Intruder.

-Luke Toney

[Emperor’s note:]
Look, I agree with everything that Luke’s said so far, but I feel that skipping the hip hop acts (Public Enemy, Atmosphere and Dessa) is something that needs to be addressed. I’ve seen each of these acts live, and the sentiments presented by each is as punk as it gets. Also, my list of must-see bands also includes: The Dismemberment Plan, GWAR, The Lawrence Arms, Against Me!, Smoking Popes and MOTHERFUCKING GLASSJAW.