Music festivals are always exhausting, even if you see your favorite bands and have the time of your life.
Chicago’s annual punk festival Riot Fest opened Oct. 10 with a killer lineup. From Cincinnati, The Frankl Project delivered a phenomenal set of punk songs that expertly blended hardcore, folk, blues and ska. The band played with a killer energy that added a rowdy edge to their intelligent songs. Next, Chicago bro-core barons Shot Baker delivered the goods to their hometown.
The headliners of the first night were The Bouncing Souls and The Lawrence Arms. The Bouncing Souls, from New Jersey, have attained a near-legendary status with their infectiously stupid brand of hardcore pop-punk. The band is nearing their 20th anniversary and it is starting to show, but they delivered an inspired set nevertheless.
The phenomenon that is the Lawrence Arms is hard to explain to a non-believer, but seeing the rabid hometown crowd foam at the mouth for every lyric is a religious experience in itself. If any one band summed up the city of Chicago in their music, it would be the Lawrence Arms; their rowdy, but moody music works hand-in-hand with witty, drunken lyrics, painting a gritty, melodic picture of life in the Windy City. Songs like “A Toast” and “100 Resolutions” were screamed back by the crowd like dying words during an air raid.
The second day consisted of a series of bar shows in downtown Chicago and featured the soon-to-be-late, but always great Ergs! from New Jersey. The Ergs! are currently on their farewell tour, but they will always be remembered as one of the best pop-punk bands of all time.
The crown jewel of the festival was the third and final day. Despite the musical diversity, it was the street punks who showed up in force; never before have I seen so many silly haircuts or GBH patches in one place. The show at the Congress Theater featured Hoosier heroes Prizzy Prizzy Please as well as phenomenal pop-punkers Teenage Bottlerocket and hardcore royalty Paint It Black.
The highlights of the main stage were without a doubt The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Leftover Crack. The Bosstones, who went on hiatus after their 2002 album “A Jack Knife To a Swan,” have been on a reunion tour of sorts. The band, clad in black suits, ripped through classics like “Where’d You Go” and “Someday I Suppose” without missing a note. Despite their brief success in the late ’90s with the song “The Impression That I Get,” even the hardest of punks still has a place in their hearts for the Bosstones. Despite the absence of original guitarist Nate Albert, the band was still able to master their mix of punk, metal, ska, hardcore and reggae.
Leftover Crack, one of the most turbulent bands in the history of punk rock, was absolutely perfect. Sure, they were all way too drunk and they played like shit and they forgot lyrics, but that’s all a part of the squatter-charm that has served the band so well over the years. About half the songs began with the line “this song’s about killing cops!” earning ravenous cheers. The band also delved deep into the past to play some Chocking Victim songs including “500 Channels” and “Born To Die,” which was a real treat for the crusty crowd. Not since N.W.A. originally “fucked the police” has cop-hating been this much fun.
After Leftover Crack’s set, I stumbled out of the Congress Theater tired, bruised and sweat-soaked. I can’t wait for next year.