Riot Fest once again proved itself to be the music fest for grownups. Grownups in black t-shirts.
While all the other big festivals rotate the same dozen headliners, it’s great that Riot Fest has retained its punk rock focus. Maybe not as strictly as during its first several years as a multi-venue festival, but most of the performers still fall somewhere along the punk rock spectrum. And even the ones who don’t play distorted guitars could be said to have a punk rock attitude. Gotta respect that.
Riot Fest sometimes gets accused of cashing in on nostalgia. Sure, a lot of the bands peaked 20 or 30 years ago (or more). But the fact that they’re still around and kicking ass is a testament not only to their survival but to our own. We should all hope we age as gracefully as the most of these artists (Al Jourgensen excepted).
Headliners this year were Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and a reunited Jawbreaker, playing their first full show in 21 years (other than a couple warm up gigs around San Francisco last month). The headliners get the big font on the poster, but fest diehards know that the undercard is always where the action is.
It was hot and sunny when we got to the park on Friday. You never know what you’re going to get in September in Chicago, but you can usually count on at least some rain. The line to get in was down the block and security was being thorough. I heard one guy complaining that they had opened his cardboard cigarette case the wrong way and wrecked it. A woman behind me was worried she was going to miss X, who she had last seen in 1983 with the Replacements opening up for them! Don’t worry, she made it in with time to spare.
From Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, out now on Jagjaguwar.
Oh man, how did I miss a new Dinosaur Jr album? I guess it’s not that new since it came out a whole year ago. Oh well, better late than never. I’ve dug the last couple of J Mascis solo albums, and this song starts out kinda pretty like that. But stick around because two and a half minutes in, it turns into a classic Dinosaur Jr basher, complete with a classic Mascis guitar solo. (It’s almost impossible to avoid the rockcrit cliche “blistering” when describing a Dinosaur Jr guitar solo. Sorry. I tried.)
Anyway, I’m so thankful that J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph continue to make loud rock and roll together. They’re the exception to the rule that band reunions all huff dongs. Dinosaur Jr is as good as ever.
Dinosaur Jr plays Riot Fest at 6:35 PM on Sunday, September 17.
Awesome new video from Farm, due June 23 on Jagjaguwar. This tiny little version we’re embedding here hardly does it justice as it’s shot in HD and look great when you make it huge. Directed by Mark Locke, and it’s cool that they give credit to skate double Kyle Leeper and bike doubles Kenny Horton and Joel Barnett. Watch for the cameo by the unstoppable Mike Watt.
The start of my idea for the video came when I saw a picture of J for the first time in ages and I couldn’t believe his white hair. It just really freaked me out…and got me thinking about how my heroes were aging with the rest of us. So I thought: At what point are you supposed to be over doing stuff that you enjoy– like skating or playing ear-splitting music– just because society says it’s uncool to do it? My answer: Never.
Also: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph recently did a Daytrotter session where they played a couple old tracks from Dinosaur and a couple from 2007’s Beyond.
“Hey, you’re the one who’d know / Stay with me, I can’t let it go / Hey, you put it in my head / Stay and see, you know what you said.” I don’t know what it is about J Mascis‘ voice, but he manages to conjure up all the feelings of being young and insecure and nervous and excited and smartassed and lazy… I guess he just sounds like college to me. His voice is like sunshine filtered through sheer curtains and cigarette smoke.
So I’m standing around early on Friday night while Mission of Burma rips through Vs., and out of the backstage VIP area walks this short guy wearing a giant Professor Griff t-shirt. You know those tribute shirts where the whole shirt is a picture of Biggie‘s face? Like that, but with a picture of Public Enemy‘s alleged anti-Semite, Professor Griff.
It takes me a moment to realize this guy is, of course, Professor Griff. He’s walking around the crowd before his set, begging to be noticed. And this weird moment of awesome bravado and icky self-promotion is a pretty fair metaphor for the entire P-Fork Fest.
This yearly congregation of college radio nerds, fashion victims, art students, burnouts, baristas, and meatheads in Chicago’s Union Park is getting bigger and bigger. With an overstuffed line-up of hipster favorites and a smart, well-ordered setup, this is still the best-run festival in America. But it wasn’t without headaches, creeping corporate sponsorship, and a shit-ton of humidity.
It was several months ago, back when the temperatures were a little warmer and the afterglow of Dinosaur Jr’s reunion album Beyond still firmly in my mind, that a local club announced the original line-up would be playing in a club small enough to be part of the You’re Living All Over Me tour itinerary back in ’87.
Yes, The Picador (known as Gabe’s Oasis twenty years ago, and it’s just as dingy now as it was back then) is a venue much too small for the likes of Dinosaur Jr., which means it was be the perfect venue for someone like me who’s getting along in years, but still views age as a state of mind. To give you a better idea of The Picador, think of the late CBGB’s as a visual reference point, albeit without the legendary history and with a shittier load-in process that requires bands to navigate a series of outside stairs that aren’t band-friendly, particularly in the winter. To be fair: the club has addressed this treacherous staircase with the name change, but I still wouldn’t want to be the one lifting heavy amps up and down, no matter how wide they’ve now made ’em.
The heat in the room, the terrible sight lines, the spotty sound, the band’s mild irritability and a set list that sometimes stalled – it all worked in Dinosaur’s favor. This was not a Reunion Show, with formal wear and fancy seats and tickets that are priced to discourage losers from attending. This was a rock show in all of its hit-or-miss un-glory…
When J. Mascis released More Light (with The Fog) back in 2000, I went to one of my favorite local record stores to pick it up. The owner of the store (who started it with, literally, a crate of records back in 1982) noticed me as a regular and offered to assist me in his quest to capture as much cash out of my wallet as he could. When I asked him if he had the new J. Mascis record, he sheepishly admitted that he didn’t, sadly hinting at my out-of-touchness by saying “We don’t have that much demand for Dinosaur Jr. anymore.”
So not only did I feel downright old, it troubled me that the youth of America seemed to have abandoned one of the forefathers of ear-damaging guitar rock. Sure enough: the store’s used bin was littered with the various titles of Dinosaur Jr.’s spotty 90s output, the same ones that I can admit to owning while also admitting that I understood how J. slowly fell from his Marshall stack throne.