Tag Archives: fests

Of Masks and Money

Unless it is a beach community or a tropical island, both places where the norms tend to be different than in land-locked and less temperate locales, there is a rule that is either openly stated or known so well that it need not be announced:

“No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service.”

While you could conceivably go to a bar in Hawaii sans shirt (assuming male gender) and shoes, were you to try to do the same in, say, Iowa, you would probably be summarily asked to leave—and the asking might not be of the please-and-thank-you nature.

The Three No’s are essentially a rule of decorum that everyone knows. It is a situational rule. For example, even if one were to be flying from Kona to Honolulu you couldn’t board without wearing a shirt. This is not only predicated on the fact that odds are the person would not be a specimen that people would want to have to look at, there is also the fact that no one would knowingly want to sit in 24C after that person spent time in it.

At the present time there is extensively researched recommendations that people should wear face masks (ideally properly wear face masks, which means not having them below one’s nose as that—which seems to be a surprise to some people—is a feature that one uses to breathe, or wearing them around one’s neck, as though it is a bit of fashion flair on an elastic band). So maybe what we need is to add a fourth No to the three (although it would, admittedly, break up the assonance).
Yet there is tremendous push-back by some people on wearing of a mask as it seems to be some sort of admission that the coronavirus not only exists, but that it passes from person to person. Go figure.

During the period of lock-down in several states there were those who rose up and maintained their constitutional rights were being violated because they couldn’t get a haircut. Life, liberty and the pursuit of a razor cut.

Which brings me to a stunning state of affairs that is presently occurring. Some music promoters, who are finding that restrictions against crowds, are suing state governments. For example, one suit has been filed in Ohio against the doctor who had been running the state’s health department by festival organizers, whose ability to put on events is being impacted by such stipulations.

The basis for the suit? Violation of the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In case you’re wondering, the Fourteenth is the one about equal protection under the law.

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Riot Fest 2019: Do You Realize??

Big music festivals might not be the ideal way to experience music you’ve never heard before, but from a quantity perspective it’s hard to beat. I figure I saw 30 bands at Riot Fest this year, and of those, I had previously never listened to 13 of them. And that’s what makes a fest so compelling for music fans: there’s the potential to stumble across your new favorite band on the way to the taco truck.

Of course, the odds of that happening depend a great deal on the fest(s) you attend. Glorious Noise covered Lollapalooza from the time it settled in Chicago in 2005 all the way through 2016, when it expanded to four days and gave up any semblance of quality control. We’ve been going to Riot Fest since then. What makes this fest unique is in a world where everybody listens to everything on shuffle and even the fluffiest of mainstream pop is given critical acclaim, Riot Fest has stuck with its original idea of showcasing punk rock bands.

For fifteen years!

Their definition of punk has expanded its umbrella beyond old school hardcore to make room for some hip-hop, reggae, and jangly indie pop as well as founding fathers of rock and roll like Jerry Lee Lewis and, yes, even the Village People. But the focus has always been consistent and if you still prefer guitar bands, there’s really no other fest that compares. I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about Riot Fest booking Ariana Grande anytime soon. Better find a focus or you’re out of the picture…

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Riot Fest 2019 Lineup

How cool will it be to see both Slayer and the Village People at the same festival? And why not? Don’t be uptight. Have fun, bang your head, and shake your ass.

Riot Fest continues to be the only major music festival that cultivates a unique identity. Why other fests have fully embraced the idea of taking everything popular on Spotify and playing it on shuffle, Riot Fest continues to attempt a bit of discretion and taste.

Punk rock is a big ass tree trunk and Riot Fest seems to take a perverse pleasure in pursuing all the different branches and roots, going as far out on the limbs as they can manage while still staying true to their mission.

What do the Village People have to do with punk rock (or anything, really) in 2019? Well consider, as my homegirl Samorama pointed out, that it’s the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, when Chicago radio DJ Steve Dahl encouraged a bunch of fun hating rednecks to destroy all their records that appealed to black folks, women, gay dudes, and other groovy people who like to dance. While punk indeed has its own history of racism, sexism, and homophobia, it’s pretty radical for Riot Fest to book the ultimate disco band.

Along with Slayer and the Village People, my personal must-see list this year includes Bikini Kill, the Raconteurs, Flaming Lips, Patti Smith, Rancid, Descendents, B-52s, Anthrax, Bob Mould, Guided by Voices, Nick Lowe, Sincere Engineer, Skating Polly. And of course Andrew W.K. and GWAR are always fun.

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“Don’t Take The Brown Acid”

At the Woodstock Festival that occurred 50 years ago this coming July the performers included Creedence Clearwater Revival; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Jefferson Airplane; the Grateful Dead.

For reasons that probably have more to do with lucre than love, there is Woodstock 50 planned for this summer. There has been a considerable amount of more notoriety of this event as regards the financing than the acts, but the roster is nothing if not robust.

If we go back to the opening paragraph of this, know that among the performers are John Fogerty; David Crosby; Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady (a.k.a., Hot Tuna); and Dead & Company.

Fogerty is 73. Crosby, 77. Jorma, 78. Casady 75. And just to pick one still there and still alive, Bob Weir 71.

At this point you might expect one of my typical rants about old musicians hanging it up.

But I’m not going to do that.

Rather, it simply strikes me that back in 1969 there was an event that had a certain music-changing magnitude (I’d argue that all of the variants of the “Star Spangled Banner” that are now heard at NASCAR races and sporting events go back to Hendrix taking what had theretofore been something of an untouchable icon and molding it into something completely different) that has never been equaled. It was a phenomenon. While it certainly wasn’t the first music festival, nor will it be the last, it was something that had far more cultural resonance than anything that was there before or after, and much of this has to do with the spontaneity of the events on the ground as they transpired and changed the entire dynamic of what was to be into something that was more representative of the age: a whiff of anarchy.

Yes, there are music festivals. Yes, there should continue to be music festivals.

But what are the organizers thinking is going to happen? Are they going to catch lightning in a bottle, or are they going to be working out—as seems to be the case right now—how much they’re going to be able to capture in terms of monetary value? Is this a music festival or a payday?

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Riot Fest 2018: Whole Lotta Shakin’

I’ve been attending big music festivals in Chicago every summer since 2005, but it’s been many many years since I arrived anywhere near early enough to see the opening wave of bands. There’s always bands I’d kinda like to see who play before 2:30pm but 3-day music festivals are work and you have to make sacrifices for your health and sanity.

Riot Fest scheduled Liz Phair to play at 2:10 on Friday this year. That’s early. Especially for a Friday. And even more so since I no longer live in Chicago. But I love Liz Phair, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her in concert. In fact, I had tickets to see her in Detroit on Thursday but once the Riot Fest lineup was released, I decided to skip it. But that made it mandatory to arrive in Douglas Park in time.

I didn’t need to worry. Getting in to the park this year was easier than ever before. In fact, we made it inside with plenty of time to see festival opener Speedy Ortiz, who coincidentally is opening up for Liz Phair on her current tour. They were fun and cool. And their 30-minute set flew by.

The best thing about Riot Fest is that it’s got a small enough footprint that you can run around from stage to stage in no time. Five or ten minutes is all you need to get from one to the another. Unfortunately, this also means there’s soundbleed from other bands if you’re not standing directly in front of the stage. But it’s great to be able to skip around and get a sampler platter of everything that’s happening.

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Riot Fest: The Music Fest for Grownups

It’s not easy being a grownup music fan. And the older you get, the harder (and weirder) it becomes. Your peers (i.e., your neighbors and your kids’ friends’ parents) can’t even pretend to understand why you’d choose to stand outside in the dirt for three days and listen to bands nobody’s ever heard of. And it is impossible to justify. I love music fests, and yet even the greatest sets I’ve experienced would’ve been way better in a dark club or theater.

So what’s a middle-aged music fan to do? (Actually, let’s not say “middle-aged.” Let’s say “mid-century modern.”)

Here’s what: go to Riot Fest. They book a lot of bands that prominently feature guitars. That might seem quaint or old-fashioned, but if that’s your thing then Riot Fest is pretty much the only game in town.

Yesterday, they announced the “first wave” of the 2018 lineup. There’s a ton of good stuff. I’m especially excited to see Beck, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Liz Phair, Cat Power, Johnny Marr, Superchunk, Speedy Ortiz, Bully, and the Bombpops, but there’s way more that I’m interested in checking out.

One disappointing thing: by my count only 14 of the 82 acts announced so far (17%) are fronted by women. That’s worse than both Lollapalooza (38 of 183; 21%) and Coachella (56 of 166; 33%). Seems like they could do better than that these days when all of the most exciting new guitar music is being made by girls. Maybe next year…

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Riot Fest 2017: No Dicks on the Dancefloor

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.

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Lollapalooza 2017 lineup: Look familiar?

When you look at the 2017 Lollapalooza lineup released yesterday, a lot of those names might look familiar. Of the nine BIG FONT headliners only one (Blink-182) has never played Lolla before. Extending that to the 22 artists comprising the top five rows adds three more newbies: Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, and Liam Gallagher.

If you’ve gone to Lolla over the past several years, you’ve probably already seen 18 of the top 22 acts. That’s 82%. Adding in the next three rows brings us to a total of 39 artists; 28 of them (72%) are Lolla veterans. This year will mark the Killers’ fourth Lollapalooza and it’ll be the fifth time for Cage the Elephant, Kaskade, and our beloved Spoon.

The undercard consists of an additional 21 groups that have played Lolla before and 108 that haven’t. So if you’re looking for new experiences, get there early!

I realize people don’t necessarily go to Lollapalooza every year and there’s certainly nothing wrong with seeing the same band a bunch of times. And you can’t blame the artists for cashing in on the festival circuit gravy train. But if you’re starting to feel a little deja vu when these lineup announcements come out, it’s not just your imagination. We have all been here before.

Big font headliners

CHANCE THE RAPPER: 2013
THE KILLERS: 2015, 2009, 2015
MUSE: 2007, 2011
ARCADE FIRE: 2005, 2010
THE XX: 2010
LORDE: 2014
BLINK-182: n00b!!!
DJ SNAKE: 2015
JUSTICE: 2012

Medium font rows 3-5

ALT-J: 2013, 2015
RUN THE JEWELS: 2014
CAGE THE ELEPHANT: 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
WIZ KHALIFA: n00b!
BIG SEAN: n00b!
THE HEAD AND THE HEART: 2012, 2014
FOSTER THE PEOPLE: 2011, 2014
THE SHINS: 2006, 2012
RYAN ADAMS: 2006
KASKADE: 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015
PORTER ROBINSON: 2012
ZEDS DEAD: 2012
LIAM GALLAGHER: n00b!

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Riot Fest 2016: I Remember Halloween

I was never a punk. In high school I was a trendy little femme who liked the Smiths and sixties music. Duckie was my fashion icon. The only punk rock I listened to was the Dead Milkmen.

The king of the punks at my school was a senior named Alex who came to class one morning with perfectly spiked hair. Multiple four-inch spikes of Ziggy-red hair held up with egg whites or Elmer’s or some other gravity defying concoction. While he was walking down the hall some big dumb jock took a donut and placed it on one of those epic spikes.

Alex left the donut on his head for the rest of the day.

To me, that epitomizes punk rock. You make a personal statement that goes against the grain, you get hassled for it, but ultimately you subvert that mockery by reclaiming it and making it your own.

I didn’t see any donuts at Riot Fest this year but there was no shortage of that same punk rock attitude.

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Lollapalooza 2015: I Don’t Care, I Love It

Remember when Lollapalooza was alternative?

You’re forgiven if you don’t. They gave up on that idea by 1996 when they first booked Metallica as a headliner.

Remember when fests had their own identities? Bonnaroo was a rootsy jam band festival, etc. These days bands just rotate through the major summer music festivals, year by year. Cocahella last year, Bonnaroo this year, Lollapalooza next year. Repeat ad infinitum.

Just in Chicago if you attended Lolla, Pitchfork, and Riot Fest, you’d have the opportunity to see pretty much every band who’s currently touring. Sad you missed missed Run the Jewels and Courtney Barnett at Lolla last year? They both played P4k this year. Chances are they’ll both have a nice big font on the Riot Fest 2016 poster.

It’s quite a time to be a music fan. Then again you might ask yourself whether an outdoor music fest is the best way to experience live music. There are certainly a lot of hassles at these kinds of fests (comfort, sound, food, toilets, and on and on). But if you’re the type of person who likes to make a notch in your belt for every band you see, festivals can help you out with that.

I’ve always enjoyed Lollapalooza. It’s fun to enter into the mayhem for one weekend per year. For me, the fun has always outweighed the hassles. Then again I also don’t mind going to IKEA once in a while. Your mileage may vary.

Highlights this year were Paul McCartney, First Aid Kit, Charli XCX, and Gogol Bordello.

Surprises were Alabama Shakes (way more fun than I expected), Metallica (ditto), and Twin Peaks (I had avoided them because of their dumb name but they’re exactly the kind of band I love).

Disappointments were Father John Misty (grumpy), Lame Impala (I think I stole that joke from Twitter), Albert Hammond, Jr (sang like the guy from Midnight Oil), and the disappearance of the falafel vendor who kept me alive for the past seven or eight Lollas.

Scheduling conflicts made me miss Tove Lo, War on Drugs, Bully, and Shakey Graves.

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