The Punk Vault

Riot Fest 2023 Day Three – 9/17/23 at Douglass Park

Well it was a good streak of avoiding the wrath of Mother Nature, but that streak came to a wet halt on Sunday. morning when the city woke up to it pouring rain. This forced Riot Fest to have a rain delay that lasted a few hours. Thankfully it cleared up early enough in the day that the fest could open and resume the rest of the day. They ended up opening the gates at 2pm and any band scheduled to start before 2pm had to be cut. Sadly a bunch of great bands didn’t get to play, but all things considered it was pretty fortunate we only lost a couple hours worth of the fest and the weather was very nice the rest of the day. The Riot Fest and park staff did a great job managing the park to minimize damage and mud and none of it stopped people from having a great rest of the day at the fest.

Earth Crisis were one of the first two bands playing as a giant line of people on both sides of the main entrance were still pouring into the park. The band hasn’t been very active in recent years, but when they do play the occasional gigs they sound as good as they ever did. They may be a bit older now, but they still play and sound like they did when they were younger. Their metal-laced hardcore packed a hell of a punch and was a lot of fun to revisit.

Shoegaze legends, Ride, were next. This is their second Riot Fest and they were even better this time around than they were last time! They opened with “Leave Them All Behind” and their intricate layered guitar weaving was absolutely hypnotic and dreamy. The band played an eight song set that was as perfect as you could ask for in a setlist that sadly omitted “Drive Blind” yet again! That didn’t mean they were absolutely awesome though, because they were, and songs like “Seagull”, “Vapour Trail” and “OX4” sounded better than ever! My only wish was they were given more time for a longer set, but the set they delivered was one of the true highlights of the day, and certainly the fest. It was nice to see such a big crowd gather to watch them perform too, they totally deserved it.

AFI were next and you should’ve seen the size of the very eager crowd packed in to see them. The band took the stage and the crowd roared with approval as the band opened with “Girl’s Not Grey” and the crowd was dancing, singing along, and going nuts. The band was a huge bundle of energy as Davey Havok and both guitar players were moving all over the stage hopping up and down off the platforms they had on the stage as they performed. The crowd screamed every time Havok was up on one of them and it was like this for their entire set. They played a rock-solid hour of their melodic, gothic pop-punk and the audience loved every second of it. They were another highlight of the fest, and their set closer, “Miss Murder” is probably still stuck in the head of tens of thousands of Riot Fest attendees, it certainly is still stuck in mine!

The Dresden Dolls made their Riot Fest debut to the same massive crowd that piled in for AFI. This punk cabaret duo of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione is like nothing you’ve ever seen or heard before. They were one of the best bands of the entire weekend! Palmer’s voice commands attention and watching her play the keyboard as she is so animated while playing and singing is enthralling. You can’t look away, except you need to look away to watch Viglione play the drums because that is every bit as captivating! You could focus on either band member and never get tired of seeing them perform and still want to watch more. They are a perfect compliment to each other musically and their songs were so good! Their one hour set seemed to fly by in a matter of minutes and was something really special.

The Cure made their return to Riot Fest after about a decade away and boy was it worth the wait. The Cure is easily one of the greatest bands in music history, that’s not something you can even debate, but for as big of a band as they’ve been for decades, it seems like finally the rest of the world is finally catching up to understand what we’ve all known for decades. The entire fest was watching the band play. There were people as far as the eye can see in every direction. The band played a lot of hits, and had some surprises in deep cuts like “Cold” and “Play For Today”. They played for two hours and fifteen minutes, and the only reason they even stopped was because the fest was over at 10pm. They would’ve easily done almost another hour if it wasn’t for that.

The band sounded better than ever, and it seems that the older Robert Smith gets, the better he sounds and plays! I don’t know what his secret is, but his ability to perform at the highest ability is totally resistant to age. Highlights of their amazing set included “Pictures of You”, “A Forest”, “Lullaby”, “Lovesong” “A Night Like This” “Close to Me” and the set-ending trifecta of “Boys Don’t Cry”, “10:15 Saturday Night” and “Killing an Arab”! They were flawless! Even if they didn’t have time to play your favorite couple of songs it didn’t matter, because they played a dozen or more of your other favorites! What a way to end the best music festival of the year, and a fitting way to close out the summer!

Another Riot Fest is in the books, summer is now over, and now begins the long and depressing withdrawal until we get together to do it again next year at this time! Thank you Riot Fest for another best weekend of the year!


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