Saturday was the second day of Riot Fest 2023, and while the weather wasn’t as nice, the brief light rain didn’t slow things down at all and caused no issues so the show went on uninterrupted. The weather cleared up by the afternoon and it was nice the rest of the day and no one seemed to mind the brief misting we got earlier in the day. It certainly didn’t hamper any of us photographers from our jobs, nor did it have any affect on the bands playing. The fest was even more crowded throughout the day than on Friday, and everyone was having a good time seeing so many great bands.
Punk veterans, Total Chaos, were the first band to play that day at high noon. These guys have been around since 1989, though I’m not sure they have played here in a really long time. They looked just like they did in the early years, and sounded that way too which is a good thing! Good old fashioned hardcore punk, fast, loud, angry, and to the point. It was a great way to get the day started and it was nice to see that they are still at it.
Plosives is a relatively new band that had some familiar faces in there, those being the mighty John Reis (of Rocket From the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, and Hot Snakes), Atom Willard (Against Me), and Rob Crow (Pinback). This marks the fourth band that Reis has played in at Riot Fest, which also has to be some sort of record. These guys sounded great with their punk and indie rock blend. Great songs, great sounding vocals, and great musicians. This band should be on everyone’s musical radar!
Speaking of older punk bands, Snapcase returned once again to the delight of tons of people, and this time they played their first (and best) album, Looking Glass Self in its entirety! You couldn’t have asked for a better Snapcase set, and they played it to perfection. They had a lot more energy in this performance than they did back when they reunited at one of the early Congress Theater Riot Fests. The songs sounded as good on this day as they always have, and played with the same energy the band had back when they first released this album. They were fantastic and hopefully they stick around and play more shows, but if they don’t, you couldn’t have asked for a better Snapcase performance.
Next up was the performer that probably had the most buzz going into their performance, simply for the curiosity factor alone. Former child actor, Corey Feldman, performed over on the Rebel Stage. Honestly they should’ve had him play on one of the bigger stages because a ton of people showed up for him to see what kind of potential train wreck it was going to be. The band was still doing a soundcheck when they were supposed to start playing, and they kept soundchecking for nearly 15 more minutes as the crowd started getting impatient, and even irate. Finally when they were done with all of that, the musicians (sans Corey) on stage tried to get the crowd to chant “the come back king” over and over in an effort to coax Corey out on stage to start their set. The effort was fruitless as no one was chanting and eventually Corey came out on stage. He was wearing a really strange outfit that looked like the lining to a casket fashioned into a breakdancing outfit. The band proceeded to play a song called “Comeback King”, or attempt to anyway, but about 5 seconds into the song Corey yelled at them to stop. Corey chastised the band saying that everything was wrong and yelled at them to start on the same count, which he administered with a hand gesture. Why they didn’t just walk off stage at this point is anyone’s guess, but the band took the verbal abuse and restarted and then the fun really began.
Much in the same way that the movie Showgirls is so comically bad that it has become a classic, the same applied to Feldman’s musical performance. He dance, pranced, and strutted around wearing the aforementioned casket liner attire and did his best Michael Jackson dance moves while singing such deep and thought provoking lyrics such as “I am the comeback king, you know you know you know you know”. The huge crowd formed a mosh pit, and started crowd surfing, all of it a pre-planned rib. There was an inflatable movie screen behind the band on stage which took up so much of the stage that the band was crammed into what little real estate was left in front of it, but they couldn’t use it because whatever projector setup they had wasn’t able to display well due to it being the middle of the day outside. That giant inflatable Fisher Price movie screen served no purpose at all other than to be in the way of the entire band.
In between songs, Feldman would go backstage for wardrobe changes! He shed the casket liner top for the second song and put on a fedora, and replaced that with a mirrored jacket for the third song. He told a story about the song, “Lethal Lolita”, being about his first ex wife (how many ex wives does he have?) and how it may not be a pretty song. Everything about his performance was so cheesy and comical that you wonder how the band members can keep a straight face while Corey is dead serious with all of this stuff and isn’t doing it as some elaborate joke. This will go down as one of the most legendary performances in Riot Fest history and will be right up there with the movie Showgirls in its infamy, so on those merits, Feldman’s performance was a huge success and it had people talking about it all weekend. They need to invite him back every couple of years!
California punk superheros, T.S.O.L. were up. next and this was their long overdue return to Riot Fest after many years. They put on a punk rock clinic, playing most of the “hits”, though they once again neglected to play “Weathered Statues”. They checked the other boxes though of classic songs you want to hear and they sounded great doing it. Jack was walking all around the stage as he was singing and he had a lot of interesting between-song banter as well. They were fantastic and it’s always great when they have any of these old school punk bands at the fest. There’s been so many great ones over the years and it’s always warmly welcomed and appreciated.
Viagra Boys took the Roots Stage and they drew a gigantic crowd of excited fans. They were incredibly entertaining and their sound was a cool mix of punk, garage, dance, and art punk. It was a really interesting sound that blending into a unique style and the band members, especially the singer, were really animated. The whole band just oozed charisma and were captivating. The audience went nuts for them and the massive sea of people seemed to know every song. They ended up being one of the true highlights of the fest and I sure hope they bring them back again in the future!
Steve Ignorant of Crass performed the music of Crass with a band he assembled. Steve was the only Crass member on the stage, but the band as a whole played those songs beautifully and they sounded great. The woman on stage who played keyboards and sang was the real standout of the set. She absolutely killed it singing “Systematic Death”. It was a really great old school punk set paying tribute to a really unique and legendary band.
Death Grips also drew a massive crowd to the Roots Stage. This band was really powerful and intense. Their music took a hip-hop foundation and layered it in with punk, electronic, and industrial music to create a really unique sound that was also incredibly heavy. They had all the power and aggressiveness of early rap music which was more than doubled with the layered elements from the previously mentioned styles. The crowd went apeshit for them and rightfully so, they were such a unique and powerful force. Anyone hearing them for the first time at that fest probably walked away a fan. Incredible!
Hailing from Canada, Pup played next. Their sound was largely a blend of pop-punk and indie rock, but were a lot more energetic than many bands that fall into those categories. Their set was really enjoyable and their mostly mid-tempo songs were really catchy and fun. They would speed things up from time to time to keep things interesting. They were well worth checking out and seemed to have a lot of fans.
100 Gecs was a two piece band that came out dressed in Wizard robes. They played really quirky electro-pop that had a lot of vocal effects. The songs were very unique sounding and they were incredibly entertaining. When the main singer would talk between songs though you couldn’t understand a word she was saying because all the weird effects were still on, so who knows what she was trying to tell us, but the music was a lot of fun and they really stood out from every other band on the fest for how unique and experimental their sound was.
Pennywise made their 100th return to a Riot Fest Stage and they are always a welcomed addition to the lineup on any given year they play here. This time out they played pretty much in the dark, the stage lighting was almost completely nonexistent. What they lacked in stage lighting though they made up for in another solid punk rock performance. Later in the set they brought out two members of Rise Against to play some cover songs with them. They did Minor Threat and Black Flag covers and it’s unbelievable how no one thought to cover those bands’ songs before! Overall they were a lot of fun, and the crowd sure goes crazy for that “Bro Hymn”!
Mr. Bungle closed out the night with a really intense and relentless set of mostly fast heavy. metal. Mike Patton is one hell of a diverse frontman, and the addition of Scott Ian on guitar takes this band to an all new level of metal awesomeness! Aside from their own awesome material, they threw in a Slayer, a 7 Seconds, and a Spandau Ballet cover in there as well. They were clearly the best choice of the three main events that evening (ICP and Postal Service being the other two) and left the audience to go home sweaty and exhausted from going crazy for a full hour!
A little light rain aside, the second day of Riot Fest was every bit as enjoyable as the first, and the last day promised some real heavy hitters as well!