Riot Fest 2018 - Chicago - Day 3 - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Riot Fest 2018 - Chicago - Day 3

by Texacaliago Rating: Release Date:
Riot Fest 2018 - Chicago - Day 3
Riot Fest 2018 - Chicago - Day 3

There’s always something a little wistful in the air on the third and final day of Riot Fest. Regardless of the bands on the bill you may be looking forward to seeing, it’s hard the shake the feeling of finality associated with Day 3. Like the reality that you’ll have to wait another 362 days for the festival to roll around again, and that the next day is Monday and most everyone will have to return back to their respective rat-races seemingly all too soon.

But if I’m being honest, this reviewer’s neck, back, feet, knees, and well, the vast majority of the other associated muscles and bones in my body were not quite so wistful. No, on the contrary, they were actually quite looking forward to the end of 3 consecutive days of endless standing, jumping, walking, headbanging, excessive sunshine, dehydration, etc. So I suppose if there was a bright-side to be found in the end, it was that the physically taxing nature of Riot Fest would soon come to an end as well.

Cheers to aging.

And speaking of physically taxing, Day 3 finally presented yours truly with an opportunity to take in a heavy performance courtesy of legendary crossover/thrash icons Suicidal Tendencies. They were scheduled to perform their classic debut album in its entirety, so suffice to say my already aching body was about to have something legitimate to complain about. And given that I had to pass on performances from Killing Joke and Jesus Lizard on Saturday due to scheduling conflicts, Suicidal Tendencies seemed like a great way to make up for all the bruising moshing I no doubt missed while taking in relatively tamer sets from Elvis Costello and Beck.

Little did I know prior to ST hitting the stage just how physically taxing their performance would actually be (albeit not necessarily in the way I expected).

You see, in addition to the fact that Suicidal Tendencies are a very heavy band, there were also two potent environmental factors that contributed to their performance being an extra grueling experience:

1) Blazing sunshine/heat

2) Dust...lots of dust

As the band hit the stage at 4:40 PM, it was effectively the hottest part of the day, and there was no shade to be found for the ravenous crowd that fittingly went apeshit once ST launched into their opener “Suicide’s An Alternative/You’ll Be Sorry”. Additionally, after 3 consecutive days of 1000s of people trampling through the field at the Riot Stage, it was fair to say that the grass had seen better days by that point (what was left of it anyway). Throw in the ridiculously huge circle-pit that quickly developed in the ensuing melee, and pretty soon those of us in the thick of the action were quite literally eating each other’s dust. I’m sure it sounds killer on paper (and probably looked cool from a far), but if you were in the thick of it, inhaling the excessive amount of dust in the air proved to be a rather unpleasant experience. As one dude next to me sarcastically put it:  “Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to get lung cancer!”  So it’s one thing to deal with an incredibly intense moshpit with blazing sun beating down on you, but adding-in a borderline suffocating sandstorm to the mix made the experience a touch too shitty for my liking. Then, to make matters worse, my allergies reacted to the dust quite furiously, so throw in violent/uncontrollable sneezing into the equation and things were getting straight-up sadistically comical in retrospect. So unfortunately, I was forced to take my dusty, sneezing, dehydrated ass out of the thick of the action, and really only got to actively participate in roughly half of ST’s set as a result.

Oh, and about that set, you may be wondering about the actual performance itself outside of my incessant complaining, and I have to say, it was pretty fucking awesome otherwise! That was due in large part to the manic intensity of OG frontman Mike Muir, who was behaving like an absolute madman up there at the age of 53. Honestly not sure how much he was playing up his purely insane stage demeanor, but it seemed pretty believable to me. He was running around frantically, clawing at the air, and clenching his teeth, all with an incredibly unhinged look in his eye. No wonder the crowd went off, especially during performances of fan favorites like “Subliminal”, “I Saw Your Mommy…” etc. (I unfortunately took in“Institutionalized” from afar to avoid the aforementioned lung cancer). And when he wasn’t belligerently performing his songs like a certifiable psychopath, he was busy manically lecturing the crowd (with a spoken-word flavor) on personal responsibility, benevolence, integrity, and other old-school/straight-edge flavored morals that I was generally digging. Rocking his trademark blue-bandana, it couldn’t help but feel like a lecture straight out of a “Scared Straight” documentary, especially considering Mike has done time in the pen, was affiliated with LA street gangs back in the day, etc. It was a trip to get a window into his mind, but overall kind of enlightening.

Anyway, all things considered, it was a very interesting/horrible/fun/intense way to spend an hour.

Suicidal Tendencies: B

Blazing sunshine: D

Sandstorm: F

Allergies: F-

A few years back, Dave Grohl was quoted as saying he doesn’t believe in guilty pleasures, specifically: “If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool…””

So with that spirit in mind, I proceeded to dust myself off (literally) and made my way to the Rise Stage to take in a set from one of my favorite bands from my younger years (and if I’m being honest, a band I still listen to on occasion to this day): Incubus.

Yes, that’s right, Incubus.

But as much as I tried to embrace the philosophy of Mr. Grohl’s quote, I couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty about seeing Incubus, especially considering I would be passing up other headlining sets from Run the Jewels, Father John Misty, and most conflicting: Bad Religion.

Truth be told, outside of the mid/late 90s, it’s always been a little bit embarrassing to be an Incubus fan. The reasons for this are fairly obvious, not the least of which is Brandon Boyd’s reputation for serenading masses of sensitive bros and scores of ladies in the early 2000s, all the while performing topless and being really really really really ridiculously good looking. Although I probably shouldn’t hate on the dude for being significantly more attractive than myself, it’s hard to feel good about being a fan of a band who elicits deafening screams from scores of women every time he removes his shirt (which of course inevitably happened during their Riot Fest set).

Outside of that somewhat trivial issue I suppose, Incubus have certainly produced some pretty good songs/albums over the course of their 20+ year career (radio-friendly as they often were, but I digress). Although one album that was decidedly not radio-friendly, and really is at the root of my (modest) fandom, was 1997’s genre-shattering S.C.I.E.N.C.E..  

It may very well be one of those “you had to be there” things, but for those not privy, the Incubus found on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. were a far cry from the radio-friendly rock-stars they became after subsequently more accessible releases like Make Yourself (which is a pretty good album too btw). No, pre-1999 Incubus were a raucously creative bunch, bursting at the seams with explosively awesome jams that combined elements of metal, funk, hip-hop, and even jazz with incredibly combustible results. And before one makes any lazy/disparaging “Nu-Metal” insinuations, although Incubus originally did share a lot of the aggressively intense qualities of other budding alternative-metal bands back in the day, they were always coming from a more positive/experimental head-space and had their own unique style. This was a style that incorporated electro influences, jungle-flavored drumming, trippy/creative sampling, and bongo drums (not to mention a lot of psilocybin mushrooms for good measure). As someone who generally champions intense music made without boundaries or pretenses, and music that fuses styles boldly, creatively, and with originality, Incubus will always hold a soft spot in my heart largely because S.C.I.E.N.C.E. was the near perfect combination of those ideas back in the 90s.

But of course, that was then and this is now. It’s been a very long time since Incubus were making creative and energetic music (not to mention popular or relevant music), so considering all of that, I was very curious to see what an Incubus show in 2018 would actually be like, especially since I had never bothered to catch them live before.

Overall, in spite of the fact they only managed to cough up one measly song from S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (“Cologne”…which precedes one of the greatest hidden tracks of all-time btw), it was a pretty satisfactory performance. Considering the slew of radio-friendly hits they’ve produced over the years, you kind of have to take the good with the bad. Of course I enjoyed their two biggest (if highly overplayed) hits “Pardon Me” and “Drive”, while at the same time mildly cringed at spirited sing-along renditions of “Love Hurts”  and “Wish You Were Here” (they closed out the latter track with a brief cover of the (vastly superior) Pink Floyd song of the same name). Other highlights included “Privilege” (which was their opener), a surprise cover of “Need You Tonight” by INXS (which was pretty great), and a righteous performance of “Megalomaniac”, a song that has sadly never sounded more relevant and urgent considering our current circumstances here in the States. There was a somewhat surprising amount of crowd surfing going-on throughout the show, along with some occasional ill-advised moshing, so the crowd was definitely very much into the performance overall and was showing Incubus a lot of love.

And at the end of the night, after soaking in their performance, I came away feeling slightly better about being the (modest) Incubus fan that I am. Although I can’t say much for their more recent output, they carved out a fairly unique niche for themselves over the years by making music that sincerely connected with their fans on an emotional level. Whether it’s the experimentation and explosive energy found on S.C.I.E.N.C.E., or the positive and affirming nature of Make Yourself (which really was a “coming of age” record for myself and millions of other kids), or the politically charged and often dystopian/eccentric nature of A Crow Left of the Murder, there is actually a lot more to Incubus beyond their hits for those willing to dig ever so slightly beneath the surface. There is actual depth to be found underneath the seemingly pretty/radio-friendly image that the band is largely known for, and overall, Incubus brought that total package to the stage Sunday night, which was a great way to closeout another memorable Riot Fest experience.

Good times.

Incubus: B+

Day 3 Tidbits:

Pleasing t-shirt sightings: Sepultura (Beneath the Remains), Acid Bath (When The Kite String Pops), Pepsi (at the Suicidal Tendencies set of course)!

Number of people that liked my Minutemen t-shirt: 2

Odds of getting lung cancer before Suicidal Tendencies set: 7%

Odds of getting lung cancer after Suicidal Tendencies set: 70%

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