Category Archives: live review

Cropped Out Festival 9/22-23/17, Louisville

Dates: September 22 & 23, 2017

Location: American Turners Club, Louisville KY

Two very fine days at the American Turners Club, deep in the heart of Kentucky rock territory.


I’d heard about this champion of the obscure music festival in Louisville, KY for the past few years but hadn’t gotten off my duff to make it there. This year was different as I saw that both The Fall and feedtime were on the bill so I had to make it. I phoned my pal in Lexington, KY and told we that we’re going…oh and that I am staying with him for a few days. He couldn’t refuse.

The American Turners Club is a…well, an interesting place to say the least. It’s an active swim club that closes just after Labor Day but if you saw this place you’d swear it wasn’t active. In fact, you’d think it had been closed years ago. Plenty of green water in the pool and the trough in the men’s bathroom looked liked it hadn’t been flushed in a few decades. Oh and turn around while the the urinal and the showers behind you look like something out of Auschwitz. In other words, a perfect place for a music festival!

It’s right on the banks of the Ohio River and plenty of room for camping (I hate camping though). So yes, freaks of all shapes and sizes made their way to Louisville to witness this historic event.

….only it wasn’t so historic as The Fall cancelled (damn) but they got local yokel Bonnie Prince Billy in his place.


Friday 9/22/17

On Friday we arrived about 3 PM. We missed a few openers like Exacta Cube, Heavy Dreams and Bathroom Laws but we did catch the duo Lung. A drummer and a woman who played, I think, an electric cello. An interesting sound and very cool and just afterward both Wombo and Limes got the crowd worked up into a heaving frenzy.

We caught NYC’s 75 Dollar Bill who I’d been wanting to see and they did not disaappoint. This time they were a drummer (Rick Brown from Run On and Fish & Roses) and a guitarist and they eeked out a most beautiful racket. If I’m recalling correctly The Cowboys, who were up next, spanked out some primo punk rock while North Carolina (via the UK) Dan Melchior did a nice set of garage blues. He’s the real deal.

Not sure if we caught Crazy Doberman, but we did catch Columbus, Ohio’s Tommy Jay who with his band in matching outfits, did a nice set of folk pop originals. I need to look for more of his stuff and legendary Louisville bunch Circle X had the crowd rapt with their unique brand of jagged art pop. As much as I wanted to stay for Neil Hamburger and Royal Trux (who I heard weren’t so hot) my pal and I decaded to make the hour trek back to Lexington.


Saturday 9/23/17

After a hearty breakfast (Waffle House did us right…until it did us wrong…thank god for nearby bathrooms) we headed back to Louisville for more fun and frivolity. We got there just in time to catch Oakland’s Rays. I love their recent debut LP out now on Trouble in Mind but had yet to see ‘em live and they did not disappoint. Gorgeous, melodic fuzz of the highest caliber.

Fried Egg ripped a hole in the wall, musically speaking, while Matt Jencik’s jeans fell down but the crowd was way, way up. Sarah Squirm was an annoying comedian from NYC who was actually kinda funny  and I forget what David Nance sounded like. Tara Jane O’Neil had a plethora of famous folks join her on stage (Thalia Zedek, Catherine Irwin, Tim Barnes, etc) and eeked out a gorgeous, folky set.  Rapper Sadat X was awful, all flash and no dash and the shirtless, bearded Frank Hurricane was even worse. Please do no invite these two back.

Shit & Shine started out promisingly with some crinkly experimental konk but bored me after about 15 minutes and Peter Brotzmann threw his sax into the Ohio River and dove in after it after finishing his set.  Australia’s feedtime, basically who I was most excited to see, did not disappoint and they roared through a 40 or so minute set or grunting, basement scorch (with a borrowed drummer no less…and they weren’t in a basement). Being the old geezers that we are my pal and I left before Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Magik Markers played.

What can I say, Cropped Out was a blast. Good food, nice, short sets and easy-going (zonked out?) people everywhere. Easily the most laid back festival I’ve ever gone to and I’ma make it a point to come back next year come hell or high water.


Frankie Rose + Suburban Living 10/3/17, Denver

Dates: October 3, 2017

Location: Globe Hall, Denver CO

Live at new venue Globe Hall, in Denver, Colorado.


My first time to the fairly new Globe Hall (ok, it’s probably been there close to a year) and I liked it. BBQ restaurant/bar on one side and, through the door,a music venue on the other (visions of Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ). Easy to park and right off the freeway, what’s not to like.

Also, Frankie Rose was playing on this night so even better.

But as I walked in Philly’s Suburban Living were on stage. I hadn’t heard of these guys before but I liked what I’d heard. Four guys (led by guitarist/vocalists Wesley Bunch and Chris Radwanski) with pop music in their hearts and probably Smiths, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen records in their collections (maybe some stuff on the Captured Tracks label as well…who I could see them getting signed to). The songs were dense and dreamy, but hooky, too. If they come to your town they’re certainly worth leaving the house for.

Though I’ve been a fan of Frankie Rose since before she even released her first solo record (that Slumberland released in  2010 which was actually under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs) and all of the bands she has been in, including Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Beverly (a few serious favorites in there), I hadn’t seen her live before so I wasn’t going to miss this gig. She’s touring on her new release, Cage Tropical (Slumberland Records) and though their were four people on stage it was difficult to see as the way the lighting was all you could see were silhouettes (umm…I think there was a drummer back there) but it was Rose and another young blonde on guitars, a gent on bass and the invisible drummer. Plus there was a smoke machine so it made for a unique viewing experience (hey, I love smoke machines!).

They set was mostly made up of songs off Cage Tropical, a record that sounds like it could’ve been release in the mid-80’s as the icy synths give it a real 80’s feel.

Songs like the title track, ‘Dyson Sphere,” “Trouble” and “Love in Rockets” take on the feel of classics each time I hear them.  She also played “Know Me” and “Night Swim” off of 2012’s Interstellar. The set was sleek and swift (just like her new record) as they were off stage in about 35-40 minutes. They came back out for an encore of “Save Me” (from that debut record) and off they were. Though the place was only about a quarter full Rose and Co.  didn’t care as they played liked their was a roomful of thousands, but that’s Rose, a real charasmatic professional. I can’t wait until the next time they come to town.

Ministry 10/17/17, NYC

Dates: October 17, 2017

Location: Terminal 5, New York City, NY

Live at Terminal 5 and showcasing both old faves and songs from an upcoming album.


Going to the Ministry show, I somewhat knew what to expect. Having seen Ministry every tour since 1988 (Except farewell tour, I don’t believe in those), I knew the fury that was going to be unleashed. Opening the show with “Lets Go” Al Jourgensen came out to grind the gears of the crowds political psyche. Anybody who knows this band knows the arsenal of songs they have. Three songs into the set the band played a new song “Antifa” from their future album release in 2018 called “AMERIKKKANT”.  Sin Quirins guitar playing is amazing to say the least! Take Cesar Soto on guitar add the two of them with Tony Campos on bass and you have a huge sound that rattled the walls. Playing another new song “Wargasm” I could feel the anger that Al Jourgensen has been preaching for over a quarter century. The crowd ate up some old classics, N.W.O., Thieves and So What. Closing the night out with of all things a cover of Devo’s “Gates of steel” Ministry proved after all this time they are the dominant force in industrial metal!


Austin City Limits Music Festival 2017 (Weekend 1)

October 6, 7 & 8 for the first of two weekends, held as usual at Zilker Park. Pictured above: Pumarosa.


Austin City Limits Music Festival debuted a lot of new things this year: new layout, new security, new foods, new drinks, new ticket levels, etc. Some worked great, some didn’t. But it was nice to see all of the changes. Best of which being the new layout.

The park now has so much more breathing room and attendees can actually enjoy the music at a crowded stage without the interference of the other nearby stages. And even though the lineup this year wasn’t the best in ACL history, there were some really great shows over the weekend.


The Wild Now – Cute and poppy.

ROMES – Trying too hard to be sexy.

The Band of Heathens – An Austin classic!

MISSIO – So much energy and enthusiasm, with a lot of Justin Timberlake vibes from lead singer.

The Lemon Twigs – Drummer was the most captivating of them all.

Crystal Castles – Trying too hard to be scary weird. Die Antwoord has that category covered.

Royal Blood – A solid rock’n’roll show!

Ryan Adams – As always, he delivered a solid performance. The unique thing about this show was that he had an announcer come out before he came on stage and asked the crowd to not use any flash, as Ryan suffers from Ménière’s disease. That started the show off on a pretty serious note. Things got more serious when Ryan confronted a fan who was recording the show and sounded like he had his flash on. Ryan cursed out the fan and told him we will all validate his presence here at the show so he doesn’t need that video to post online. He kept the stage almost completely dark for the entire show as well.

JAY-Z – He only played an hour, took a 20-minute break, came back for a single song encore, and left. Everyone seemed very confused, including other artists in the crowd.



Mobley – Mobley was the best surprise of the festival. Despite his opening time slot, he put on a great show with Headliner enthusiasm.

CAPYAC – Part of their act was making pancakes on stage and throwing them at the crowd. It worked. They got me to stay longer than I would’ve otherwise.

Ásgeir – A less poetic Bon Iver.

Grace VanderWaal – Mini Taylor Swift with a giant voice. As a 13-year-old, she had more stage presence than most adult artists out there.

A$AP Ferg – He got the crowd going with his beats but it seemed like 2pm might have been too early of a time slot for him, as he paced the stage like he was still trying to wake up.

LĪVE – Simply amazing. They rocked the stage like 20-year-olds, not like a band that’s been together for over 3 decades. So much energy, enthusiasm, love for their art, and appreciation for the fans.

ICE CUBE – He was hardcore until he asked the crowd if they’ve seen his hit movie Straight Outta Compton and if they wanted “gangster”. He, then, proceeded with “let’s give them gangster.” Sadly, none of which felt remotely authentic or gangster.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Chili Peppers were once a great band but now they seem to be just bored. Every show in the past several years have been the exactly replica of each other. Very little crowd interaction, heavily filtered Jumbotron footage, same quick transitions between songs.



Bibi Bourelly – Perhaps most famous for writing the Rhianna song “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Bibi’s performance of her own material proved to be authentic and raw.

Raging Fyah – Energetic, enthusiastic and a lot of fun!

Milky Chance – Somehow, Milky Chance managed to sing all of their songs in the same exact way in the same exact tone…again. It’s very difficult to even tell where one song ends and the other begins with them. Snooze fest.

Run The Jewels – Simply kicked ass.

Vance Joy – Great, fun show.

Portugal. The Man – They kept the stage almost completely dark the entire show. The sign at the beginning of the show stated that they will not be engaging with the audience during the show, and they did keep their promise by systematically running through all of their songs.

Gorillaz – They put on a big production but it didn’t seem like there was much heart there. Still a pretty good show, though!


SUPER-DUPER GROUP ALERT: Filthy Friends Live in Chicago


Chicago, Il.

Down at the Goose Island Block Party, our man with the plan in the Windy City had the best view of all…


What a way to celebrate this year’s Autmnal Equinox.

And in the good company of some Filthy Friends, all the while being able to sample some new fall batches of local craft beer. Where did all this goodness go down, you might ask?  Well, friends at a block party put on by Chicago’s oldest and largest craft breweries; Goose Island. Let us praise and raise a toast to sir John Barleycorn.

A spectacular setting sun illuminated the short, fun and upbeat set put forth by Corin Tucker and the Friends: Pete Buck, Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch, and Linda Pitmon. After that they had to cram into the van and bust out of Chicago for the drive to Cincinnati to make Saturday’s afternoon festival show.

Highly recommend catching thee Filthy Friends, should they make it out your neck of the woods. Considering the members of the Filthies and their varying schedules, it does make for a special occasion and/or a logistical nightmare to get all them Filthy Friends under the same roof for a house party.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.


The Hideout Block Party 9/23/17 Chicago

Chicago, IL.

Day 1 of a 2-day bash, and our man on the ground in the Windy City was there…


On the last weekend of September 2017, The Hideout, Chicago’s closest thing to a jook joint, celebrated its 21st year of being young; with a two-day block par-tee.

Saturday the 23rd, celebrated those near and dear to The Hideout, who were all born the same year Sputnik was launched. That included many people associated with the Hideout itself, most of the bands, and many of those on the block.

Chicago, IL.

This was a party to turn up guitars, possibly kill an amp or two and overindulge in homemade, “organic” popsicles, and of course various adult beverages.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Several bands were playing new music from recent releases notably, Jon Langford with Skull Orchard (Langford’s just-released Bloodshot album is Four Lost Souls) and Antietam (who self-issued their latest Motorific Sounds). Couple what the fuck moments were, the Condo Fucks set, of Ramones vs. Thee Headcoats-like covers. These rare to tour New Jersey surf punks (who bore a remarkable resemblance to fellow Jerseyites Yo La Tengo) got the kids dancin’ and just may have brought back the lost art of gobbing.

The final “fuck me what just happened” moment, was Eleventh Dream Day. They unloaded on the unsuspecting with such unholy vengeance slash rejuvenation slash unadulterated fun; that one began to think snakes were going to start falling out of the sky. Don’t believe anything has left the woodshed yet, but; when and if that something does, it may make you re-think your place on earth.

Chicago, IL.

Great kickoff to the two day par-tee.

Best wishes to all Sputniks (above) and the many other orbiters in R&R space.


Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Condo Fucks

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Eleventh Dream Day

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.



Widowspeak + Death Valley Girls 9/19/17, Denver

Dates: September 19, 2017

Location: Hi-Dive, Denver CO

Live at the Hi Dive…


Death Valley Girls are three gals and one guy who hail from El-Lay, but they might as well be from a different planet. At least the Squeaky Fromme singer. Oh she has a name, it’s Bonnie Bloomgarden and I guess on tour these folks do nothing but search out haunted places (I told ya’ they were weird!). Musically? They hit a sweet spot right where punk, bubblegum, garage, metal and space rock all collide, make out and go their seprarate ways (which makes them all feel so used). They’ve got  few records out on the Burger label so enter at your own risk (ah, you’ll befine, just drop some Pixie Stix before listening).

Widowspeak came back to town as I caught this hirsute quartet from Brooklyn, NY here a few years back and they all still look like Cousin It (except the singer, she’s way cuter than Cousin It). They just released their 4th full-length, Expect the Best, out on Captured Tracks label (like their previous three) and it’s in the same ballpark. They mine a territory that bands like Mazzy Star used to (or a band like Escondido currently does) as lead vocalist Molly Hamilton lays down a dark, soothing vibe while the rest of the band soothes the groove (especially guitarist Robert EarlThomas) while they blasted out dense cuts like “The Dream” and “Warmer” (both from said new record). This bunch won’t get your blood boiling but will help you dream a lovely dream.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists 9/14/17, Philadelphia

Dates: September 14, 2017

Location: Union Transfer, Philadelphia PA

Live at Union Transfer – once upon a time, a Spaghetti Warehouse.


“Good Evening Philadelphia! We’ve got a lot of songs to get through, so I’m not gonna talk too much,” pledged a dapper Ted Leo, taking the stage of Union Transfer, a former Spaghetti Warehouse turned stellar concert venue.

Thankfully, he didn’t keep his word as Leo, probably one of the most charming storytellers to come out of Jersey since Springsteen, peppered the set with a slew of self-deprecating jokes, one-offs and stories.

Kicking off the show with “Moon Out of Phase,” off his new album, The Hanged Man, Leo and his band played a fantastic collection of newer songs and classics, cramming two dozen tunes with plenty of Leo’s banter in between. The show was a homecoming of sorts for a bulk of the touring band who call Philly home (there was even a moment when Leo and his guitar player traded off their best Philly accents).

Though Leo has never been overtly political, the current administration and its policies managed to play a role in Thursday night’s show regardless.  “As you may imagine, it’s a weird time; it’s odder than usual to be out and exuberant, but thanks for having us,” he said early in the set to loud cheers.

Before launching into “Heart Problems,” of off Shake The Sheets, her lamented the move by the president and many in Congress to try and get rid of the Affordable Health Care Act which has given health insurances to millions. “We need to be expanding it, not denying it.”

Leo, on the stage solo for a handful of songs, also took time to acknowledge the death earlier that day of Grant Hart and the passing just a day before of Jessi Zazu, playing a beautiful cover of the Hart-penned Husker Du track “She Floated Away.”

More than two decades into their career, Ted Leo (along with his band) is not just doing ok, he’s hitting his creative stride, managing to be both a better musician and fantastic showman.

2017 Americana Music Festival & Conference 9/12 – 9/17, Nashville

“Now that’s Americana!” This year’s festival and conference offers more to adore. View a photo gallery following the text.


If the Americana Festival and Conference proves anything, it’s that anything and everything born of genuine roots can be classified as Americana. It doesn’t matter whether it originates from the heartland, the swamps of the south, the outer reaches of California, the mountains of Appalachia, or as far afield as the Australian outback and the urban and rural expanses of the U.K. A showcase for literally hundreds of acts, each competing for attention in more than three dozen venues, various onsite events, as well as assorted record shops, restaurants and boutiques, it challenges attendees to figure out how to place themselves in several locations at the same time, a daunting proposition given the fact that music occurs simultaneously and decisions must be made.

Not surprisingly then, the Americana Music Festival is ideal for those with quick attention spans, eagerness and impatience. For all others, it takes planning, sound strategy, dexterity and a willingness to make the most of five days filled with ongoing entertainment. In exchange, it offers the opportunity to see both icons and artists of international stature, a diverse contingent that this year alone included Van Morrison, Graham Nash, Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris, The Blind Boys of Alabama, John Prine, Robert Cray, Kasey Chambers, Colin Hay, Robyn Hitchcock, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, Jon Langford, and Lee Ann Womack, to name but a scant few.

It’s a large and durable umbrella, this thing they call Americana, and summing it up succinctly is an impossible feat even for those with broad imaginations. As artist and compere Jim Lauderdale is fond of saying, “Now that’s Americana!”

While every day and evening boasts highlights of every description, the awards presentation on the second night of the fest is one of the most prestigious music ceremonies one might ever witness. Simply put, it rivals anything the Grammys have to offer, at least as far as coolness is concerned. Where else can you catch Graham Nash harmonizing with the Milk Carton Kids on an old Every Brothers chestnut or John Prine doling out honors to an emotional Iris Dement and before joining her for a duet? With a house band led and directed by the great Buddy Miller — absent this year but ably subbed for by the equally prolific Larry Campbell — there are stars galore crowding the legendary Ryman stage.

That said, the Americana Festival does not differentiate between artist and enthusiast. Hanging out at an event like the Compass Records annual open house or spending the evening enjoying a live broadcast of the syndicated show Music City Roots at the Yee-Haw tent practically guarantees you’ll run into someone of renown. We found that to be true even on arrival, courtesy of a luncheon with John Oates, who was as amicable as anyone can be while promoting a new project. Likewise, there’s little in the way of barriers between back stage and front, and during our stay, we had opportunity to chat with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kasey Chambers, Colin Hay, Willie Nile, Jonathan Byrd, and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. Everyone is especially gracious in these relaxed environs, allowing for especially cool connections.

Aside from the idols, the festival provides a great opportunity to catch artists on the way up. We were fortunate enough to see the young Aussie duo Falls, whose sweet harmonies and bewitching melodies prove nothing less than utterly enticing. Two young Americans from Austin Texas, Max Gomez and David Ramirez, were equally worthy of attention, two strong singer songwriters with an authority and presence that extends far beyond their relatively modest ages. Three rockier ensembles, Deer Tick, Band of Heathens and Reckless Kelly literally shook the rafters in their own individual performances, while Matthew Ryan, normally calm and composed on record, showed he could also rock with a ferocity that had the crowd taking notice. There were numerous others as well — The Wild Ponies, a husband wide duo that served up superb songs from their new Galax, the amazingly talented songstress Becky Warren and extraordinarily entertaining Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy, an ever-exuberant Korby Lenker, and a superb Scotsman Dean Owens, all of whom proved themselves well worthy of recognition. Those on an exploratory mission will always find ample rewards.

Indeed, then it comes to rising stars, the English and the Aussies are especially well represented. Each contingent host showcases that are consistent must-sees. The Bootleg BBQ in particular, held on the back lawn of The Groove record store, becomes one of the best attended events of the festival. Sponsored by the British Underground, it’s an outstanding opportunity to spotlight some of Britain’s most dynamic up and coming artists within the umbrella of international Americana. This year, the dynamic and irrepressible Yola Carter, sisterly trio Wildwood Kin and the charismatic Danni Nicholls were among those that wowed the crowd, with special guests Angaleena Presley ensuring the connection between the U.K. and the U.S.A. remains as unbreakable a bond as always. There were also star sightings — with Jim Lauderdale checking out the action and Indigo Girl Amy Ray braving the heat and obviously enjoying the entire afternoon. And the barbecue ain’t bad either.

While entertainment is a priority for most, it ought to be noted that Festival and Conference also offers educational opportunities. The Country Music Hall of Fame provides an ongoing series of themed exhibits that trace the music’s evolution from past to present, and during the festival, there are special gatherings well worth attending. Two in particular were an intimate discussion and acoustic performance from Allison Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynne, who were celebrating the release of their first collaborative effort, and a program devoted to Southern Roots, specifically, a salute to the legacy of the late Gregg Allman and his band of brothers.

When all is said and done, the Americana Fest is most appreciated as an opportunity to immerse oneself in the best the genre has to offer. It offers a chance to stay ahead of the curve, to be a part of a musical movement that’s making its impact worldwide. Ultimately, it’s a community, one that provides opportunity to make new friends, reconnect with old friends and share in the celebration of sound with immense populist appeal.

Indeed, as Mr. Lauderdale sums it up so succinctly, “Now that’s Americana!”


Marty Stuart getting the Duo/Group of the Year Award at  The 16th Annual AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium on 9/13/17

Webb Wilder at NPR Music Live from the YeeHaw Tent on 9/15/17

Lindi Ortega at The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, Nashville on 9/16/17

Yola Carter at The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, Nashville on 9/16/17

Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy at The Station Inn, Nashville on 9/15/17

Angaleena Presley at The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, Nashville on 9/16/17

The Falls from Australia at SoulShine Pizza Factory, Nashville 9/16/17

A.J Croce at Compass Records 9/13/17

Sam Outlaw at Mercy Lounge, Nashville 9/13/17

Harrow Fair at Outlaws and Gunslingers Luncheon at the American Legion Post 82, Nashville 9/14/17

Jim Lauderdale at The Music City Roots at the YeeHaw Tent, Nashville 9/14/17

Ray Wylie Hubbard at NPR Music Live from the YeeHaw Tent 9/15/17

Taasha Coates at A Taste of Australia at the Filming Station, 9/15/17

Kasey Chambers at A Taste of Australia at the Filming Station 9/15/17

Poco’s Rusty Young at the Filming Station, Nashville 9/15/17


Colin Hay At City Winery, Nashville 9/12/17

John Oates & Lee Ann Womack at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Winning the Emerging Artist of the Year Award – Amanda Shires @AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Graham Nash and The Milk Carton Boys at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires performing at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Emmylou Harris at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Lukas Nelson at Cannery Ballroom, Nashville 9/13/17

Whitney Rose at Outlaws and Gunslingers Luncheon at the American Legion Post 82 9/14/17






Riot Fest 9/15-16-17/17, Chicago

Dates: September 15, 16 & 17, 2017

Location: Douglas Park, Chicago IL

The scene of the 3-day crime was Douglas Park, and Detective Bruce was on the crime scene immediately to document the bloodshed. (Go HERE to check out more of her photos.) They may still be cleaning up the mosh pit area….



Another September, another excellent Riot Fest ran this past Friday to Sunday in Chicago. Under sunny (but at times really, really hot) skies, crowds took over Douglass Park, raring to get its rock on. A number of bands played seminal records in full like Dinosaur Jr (You’re Living All Over Me), Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Let’s Face It), Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)), among others. But the big, special, super cool, and awesome highlight was what Riot Fest always seems to do best, and that’s to get a seminal band to reunite and close out the weekend. This year, it was Jawbreaker. One of the best summations of the show was by music critic Dan Ozzi who tweeted, “People tweeting about the Emmys like Jawbreaker didn’t just put a hole in the fuckin earth.”

 Here’s a bit about what we saw at Riot Fest 2017:

Day 1

American Airlines lost part of my luggage, so much of the day on Friday was spent waiting for its return then, recreating my bag at CVS when it failed to show. (FYI: CVS in Chicago sells liquor and wine, who knew!) As such, we only got a couple acts in for Day 1, but boy, were they mighty.


“Hey Chicago, nice to be home,” said Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen, who grew up there. It was kind of surreal seeing a band like Ministry play any other time but the dead of night somewhere, but the heaviness and political commentary that Jourgensen is known for was out in full force. I found myself wondering if he has a bear of a time going through security scanners at the airport (LOTS of piercings).

New Order

The crowd for New Order was delighted that the band filled half of its 11-song set with the popular stuff like “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and songs from popular records like Power, Corruption, and Lies and Substance 1987. Lead singer Bernard Sumner’s voice is still strong, a lulling force atop the electronic lullabies for which the band is famous. They didn’t play it all safe though, pulling out “Ultraviolence,” a song Sumner said they hadn’t played in a long time, in spite of it having to be stopped and restarted to adjust guitarist Phil Cunningham’s guitar. Bathed in blue light with photos of what looked like Manchester showing behind them, Sumner also gave a nod to his old band, Joy Division, at the start and end of the set, with “Disorder” and then “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” I’m sure the young 20-something I saw bawling during the latter was not the only one in the crowd doing so.

Nine Inch Nails

NIN was the headliner for night one, and lead man Trent Reznor made sure it was dramatic throughout. From a kicked over keyboard over at the end of the first song (“Branches/Bones”), to the live debut of “The Backward World,” to “The Day the World Went Away” played for the first time in four years, Reznor and the band filled all of Douglass Park with keyboard and bass sounds. He even included a unique cover, David Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away” from Blackstar. It was all as loud and lovely and bombastic a set as you could want.


Day 2:

Probably the highest in high energy of all three days, it was full of punk, funk, and dancing gypsies.


Seeing Fishbone live is a better kick to the nervous system than three cups of coffee and 38 Red Bulls combined, so why wouldn’t one kick off Day 2 with something so awesome? Their combination of punk, funk, and soul has long been copied, but nothing can ever touch the original that is the mighty Fishbone.


I’ve never been much for electronica music but Peaches is so much more than just that; she’s part performance art, part DJ, plus, she can sing her ass off. Her “big fat vagina” as she called it, was the celebrated part of her set, from her head piece, to her backup dancer costumes, to her bodysuit adorned with pink fuzz in the correct spot. But it was obvious that women and men alike love Peaches-at one point, she walked atop the crowd’s hands like Jesus walking on water, without dropping a note. With songs like “Boys Wanna Be Her,” “Dick in the Air, and “Fuck the Pain Away,” it struck me that Peaches is to women what the music of the Afghan Whigs is to dudes-affirming, powerful, and sexy as all get out.


It’s been a few years since FIDLAR released a record, but, like all good things, time has only proven how much their straight-ahead punk rock sound has been missed. Always joyous and raucous live, Saturday afternoon’s set was fast, loud, and animated. Lead singer Zac Carper looks healthy and sounds great, and made the large Riot stage area as intimate as a little LA club. “Wake, Bake, Skate” live is still a blast to hear.

Bad Brains

If anyone proves the power of “having that PMA,” for 40 years, it’s the Bad Brains. Given the recent health scares of lead singer H.R. (brain surgery in Feb) and guitarist Dr. Know (cardiac arrest in 2015), D.C.ers like myself were more than a little concerned that the sun had set on one of our most cherished local bands. But their show on Saturday proved all was well, in spite of less than stellar stage sound. A young second guitarist, apparently, the grandson of musician Richie Havens, played lead with Dr. Know throughout the set, and Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe joined the band at the end for “Big Takeover,” “The Regulator,” and “Redbone in the City.”

Mike D (DJ set)

Mike D used his set to give Chicago a little musical geography lesson about NYC, rapping and talking as his DJ spun the originals of artists from each borough. He started with his hometown of Manhattan using the Beastie Boys “Sabotage.” Queens was represented by Run DMC, to which he said, “”We couldn’t have done what we did without this next band from Hollis, Queens, Run DMC. RIP Mr. Jam Master.” Brooklyn got the biggest cheers though with Jay Z’s “99 Problems” and the Beastie’s “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” home of another Beastie Boy, MCA.

Gogol Bordello

Going from NYC rap to Ukrainian gypsy punk by way of NYC in the form of Gogol Bordello as the sun was setting was slightly surreal and perfect. The dancing onstage and off was so frenzied, I half expected to someone to spontaneously combust at some point. With members and influences from all over the world, Gogol Bordello remains the craziest live show in town.

At the Drive In

No less powerful was At the Drive In. Lead singer Cedric Bixler jumped off the drum set and threw his body about the Roots stage so hard, you know bruises the next day were eminent. The majority of the set came from Relationship of Command rather than the new record, in*ter a*li*a, and, if you’re wondering, Bixler’s voice seems to be back and in stellar form.


The bluesy, swampy rock that is Queens of the Stone Age was hard-driving and perfect way to cap off Day 2. Lead singer Josh Homme rocked, and rolled, and even gave the audience a rendition of Danzig’s “Mother” which was frankly, better than the original.


Day 3:

A little less punk, a little more post punk pogo!


Beach Slang

The things we learned about Beach Slang lead singer James Alex in their 12:40 PM set that kicked off Day 3:

-He’d been drinking since early that day

-He does better with straws (in a drink)

-No guitar can hold him

-He somehow doesn’t pass out wearing a buttoned-up tuxedo shirt and a corduroy jacket in direct 86 degree sunlight

-He knows how to play a cover that will win your heart (“Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” by Grant Hart)

Hot Water Music

Lead singer Chuck Ragan’s voice is one of those that as soon as you hear it, you know who it is. You had to smile as that sandpaper scrubbed growl bounced off the Ferris wheel and hit you back again.

Mighty Bosstones (Performing Let’s Face It)

Ska music never really goes out of style, it just merges with other styles to take on a different form. 90s ska was infused with a bit more post punk than before, and a major force of that was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It, lead singer Dicky Barrett and company brought the plaid, the killer horns, those great songs, and of course, their great stage dancing guy, Ben Carr, to get a whole new generation skanking to the Bosstones beat.

Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear? Minus the energy. Songs? Good. Stage presence? So so. Energy level? Zzzzz

GWAR (candids in the press area)

The minute GWAR walked into the press area in costume, they were surrounded by everyone and their cell phones requesting to take a photo (including TV on the Radio lead singer Tunde” Adebimpe, which was a wonderfully random  dichotomy). It got so that their handler had to ask that people stop so that they could actually attend their interviews. Once completed though, the band did hang out for a bit and posed for every last person who asked.

Built to Spill

Another band performing an anniversary record was Built to Spill, doing their fourth record, Keep it Like a Secret. They didn’t say much from the stage, but this post-punk version of a jam band didn’t have to; from the first incredible hooks of vocalist/guitarist Dough Martsch in “The Plan” to the ethereal trippiness of “Broken Chairs” was all you needed. Their performance made me fall in love all over again.


I’ve photographed TV on the Radio quite a few times since 2008, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen them as energetic as Sunday’s set. (Seriously: Even the notoriously stationary guitarist Kyp Malone was pogoing about at times.) Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe jumped around and swayed so much it was like he was trying to exorcise any nearby demons straight into the ether. And, based on the scorching version of “Wolf Like Me” which closed the set, I’d say the exorcism was a total success.

Prophets of Rage

Tom Morello once told Rolling Stone about Prophets of Rage,  “We’re an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing.” And he wasn’t kidding. The sound was so intense coming off the Roots stage during their set  that even J. Mascis would have been jealous. Playing tracks by the collective bands that are represented in Prophets of Rage-Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill-had the capacity crowd pogoing in unison like they were at Glastonbury. The audience was so frenzied and so loud, especially during the “Fuck no, I won’t do what they tell me” chorus in the set ending “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine, I was certain that aliens on Mars were asking each other, “What the hell is that sound?” Make America Rage Again indeed.


Probably the first sign of how big a deal this Jawbreaker reunion was to people was seeing the sides of the Riot Stage prior to the set, all so packed with people standing to watch the show, it almost seemed dangerous. But this was a reunion few expected to happen. In front of a giant “Jawbreaker” curtain, the trio slammed into 15 tracks that sounded just as fresh today as they did 20-plus years ago, including  five that were last performed live between 1995 and 1996 (“Want,” Million,” “Parabola, “Kiss the Bottle,” and “Bivouac”). Much like at The Replacements show a few years ago, I ran out of fingers and toes counting the sheer number of bands playing today whose sound was obviously influenced by Jawbreaker. And the band seemed genuinely awed by the reception and thanked Riot Fest for making the reunion happen.”We are honored and humbled to be in your city. Dance and be nice,” said Jawbreaker lead singer Blake Schwarzenbach.


Boy, did that park dance.


Erica Bruce’s contact info and gallery of Riot Fest can be viewed HERE.