Category Archives: live review

KALAMASHOEGAZER FESTIVAL 11/10/18, Kalamazoo, MI

The eclectic, eccentric multi-band event was held, appropriately enough, at Bell’s Eccentric Café. Pictured above: Springhouse.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

I had never been to Kalamazoo before. Heck, I had never been to Michigan before but a one-day music festival with 8 bands seemed as good as any to make the flight and visit the Wolverine State (or whatever the heck it is). April and her small group of dedicated music fans (April Zimont is/was in the fab band Glowfriends and now the same folks have a new band called Tambourina which played on this very night) have been putting the festival on since 2006 and do a damn good job of running it. It ran like clockwork and everyone had a good time (no frowns) and at tix at $15 it was a steal (they could/should have charged twice that much).

My old friends Tears Run Rings were on the bill, as was Jack Rabid’s NYC band Springhouse (you know Jack from his long-running, legendary mag The Big Takeover) so yeah, I pretty much had to go.

The weather was cold and snowy, but Bell’s Eccentric Café was warm, cozy and inviting and seemed a popular place for both locals and folks like me coming in to see the festival. The bands played in a nice sized room that has touring bands as well (Anna Burch was playing the next night). There was also a bar in the back, food service (tasty grub!) and they even had a small balcony upstairs (where I caught part of the show from).

Up first was Milwaukee’s Brief Candles (above) who I’d heard some tunes before but not a lot and they were perfect openers, getting the crowd lubed up.  They’ve been around for a looong time and have a classic shoegaze sound (big hooks). Check out their Bandcamp page sometime.

Seashine took the stage next and they were a quartet from St. Louis (Demi, Paul, Seth and Kate) with a real positively dreamy sound that was real easy to like. I’m gonna look for some of their stuff (only some tunes on Soundcloud from what I’ve seen).

Kalamazoo’s own Tambourina was up next and kicked the tempo up a bit while vocalist April bounced all over the stage (not sure where she gets her energy from). I really enjoyed their soaring set that really had the crowd bouncing.

Though I’ve been a fan of Tears Run Rings for ages I had never seen them play live and they did not disappoint. Playing a few cuts off their new EP (Somewhere) as well as a healthy dose of tunes from their entire catalog. They really had the crowd swaying and hypnotized.

Sacramento’s Soft Science (Test Pattern Records) had a few equipment problems but once those got sorted out (Katie’s vocals were hard to hear at the beginning) that didn’t stop them from putting on a terrific set, mostly of cuts off their righteous, recently-released LP,  Maps. Well worth your time.

Chicago’s Airiel, a trio with a handful of records out on Shelflife (and a bevy of fx pedals) brought in a bit of a heavier sound and had the crowd eating out of their hand.

Springhouse came armed with some merch and a seriously good set. Now a quartet with the addition of Dave Burokas on 2nd guitar (Dave was the editor of old killer NJ zine Sporadic Droolings….fun fact: he gave DAGGER my first ever review!). We heard “Eskimo,” “Land Falls” and plenty more old faves and drummer  Jack Rabid has not lost a step on his drum kit).

Texas trio Ringo Deathstarr showed up a little later but the packed house were ready and they did not disappoint either.  I don’t believe they’ve released a record since 2015’s Pure Mood, but they dug deep into their grab bag of songs and killed it. Adding some fun and humor whilst chatting with the crowd and totally delivering until the wee hours.

***

It all ended about 1:00 AM and I had an early flight so I had to say a few quick goodbyes and cut out but it was well worth it. Great bands, nice people, a well run mini-festival all around…not much more you could ask for, really.  I will be back one day. …thank you Kalamashoegazer, you know how to put on a festival!

BRONCHO – 11/2/18 Nashville & 12-8-18 Atlanta

Twice the rocking’ and twice the fun!

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

The band Broncho is currently on tour promoting their latest LP “Bad Behavior” and I was lucky enough to catch two recent club shows with the band of artsy upstart rockers.

Nashville, TN
Basement East
November 2nd, 2018

Broncho’s music and stage show can be moody, dark, strangely upbeat, usually melodic, and always catchy.  For all the dark atmospheric stage lighting, they do bring the hooks, bounce, and beat.

Atlanta, Ga
Masquerade
December 8th, 2018

 

Broncho is front guy Ryan Lindsey, Nathan Price, Ben King, and Penny Pitchlynn on bass and who usually catches the best light, hence her prominence in these photos.  The band calls Norman, OK home and why not?  The new LP “Bad Behavior” is garnering great reviews, and said to be more pop than previous records, and that can’t hurt anything since the band’s signature mood, quirks, and scrappy rock are all still there.  I considered their 2015 release “Just Enough Hip to Be a Woman” to be on the pop-side so what do I know?  My favorite from that release ‘Class Historian’ is a modern classic.  Look up those videos, songs, as well as current and future tour dates here:  http://broncho.tv/

Check out more of John’s work on Instagram: @johnboydstonphoto

FOO FIGHTERS 10/12/18, Kansas City

Live at the aptly named Sprint Center—because the band not only sprints nonstop, it gallops! (Photo credit: Brantley Gutierrez.)

By Danny R. Phillips

I saw it with my own two eyes this past Friday night in Kansas City; the transformation is now complete. Sprawling stadium hero guitar solos, a drum riser that raised twenty feet in the air for a drum solo from the superb Taylor Hawkins, Dave working the crowd like a rock god carnival barker on speed.  It’s true, it has come to fruition: Foo Fighters are my generation’s Led Zeppelin.  The band’s bombast and control of the stage rivals any of the giants of the 1970’s, kicking you in the face one minute, soothing you with a ballad the next.

Over the past 25 years, I have seen The Fighters of Foo go from a band born of grief at the loss of Dave Grohl’s band mate and friend Kurt Cobain, creating from the maelstrom a self-recorded album meant to be for only his friends, a record where Grohl played all the instruments (except for The Afghan Whigs Greg Dulli’s appearance with his guitar on the track “X-Static”), I’ve stayed with the band through good records and not so great ones, I’ve seen them go from 1,500 seat rooms to the 18,000 strong packed into The Sprint Center like so many sardines.  I’ve seen guitarists come, go and in the case of former Germs great Pat Smear, come back again, I’ve sat through hiatuses, rumors of break ups and numerous Grohl side projects as I waited patiently for more Foo Fighters.

I have witnessed the trading in of original drummer William Goldsmith for the nearly bionic Taylor Hawkins and the retirement of Smear for Franz Stahl, former member with Grohl in Scream. Through it all, I’ve stayed diligent in my resolve when it comes to Grohl and Company; every time I get the chance to see the spectacle of Foo, I’ve never left disappointed.  This night in October would be no different, in fact it would be one of the best performances (and longest, clocking in at just over 3 hours) I’ve had the pleasure to see.

Stacked at the start with three new tracks from the 2017 record Concrete and Gold “Sky is a Neighborhood,” “Run,” and “La Dee Da,” the Foos then tore through a career spanning set that included “Walk,” from Wasting Light “This is a Call,” “Monkeywrench,” “The Pretender,” “Learn to Fly,” Van Halen’s “Jump” to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” with Smear showing his punk rock guitar chops and Taylor Hawkins trading places with Dave behind the drums to provide startlingly well done Freddie Mercury lead vocals on the Queen classic “Under Pressure” with Dave returning to the drum throne where he will always be king, a treat even if it for just one song and jamming Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” with a seven year old kid on lead guitar, after which Dave gave the kid his guitar.  Each one of their albums were represented in the 25-song set, giving new and old fans alike a taste of what they wanted, sending everyone home happy.  Closing the show with a stirring rendition of “Everlong” from The Colour and the Shape.

Underneath all the trappings of the stadium rock show (the solos, illuminating the darkness of the Sprint Center with cell phones, the stories between songs, the banter), Foo Fighters are still a band that comes to rock, Dave’s nearly 50 year old voice screaming like a kid, never phoning it in, always giving the fans what they want, making sure to cover all the moments that give the concertgoer something to remember.  The shows are never boring, the audience never slighted.  This night, like many nights over the past two decades, gave me things I’ll remember and talk about for years to come.

Dave Grohl proved to me once again that he is the showman for a generation.  Standing tall above the rest, never running out of gas and always leaving you wanting more.  Two questions swim around my mind as I write this: will I ever realize my dream of interviewing Dave and when in the fuck will they play “Wattershed” live again? There’s always next time…

 

Billy Idol 9/28/18, Nashville

Dates: Billy Idol

Location: Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel, Nashville TN

A rebel yell was heard echoing through the Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel in Music City USA.

Text & Photos by Mark Jackson

Billy Idol has been out touring and sounding as great as ever with the release of  his remix collection Vital Idol: Revitalized. It has fifteen tracks remixed by such artist as Moby, Crystal Method, Paul Oakenfold, and others.

On the same day as the release Billy preformed at the Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel in Nashville, TN, to an ecstatic fan base. Billy and the boys put on a hell of a show that kept the fans on their feet all night while dancing, singing, and jumping. Billy was looking and sounding as sharp as he did in the ‘80s, and Steve Stevens was still up to his old tricks, playing the guitar behind his head and with his teeth without missing a chord.

If Billy F**king Idol comes to your town, make sure you grab a ticket, give a “Rebel Yell” and sing along all night to his ageless hits…

Visit our ace photographer Mark Jackson: @MarkJacksonPhotography1

 

Clutch + Sevendust 10/21/18, Pittsburgh

Dates: October 21, 2018

Location: Strage AE, Pittsburgh, PA

Heavier-than-heavy heroes systematically dismantle the Stage AE venue and leave it in pieces on a chilly fall evening…

BY TIFFINI TAYLOR

A chill in the air as people were going into Stage AE in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to see Clutch and Sevendust. Book of Bad Decisions Tour is making its way all around the country. The name of the tour comes from their newest release Book of Bad Decisions. Clutch has been around for quite a long time in the music world. Their style of rock is what makes rock ‘n’ roll. Joining them out on the road is Sevendust and Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. This is a magical tour that any fan of rock will enjoy. This line-up will have one’s horns up, one’s head banging, and one’s heart pounding.

Taking to the stage first is Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown. If one has not seen this band live, put it on bucket list now. The guitar riffs are intense. The band has great energy. The guitar solos will make one’s heart melt. The charisma of Tyler Bryant makes for an entertaining evening that is rock. The band brings a bluesy rock to the masses. Guitar solo overload with this band. Sliding across the stage on knees while playing and not missing a note, Tyler Bryant is taking notes from guitarists past.

Sevendust took to the stage with a loud roar from the crowd. Coming from Georgia, these guys know how to rock! Their newest release is titled ‘All I See Is War’ and it is truly Sevendust doing what they do best. The show tonight is heart pounding rock from a band that hasn’t lost their southern roots. The use of red and white lights amongst the throbbing of drums, roaring bass and guitars, topped with a fiery voice makes for a show to head bang to. They are a band who love their fans dearly and always give their best show no matter where they play. Sevendust is a great way to get ready for Clutch.

Clutch is a band that puts everything out there and takes nothing back. The band has been around for 25 years and has been rocking out everywhere. The Book of Bad Decision tour is not a bad decision by no means. It is pure an organic rock while head banging fun. Clutch has a powerful command of the stage. Their talented musicians who know what to do to make an audience go wild. Looking for good hard rock, Clutch is the band to look to.  Red, white, blue and yellow lights rained down upon the band while they played only added to the excitement for the audience. The charisma of Clutch is over the top powerhouse. Each note played in its perfection is with a force to bring the connection of the band and the audience as close as can be. The reaction of the crowd to this energetic band shows what die-hard fans Clutch has developed over the years.  Each record brings more and more new fans, hopefully new bands are taking notes. There are no disappointments when seeing Clutch live. It appears the band should live on the stage. The music is harsh, brash, and mellow all at the same time.  The guys in Clutch play because they love the music, not only that they love their fans more. The tour name is the name of their new release Book of Bad Decisions and it fits so well. The album is great as well as the tour.

Clutch and Sevendust prove how hard work, not giving up and growing with the music give it longevity. They are not just a band that they play in, they are family. Touring on the road is not easy for any band but when there are three bands that pour their hearts into the show it is worth everything to their fans. The Book of Bad Decisions tour is one not to be missed. Three powerful performances which make for a magical and memorable night of rock.

Exclusive Video: Jah Wobble & Invaders of the Heart Live Brooklyn 10/26/18

TEXT, PHOTOS, & VIDEO BY JONATHAN LEVITT

On October 26th Jah Wobble and his Invaders of the Heart took the stage at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere club and proceeded to give one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. The crowd was made up of mainly music industry insiders and a smattering of musicians from both the US and Japan.  Jah Wobble who was the bassist for PIL was not only hilarious with his banter but fronted a smoking hot group of musicians that just blew me away.

The drummer was pure military precision, and extremely versatile as well. The guitarist could play anything and make it sound great. The keyboardist was a virtuoso on the instrument and perfectly punctuated certain moments in the songs. Jah showed what an amazing player he is as well veering from dub, to the world music transcendental meditations to a bit of comedy between numbers. Jah even managed to throw some PIL songs into the mix.

 

The show ended with Bill Laswell joining the Invaders of the heart for two songs of throb-heavy psychedelic jazzified mind-bending music. The sound in the club was amazing. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I could hear every instrument tunneling through to me. The mix was incredible because as the sounds hit you they morphed into this groovy organic mass that made you wanna live forever in the moment.

Through the kindness of Jah’s people I was able to get some incredible footage, below, to share with Blurt readers. Jah is currently recording his new album with Bill Laswell in New Jersey. If you get a chance to see Señor Wobble in concert it is an unforgettable experience.

 

Rhett Miller 10/6/18, Philadelphia

Dates: October 6, 2018

Location: Ardmore Music Hall, Philadelphia PA

Live at Ardmore Music Hall near Philly, the Old 97’s frontman showed off his impressive solo chops.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Rhett Miller seems to be on a constant loop of record/tour/repeat.

Having just put out Graveyard Whistling, the latest from his main gig in Old 97’s last year, followed by a fairly exhaustive tour, he went to work on his soon-to-be released solo effort The Messenger (due out Nov. 9), and is already on a solo tour again before the album comes out. He somehow managed to squeeze in an Old 97’s holiday record that they will tour behind in just a couple of months, as well.

That being said, Miller was still in full entertainer mode just a few miles outside of Philly in the small, but impressively booked Ardmore Hall (a cool, intimate venue that manages to lure everyone from Fishbone and George Clinton to Willie Nile and a Hall-less John Oates). Miller commented on the venue after a fantastically-spirited version of “Our Love”.

“We were driving near the venue and I thought, well this is a really beautiful part of town, we’re so close to Philly proper, but I couldn’t figure out where we were” recalled Miller. “At that point I watched a really cute girl trying to turn left. Then this guy behind her yells out, ‘No left turn, asshole!’ Then I realized I was in Philly.”

And just like that, the crowd was enamored with Miller. It didn’t hurt that he reeled through one great song after another, pulling from across his half-a-dozen-deep solo catalog and many of the Old 97s greats. Miller managed to hold the crowd’s attention through a 20-song set, in a stripped-down setting, with just him and an acoustic guitar.

He even previewed a new song from the Old 97’s forthcoming Holiday record. The loudest singalongs came at the end when Miller played a remarkable cover of Petty’s “American Girl” that segued into the Old 97’s “Time Bomb.” If Miller is exhausted from the constant write/record/tour routine, he showed absolutely no signs of that weariness in Philly. A remarkable show from start to finish.

A ROTTEN PROPOSITION: Public Image Ltd. Live in Atlanta

At Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse on October 10, The Artist Formerly Known As Johnny Rotten brought his PiL.2018 to his Peach State fans, some of whom were no doubt on hand all those years ago when a certain British punk band made its American debut….

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON

John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. are in high gear with “The Public Image is Rotten North American” tour, and in damn fine form if their 2nd stop – in Atlanta, Ga – is any indication.   Shows are selling out, and this one looked to be as well.  Check out upcoming PiL shows and dates here:  http://www.pilofficial.com/shows.html

The band is celebrating its 40 years of music with a world tour, a career-spanning CD & Vinyl box set release “The Public Image is Rotten,” and a new doc by the same name.  Current PiL lineup is Lydon, Lu Edmonds (guitar), Scott Firth (bass) and Bruce Smith (drums).

The former Johnny Rotten formed PiL in 1979 immediately following the demise of The Sex Pistols, going for a more ‘anti-rock’ avant-garde thing.  He’s been the only constant member of a band delivering 10-studio LPs over the years.   As lineups evolved, so has the music, crunching about any genre you can name into a unique and original meld.   Lydon is 62, older and ever-the-wiser.  PiL’s music still vital and relevant.  And you gotta go.

(And if you’re looking at these photos, I don’t know what the trash can is doing on stage.)

 

Follow John Boydston on Instagram – @johnboydstonphotos

 

Hopscotch Festival 9/6 – 9/8/18, Raleigh NC

Dates: September 6 - 8, 2018

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

At various downtown venues, the nationally-touted indie music festival brought the noise and demonstrated why it is, indeed, “touted.” Go HERE to view a gallery of some of the weekend’s performers.

BY DANIEL MATTI & CHIP KLOSS

Another year of Hopscotch shakes up Raleigh as the festival marks its 9th year in a row. From City Plaza to Red Hat Amphitheatre to bouncing around the other 10 venues in play, it became another year of running around to catch a favorite band or stumbling into one and discovering something that you might not normally see.

From the first night, where H.C. McEntire, Real Estate, and The Flaming Lips rocked City Plaza, to the tons of conflicts at 11:30pm with the tough choice in seeing Sleep, U.S. Girls, Kilbourne, Waxahatchee, Deaf Wish, House and Land, Yawpers, or Everything is Terrible!, I was able to catch three acts (Sleep, Waxahatchee, and Everything is Terrible!). Because that’s all my legs could muster up that night.

Second night started off with a somber note as Thundercat took the stage and dedicated his set to his friend Mac Miller who passed away earlier that morning. From someone who has seen Thundercat a couple times you could tell he was affected by the passing of Mac since most of his set was a freestyle jam of most of his songs—which ended up being one of the greatest sets I’ve ever seen during this annual festival. After leaving City Plaza I got to catch local cello-core greats, Gown absolutely destroy Slims, and then The Revolution turn The Basement into a sing-a-long dance party that went on late into the night. After so much dancing I managed to get into the Pour House to catch the tail end of a stunning set from Swearin’.

The final night had me dragging my feet, as there was not much that I was completely dying to see, I actually ended up gathering energy and catching more acts than a usual final night of a festival—from Chic and MC50 putting on some of the best sets of the weekend of the big stages, to Sarah Shook and the Disarmers and Negative Gemini waking you up with their stunning performances with late night sets.

Now that Hopscotch has finished another chapter, I look forward to next year. It always brings its warmth with every band, not to mention every friend in the area who comes out to see their favorite band and mostly to discover a whole lot of new ones. —Daniel Matti

***

If you live in Raleigh, September means two things: (1) When the hell is this heat going to end? (2) Hopscotch Music Fest.

Raleigh’s premier festival chugs into its ninth year with three days of music and good times. Having attended before, I understand the steps leading up to the event. Things begin months before the festival with Innuendo, gossip and rumors of who will be appearing. Weeks later comes the official headliners announcement, followed by support announcements. Next up is the release of the official schedule.  Hours spent highlighting the bands you want to see, grumbling about the timing conflicts. Can I make it from Slim’s to the Lincoln Theatre in time? The final step is abandoning the highlighted schedule and just winging it. Going from venue to venue, taking chances on bands you have never heard. One of the greatest joys of Hopscotch is you will always walk away digging a band that 3 hours ago was unknown to you. Perhaps my favorite part of the Fest is running into friends. This year I ran into people I have not spoken to in years. That alone is worth the price of admission. Life sometimes gets in the way, relationships falter a little but music is the element that always brings us together. Regardless of your political, religious or spiritual beliefs, with Hopscotch you are always surrounded by non-judgmental people who are there for the same reason you are….the love of the music.

Thursday

I felt this year’s fest was a little light on both the metal and hip-hop artists. The bulk of the metal shows were Thursday at The Basement. A cavernous open space beneath the Raleigh Civic Center, The Basement held simply a stage and a mixing board. The venue was the size of a few football fields and most likely lived its life as a storage area the rest of the year. But for now, it was Heavy Metal Central. Raleigh metal masters Bedowyn began the evening with a blistering 40 minute set, bolstered by the lead shredding of Mark Peters.  As the band finished I was greeted by some friends who were goIng to see The Flaming Lips. My plan was to stay in The Basement all evening, but who can pass up seeing The Lips? We made our way to City Plaza, packing a few thousand people. I am not the biggest Lips fan, but I do enjoy their theatrics. As usual at a Lips show, the crowd was entertained by batting giant balls and balloons around. I pushed my way through and slapped a balloon as well. I think that makes me an Official Flaming Lips fan. I headed back to The Basements and caught the remaining 2 songs of the set from Grohg. A few minutes of roadies, and a few more people pushed up towards me (I was in the front row against the barricades). The band Skeletonwitch then took the stage. This band has had its share of issues. They booted out their original singer in 2016 and replaced him with Adam Clemans. Not many bands can replace the singer and come out it bigger, badder and louder.  The show they put on was amazing, a lesson to any young rockers in the crowd. I knew I had a lot more Hopscotch to go, but I knew this was going to be one of the best performances.  I was completely enthralled by this band. Simply a phenomenal show. They eventually yielded the stage to the legendary Sleep. This may have been the loudest show I have ever attended. Front row was far too brutal of an assault on my ears, so I made my way to the back of the venue. That did not really help, so I went to the stairs leading to the venue, a good 200 feet from the stage. That was a lot more comfortable, and is where I rode out the rest of the band’s set.

Friday

The afternoon began with the news of the untimely passing of rapper Mac Miller. The headliner at City Plaza that night was Thundercat, who was very good friends with Miller. There was a buzz around town that perhaps ‘Cat would cancel his set. He did not. Instead he gave an incredible, inspired performance. He invoked Millers name several times, each to a roaring applause from the crowd. It was a sad day for the music community, but Thundercat definitely provided an electric eulogy. I hung around City Plaza for the beginning of the Grizzly Bear show. They are not really my thing, so I went venue hopping and caught Vacant Company, Lightning Born, Gown and Swearin’. Bands I knew little about, but that is the spirit of this festival. I really dug a couple of these bands and was glad to have found them.

Saturday

MC50. The 50th anniversary of the classic “Kick Out the Jams” LP. Wayne Kramer (MC5), Kim Thayill (Soundgarden) Billy Gould (Faith No More) Brendan Canty (Fugazi) & Marcus Durant (Zen Guerillas).

They were loud, rude, and obnoxious. Everything you want in a band. Seeing that much talent on the stage was mind boggling. Even more so when the band invited Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) to rip some solo’s during the set. After the band wrapped up I hung around City Plaza hoping to spot Kim Thayill. I did not. So I hoofed over to the Lincoln Theatre where I planned on camping out of the rest of the evening. The evenings soundtrack was Zepheniah Ohara’s old school country, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers’ outlaw country and the headliners The Jayhawks.  I decided to leave The Jayhawks show a little early and head to the Pour House. I had gotten a tip there was an artist I had to see. I reached the venue, but the artist I was there to see was not on. Everyone on the bill had been late going on, so I was lucky enough to catch the last 15 minutes of a band called Combo Chimbita.  This world music band was the perfect ending to my Hopscotch experience. I had no clue of who they were, but walked out of the Pour House wanting to own every piece of music they have ever made.

Overall highlights? Skeletonwitch, MC50, Combo Chimbita, seeing a gaggle of friends at City Plaza—and getting to rest on Sunday. —Chip Kloss

LIFE’S A RIOT WITH… Riot Fest 2018!

Douglas Park in Chicago was the scene of the crime, and September 14-16 marked the time, featuring icons like Weezer, Beck, Run the Jewels, Liz Phair, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the recently-poisoned Pussy Riot. (Photo gallery follows the commentary, below.)

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY ERICA BRUCE

For BLURT, mid-September in Chicago instinctively means “three days of Riot Fest in Douglas Park.” The masses were a little concerned this year that it may not happen, but, like many of the punk bands it hosts, Riot Fest has long proven itself scrappy, and scrappy doesn’t go down for the count lightly. The loss of one headliner, Blink-182, brought two other bands, Run the Jewels and Weezer, in their place. Seminal bands played seminal records in full, icons proved why they are icons, and men in kilts were the hottest fashion statement. As Hurricane Florence was throwing her mighty rain against the east coast, BLURT decided to see what was going on in the mid-west.

 

-Icon Who Never Ages -Liz Phair

When Liz Phair’s record “Exile in Guyville” came out in 1993, many of the Seattle women were moving the needle on feminism by sporting kinderwhore and being brash. But Liz Phair has always been the nerdy girl’s Riot Grrl.  Her records said all the things the wallflower female with a feminist streak thought but felt she could never say about sex and relationships, and how it feels to be a woman in a male-dominated business like music and the world in general. She made lots of women feel 6’1 instead of 5’2 then, and, based on her Friday performance and the faces of the 20-somethings in the audience, she inspired a whole new generation to feel the same. Fairly convinced she is the female Dorian Grey as well as she never seems to age.

-Band Who Walks the Walk-Pussy Riot

There are those who proclaim themselves punk and then there’s Pussy Riot. Members of the protest punk collective have endured lengthy prison sentences for “hooliganism” in their native Russia, physical abuse, and more recently, the poisoning of its member Peter Verzilov. And yet DEFIANTLY, THANKFULLY, they endure….

Nadya Tolokonnikova, flanked with a DJ and a cadre of neon green ski cap associates, spoke out against corruption and Trump/Putin similarities. They taught via a pre-recorded 25+ set of facts about inequality and issues across the world. They even inspired a young woman against the rail to find her voice and loudly scream, ‘Listen to the message!” over and over to a tone-deaf dude being inappropriate, to which others followed. Pussy Riot is a living breathing embodiment of trying to make the world a better place. “Poisonings and assassinations will not stop us,” said Tolokonnikova from the stage.  BELIEVE IT.

-Band with the Best Props: The Aquabats

MC Bat Commander of The Aquabats coined them the “world’s most mighty almost super heroes.” Considering they were wearing long sleeve tunics and masks in the sun, they are also the bravest. Thankfully the mutant land sharks that caught them off-guard that time at the beach were made into wonderfully fun inflatables that bounced throughout the crowd. Fun fact: Blink-182’s drummer Travis Barker was an Aquabat in the late 90s!

-Band with the Positive Message: Digable Planets

Seminal records/bands from 1993 seemed to be a theme at Riot Fest this year, so what better act to include than Digable Planets covering Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)? in full. The light, Consciousness, and melodious positivity that began in 1988 when De La Soul introduced us to the D.A.I.S.Y. age (Da Inner Sound, Y’all) impacted itself heavily into the Planets sound and lyrics with a message. It’s hard to be positive about much these days, but if you listen hard, you can still hear Reachin’s sweet-sounding impact in people like Kendrick Lamar, it’s just said a bit more staccato.

-Best Celtic Punk Mix: Flogging Molly

There’s punk and then there’s Celtic punk, and the latter can always make an accordion and a fiddle sound tougher than any Minor Threat cover band. That’s Flogging Molly. “I just came back from a European tour and it’s nice to be  back where people can understand what the fook I’m saying. Course what I’m saying most of the time is shite,” joked lead singer Dave King.

-Band with the Darkest Lighting: Tie-Cypress Hill, Dropkick Murphys

However, someone with Cypress Hill was holding the cutest bulldog side stage, so they get a pass.

-Most Covers in One Set-Weezer

Rivers Cuomo continues to hit all the high notes and never age. As night 1 headliners, Weezer piled the big hits up in the front half of the set (“Buddy Holly,” “Hash Pipe,” etc.), and mixed in a few covers (“Take On Me” by a-ha, “Happy Together” by The Turtles, “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath). They even did a nod to the had-to-cancel Blink-182 and covered “All the Small Things.” And yes, they closed with everyone’s current favorite version of that song about rain in a foreign continent.

Other notes from things seen on Friday:

-The Front Bottoms: Full of fiddle, acoustic rhythm, and earnest lyrics about delusional love and something about a sleeping bag. Seems tween girls also love lead singers who earnestly look like Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins these days.

-K.Flay: Did a cover of “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger. And a guy named David proposed to a woman named Mandy onstage.

-Young the Giant: Lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s big voice is a good fit for their big athematic arena songs. That’s all I can say about them.

-Bleachers: The band really wants to sound like Springsteen but seems more like John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band with a synthesizer during their cover of “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode.

Saturday:

Day 2 was all about an old school tour through most 20th century music genres. We also started keeping track of all the covers being played a little more closely.

-Most Inspired Stage Costume: Gary Numan

Dressed like Alexander McQueen-inspired mummies coming for your hair gel and eyeliner, Gary Numan still obviously really enjoys what he does, and man, he does it so well. It was great to watch all the kids who weren’t born in the 80s clearly enjoying his set. His synth impact is still so relevant that Trent Reznor should pay him royalties.

-Best Voice to Melt a Heart: Cat Power

This show was the first of the world tour for Chan Marshall’s new record, Wanderer, the first in six years. The set was having a few technical issues at the start, but once it was figured out, that voice, so smoky and lovely and emotive was let loose. It’s nice on record, but live? Otherworldly.

-Best Drummer: Wolfmother

With songs about gypsies and women and guitars that go up to 11, Wolfmother is a modern-day nod to 70s cock rock. There are a lot of comparisons to Led Zeppelin music-wise, which you can agree or disagree with. But it’s fair to say if Zeppelin reunites again, they should consider Wolfmother drummer Hamish Rosser; Bonzo would be impressed.

-Most Original T-Shirt: The Voidz

The Voidz went on 10 minutes late, and for once, lead singer Julian Casablancas was without sunglasses on stage. But he looked healthy and sounded great, and is even getting a little dancey in his older age. Not many can rock a stock car pit crew button up from a guy named Steve, but if anyone can, it’s Casablancas.

-Best Health Recovery: Elvis Costello and the Imposters

It was a pure joy to see Elvis Costello back and in prime form just months after cancelling tour dates to recover from cancer treatment. The Riot Fest set was his first show post-surgery, and he told the audience, “I’m fine, thanks!” Sporting shades like those of the other Elvis during his Vegas period, Costello, the post-punk king before post-punk was a term, was a highlight of the weekend.

-Most Diverse Crowd: Jerry Lee Lewis

Along the rail for Jerry Lee Lewis’ set, the audience was like a microcosm of America: young, old, women, men, black, white, green (well hair was green), probably the most diverse audience we saw all weekend, which makes sense as who doesn’t want to see a living legend? While his backing band, composed of Kenny Lovelace, Ray Gann, and Kenny Aronoff, kicked off the set with four cover songs, an honest to God mosh pit started a few rows back. But once Lewis finally hit the stage, using a cane and wearing a purple sparkly jacket, white dress shirt, jeans, it was all eyes front. At 82, The Killer isn’t kicking back piano stools any longer, or setting the keys literally on fire, but playing like a house on fire? That he still does.

-Most Moon by the Light of the Moon: Jesus Lizard

“I fucking hate playing festivals,” said Jesus Lizard lead singer David Yow, “but they are paying us 250 million!” The band threw all of its noise and punk and thrash to a delighted crowd, as Yow gave the crowd the finger, made a heart sign, pulled up his shirt then unzipped his pants and mooned the crowd. He then jumped into the audience, literally singing upside down at points.

More cover songs and snippets from Day 2: The Frights (Prince of Bel Air theme song, “No Scrubs” by TLC, “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy); Beck (“Miss You” by the Rolling Stones, “Cars” by (and with appearance by) Gary Numan; Jerry Lee Lewis band (“You Are My Sunshine” by Ray Charles, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley)

Sunday:

A day heavy on east coast bands playing great, probably really glad to be away from the rain.

-Most Songs in Shortest Set: Beach Rats

Day 3 was kicked off with D.C. punk via the NJ shore in the form of Beach Rats. A super punk group of sorts, the band is composed of members from the Bouncing Souls, Lifetime, and Minor Threat/Dag Nasty. And like traditional D.C. punk songs, the 15-minute set included 4576 songs and bass lines you felt in your chest. Good stuff.

-Most Hated by Feminists: Fear

Fear played their seminal 1982 album “The Record” in full Sunday afternoon and lead singer Lee Ving shared quite a few thoughts from the Rise stage. He spoke of old Chicago friends (“We love you guys. John Belushi RIP, brought us to Chicago and it’s been our home ever since”) and politics (“Fuck you Boris Putin (sic). Just kidding he’s probably a cool guy once you get to know him”). He also introduced the song “Honor and Obey,” as a love song. Let’s just say with lyrics like “Get up and make my fucking breakfast you lazy bitch/Yeah, you’re my wife now, don’t start whining and giving me shit,” it’s good they didn’t play before or after Pussy Riot, or someone’s ass may have been kicked.

-Coolest of the Cool: Johnny Marr

It doesn’t get much cooler than Johnny Marr, and live, it’s even better. The set was an even keel of songs from his new record, “Call The Comet” and some from The Smiths, oftentimes sounding better vocally than Morrissey himself (sorry Mozzer). In terms of scale, Nick Lowe is Jesus of the Cool, Paul Weller is the Godfather, but Marr is the only Johnny Fuckin Marr.

-Band Who Inspires Most Happiness: The Bouncing Souls

“It’s a beautiful day here, and we’re alive!” said Bouncing Souls lead singer Greg Attonito. The crowd took it to heart, and the positivity resulted in a raucous sing along to “Lean On Sheena.” The Souls live is truly pure joy wrapped around three guitar chords; it’s just simply impossible to feel anything else. Got to be something in that NJ shore air from which they hail.

-Best Sharer of Influences: Clutch

Go-Go music isn’t really well known outside of the D.C./MD/VA area, so local bands when touring seem to want to spread the word. MD-natives Clutch gave the Sunday afternoon crowd a taste with the walk-out music of “We Need Some Money” by Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, and then their song, “D.C. Sound Attack!” complete with its Go-Go beats. If you were there and suddenly feel this intense desire to yell “Wind me up Chuck!” or drum on plastic buckets, don’t worry, Clutch was successful, you were bit by bug that is Go-Go.

-Most Civic Minded: Superchunk

Given the mess Hurricane Florence was unleashing on NC over the weekend, probably the happiest east coast band to be playing in the sun on Sunday was the NC-based Superchunk. They remain a well-oiled machine live, regardless of how long they go between live shows. Tracks off the new record, “What a Time to Be Alive,” especially the title track, are catchy as hell, as well as political, not the usual move for them. So when lead singer Mac McCaughan said, “Don’t forget to vote,” you knew he meant it.

Also saw: Blondie, Bad Religion, a cute dog and a pot-belly pig!

For full sets of photos from all three days, go see the photo album here!

And special thanks to Heather West, Western Publicity, for all of her help! (Amen! Heather, you rock! – Ed.)

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PHOTOS: DAY 1 (FRIDAY)

Dropkick Murphys

Flogging Molly

Liz Phair

Pussy Riot

Weezer

Young the Giant

Aquabats

Cypress Hill


Digable Planets

Dropkick Murphys

 

DAY 2 (SATURDAY)

Gary Numan

Jesus Lizard

Jerry Lee Lewis

The Voidz

Wolfmother

Cat Power

Elvis Costello

 

DAY 3 (SUNDAY)

Bouncing Souls

Clutch

Fear

Johnny Marr

Blondie

Superchunk