RECAP: Riot Fest 2019, Day Two
After a tough first act to follow, Saturday was the heart of Riot Fest 2019’s residency in Chicago, and a new set of challengers were up to the task. There were plenty of highlights, some special moments, and an abundance of great music in general.
The day started off with Milwaukee-area favorites Masked Intruder, who drew a big crowd on the Roots Stage with the catchiest of pop punk. Still no sign of Yellow, though. #FreeYellow. Riot Fest is an early stop on the band’s latest tour, and the energy was high for their set.
The early part of the day also alotted time to discover some of the up and coming names in the indie rock world, and young duo Cleopatrick definitely look like they have the potential to move beyond the Rebel stage of the festival in the near future. The duo impressed with only a guitar and drums, drawing a crowd and getting them jumping early in the day. Another buzzing name that took the stage is Cherry Glazerr, who easily won the crowd over on the Rise stage with some simply catchy, heartfelt indie rock.
Speaking of moving beyond the Rebel stage, annual performers Gwar took to the Riot stage this year, and while they brought all of the gross glory that comes with it, their premises felt out of touch with the times. While it’s understood that hacking apart a mock Caitlyn Jenner to pull a baby out is merely a vehicle to use a blood spurting hose on stage, the bit received more groans than screams from the crowd. Maybe time for a trip to the writers’ room.
The special moments of the day started around mid-afternoon, as The Selecter gave one of the best performances of Saturday, livening the crowd with the 40th anniversary of their “Too Much Pressure” album. The combination of Pauline Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson didn’t look like they had lost much of a step in 40 years, moving about the stage, skanking and dancing like the band was still new. That energy translated to the crowd, who slowly but surely got to dancing as well, resulting in a full on party once the album’s title track rang out on the Radicals Stage.
With a little bit of a refreshed look about them, PVRIS proved to be seasoned veterans of the festival scene on the Radicals stage as the sun began to set. The band has been relatively quiet since the release of their sophomore album, “All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell” in 2017, save for a couple of singles this year. That being said, the band is still every bit as powerful as they were when they were cutting their teeth on the Warped Tour, and that came across on Saturday.
Metal ruled the night on Saturday, as Anthrax delivered a special fan-selected request set. The songs were voted for online for the crowd, and that included a cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got The Time”, amongst classics like “Caught In A Mosh” and the always pounding “Indians”. Frontman Joey Belladonna hasn’t really changed much since the height of the band’s success, which felt like it was both for the better and worse at times. However, guitarist Scott Ian and the rest of the Bulls jersey-clad thrash band were just as heavy as ever, pulling out all the stops for a memorable show.
Between Anthrax and headliners Slayer, Riot Fest needed a band that was going to keep the intensity going over on the Roots stage. Luckily, Chicago natives Rise Against were more than up to the task, playing at hyper-speed throughout their set. Frontman Tim McIlrath explained that he grew up not far from Douglas Park, and never thought he’d be yelling to a crowd as large as they were playing for in that park. Chicago definitely supported the band, as well, with a sizeable crowd even for a main stage at a festival. It was one of many great homecomings for the band, who gave that sentiment back to the crowd with a loud singalong to breakout single “Give It All”.
And then there was Slayer. What was billed as the band’s final Chicago/Milwaukee show proved to be a grand send off for undoubtedly one of the heaviest metal bands of all time. With a roaring guitar from Kerry King, the curtain dropped and there was no looking back. The next hour-plus consisted of pulse-pounding, intricate thrash metal, with King and Tom Araya leading the charge. There was enough fire to make you think that they might actually burn the Riot stage down, with fireballs shooting into the shapes of upside down crosses, and a huge wall that made the stage look like a four-alarm blaze. The band proved that they could still go with the best of them as well, as if felt like they were pulling off some of the fastest music to play with the most technical guitar licks and drum fills with ease. It in no way felt like Slayer was on a farewell tour on Saturday night, and they certainly left their mark on the festival, literally burning their way into the memories of anyone that saw them live for one of the last times.