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Riot Fest Mon Sep 16 2013

Riot Fest 2013: Sunday Review

Replacements 1 by Katie Hovland Gapers.jpg

The Replacements by Katie Hovland

Despite the cold soggy weather and fields of mud, Riot Fest rounded out the weekend and ended on a high note with some of the most anticipated sets of the weekend from The Replacements and Pixies. A little mud or rain only dampened mohawks but not spirits of the considerably older and friendlier crowd that huddled to keep warm in Humboldt Park. -Lisa White

Against Me! 1 by Katie Hovland Gapers.jpg

Against Me! by Katie Hovland

A year-plus into their current reunion, Quicksand looks and sounds like their old selves. They appeared flat and going through the motions at Metro in January, but on Sunday they were crisp, energetic and had even mixed up a few arrangements on 20-year old songs -- notably, adding a little funk here and there and extending the downtime in "Delusional." The rain that'd started the day off even tapered off midway through their set, much to everyone's delight. One of many old punks who wouldn't've been at Riot Fest if not for the Replacements said to his friends, "I've been waiting a long time to see them" and then nodded with approval as they pummeled out "Thorn in My Side" to close.

Against Me! packed a full punch of their angst-driven punk to a huge crowd that didn't let the dreary weather affect them. Unfortunately, the Roots stage's sound fluctuated between good and bad. Through it all, singer Laura Jane Grace's voice was dynamic and the rest of the band appeared locked in and having a ball through a 45-minute set covering the hits and dropping in the crowd pleasers. -James Ziegenfus

RFTC 2 by Katie Hovland Gapers.jpg

Rocket From the Crypt by Katie Hovland

As the rain picked up again in the mid-afternoon, San Diego's Rocket From the Crypt continued the Riot Fest reunions by falling right back into place as a tight rock'n'roll band with a frontman who toes the line between funny and schlocky. Within 10 feet of me, two parents held toddlers (thankfully, both with appropriate ear protection) who had very different feelings on the band; an adorable red-headed girl danced in her dad's arms and mouthed words, but a boy in a blue jacket was underwhelmed while his mother sang along to every song. The band covered points from across their catalog, bookending the set with songs from their highly-regarded Scream, Dracula, Scream and even going off the rails a little bit with a long "Come See, Come Saw" that riled up the diehards.

Suicidal Tendencies' Mike Muir's positive outlook was refreshing, but the L.A. thrash-punk band's strengths were in their balls-out approach to performing. They're no spring chickens and they were putting bands 20 years younger than them to shame with how much they bounded all over the stage. They made a nice impression, especially because of a solid fan base, but when Muir asked if any first-timers would see the band again, the response was loud and enthusiastic. -James Ziegenfus

AFI 1 by Katie Hovland Gapers.jpg

AFI by Katie Hovland

While one generation had the nostalgia of The Replacements Sunday night, another generation had their own flashback late afternoon with AFI. I admit, AFI was a band in high school I never really got into but was contemporaries of a lot of the artists I drove around town blasting out of the speakers of my first car. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy singing along to "Miss Murder" and "Girl's Not Grey" both in 2003 and this past Sunday. But the most impressive thing that truly took me by surprise was just how great AFI sounded, especially more than 20 years after they first started as a band. Davey Havok's voice still sounds as clear and strong as ever, and the energy of the band kept the crowd down front moshing and screaming along the whole set, which included a mix of old and new. The set also included a spot-on cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," which was the second Cure cover of the weekend, and also showcased the single "17 Crimes" from their forthcoming album Burials. -Lisa White

The Broadways, yet another Riot Fest reunion, had a short career, but left a nice impression in the late '90s. (And singer Brendan Kelly went on to Lawrence Arms.) Up against AFI, they had a small crowd, even accounting for an attendance bump as a local Chicago act, but played the favorites to a crowd who'd been waiting 15 years to see them again. Their raw punk rock always had a little Jawbreaker in it, and that came out in spades over their hour covering their discography. -James Ziegenfus

Pixies 1 by Katie Hovland Gapers.jpg

Pixies by Katie Hovland

The Pixies are no strangers to festival shows, where the crowd usually wants a good amount of hits vs. deep cuts. But Black Francis and Co. know how to pander both to the audience and their own whims, as their set Sunday night started out more on the side of deeper cuts. Whether that was a smart choice or not depends who you ask, as the first half of their set felt a bit loose and sloppy. But once the crowd warmed up after a Jesus and Mary Chain cover ("Head On") and finally an upper of "Waves of Mutilation" things tightened up. For many it was the first time seeing the Pixies without Kim Deal, and although it was strange at first, I thought Kim Shattuck fit in perfectly with the band. The much more energetic second half of the set hopped around their catalog formulating a "best of" roster including "Bone Machine," "Monkey Gone to Heaven," Here Comes Your Man," and "Debaser." Francis really let it ride on a powerful speedy "Tame." They ended the night with the always sultry and lingering "Hey" before the crowd ooh'd along on "Where Is My Mind?" It wasn't the best or tightest Pixies show Chicago has seen, but it wasn't a bad way to spend the evening. Would I have different feelings if their set was the headlining end of the night show? Possibly. But for what it was, it wasn't bad. A middle of the road Pixies show is still a fine thing to enjoy. -Lisa White

Replacements 2 by Katie Hovland Gapers.jpg

The Replacements by Katie Hovland

The Replacements were one of the last bands anyone would have thought would actually reunite. The Minneapolis alt rock pioneers were a sloppy group of punks that usually weren't sober enough to last an entire set without tempers flaring during their heyday, and had a very public meltdown and breakup during their last performance in Chicago in 1991. Time and age and the wisdom that comes with both can heal a lot of wounds though, and after working together on a benefit record for former member Slim Dunlap (who suffered a severe stroke in 2012) the band (or what is left of it) seemed on good terms. It took the right kind of festival asking, and suddenly Riot Fest had one of the biggest reunion shows on their bill.

Let's get the obvious online vocal criticism out of the way before we go any farther. Yes, the current roster is only two original members. But the fact Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg are sharing a stage together as the same act is a big deal. One member is dead, another isn't on speaking terms at all, and another had a severe stroke. This is still two people playing music that is incredibly important to many, music that folks -- myself included -- never got a chance to hear live. And the two other musicians playing with them (drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese and Neighborhoods frontman Dave Minehan) are a perfect fit for what would end up being one of the most clean and tight Replacements sets probably in the history of Replacements sets. Sure, the drunk, aggressive band from the '80s had its own charm, but that ship has sailed, and I think everyone on the field Sunday night just wanted to revisit the music and leave the rest of history aside.

"We haven't played in three weeks" Westerberg exclaimed and laughed before launching into "Takin' a Ride" to kick off the 25 -song set. You couldn't tell though, as the music sounded clear and loud and Westerberg and Stinson seemed in jovial spirits, joking around between songs and taking their time. It's almost comical how good the vocals sounded compared to Westerberg's normal gruff and almost incoherent speaking voice. His signature yowls were still as powerful as ever on "Favorite Thing" yet such a sweet and earnest voice during "Androgynous." The set hopscotched around their body of work and included a few covers (Sham 69 and Chuck Berry, same as the Riot Fest Toronto set), but the crowd favorites were what shined, with "Left of the Dial" being one of the stand-out moments of the night.

A lot has changed in the world since the height of The Replacements' career, but for a few hours many felt young again and others were in awe witnessing a band they never thought they'd get to see. Sure, it was nostalgic as you could get, but it was fun. The band even seemed to be having a good time. And as the clouds burst forth with rain again and the crowd screamed along with "I owe you nothing," they might not owe us anything, we still didn't mind that The Replacements offered it up anyway. -Lisa White

 
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