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Thursday, February 22

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« Riot Fest 2014: Day 1 Riot Fest 2014: Day 3 »

Riot Fest Sun Sep 14 2014

Riot Fest 2014: Day 2

Television by Katie Hovland

After Friday's rain, the situation at Humboldt Park remained incredibly muddy. Once again, this is not Riot Fest's fault as they certainly don't control the weather, but overwhelming patches of mud and deep puddles of collected rainwater were everywhere, making navigation a continued difficulty. Certain parts of the park appeared so bad, they seemed to be fenced off and quarantined. I found myself feeling kinda bad for the promoters of Riot Fest about the massive scope of damage -- the weather and the presences of thousands of concert goers had caused the park a lot of damage, and they're on the hook for park repairs. I've never seen damage this bad. I remember covering North Coast last year and it stormed so hard, they had to postpone opening the gates. It was pretty muddy but nowhere near as bad as what I've seen at Riot Fest this year. Large portions of what was once grass simply no longer exist and have been replaced with mud so thick, it snapped the heel of one of my boots off. It sucks, man. It's a bad hand to have been dealt. Thankfully the mud didn't prevent us from catching some pretty rad bands.
Justin Freeman

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Die Antwoord by Katie Hovland

The Orwells

The Orwells have made quite the splash since their formation in 2009. They were in their last year of high school when these suburban-bred rockers were signed to a record label and released their first album, Remember When. An extremely decent-sized crowd was amassed, especially considering the early time slot, to hear these rockers showcase their talents. With a high-energy set, crowd surfers could be spotted intermittently, with lead singer Mario Cuomo possessing a cultivated stage presence. With his long curly hair thrashing about as he head-banged and moved about the stage, at times even stepping off stage to greet the crowd, The Orwells seemed as if they had been around much longer than a mere five years. As they played tunes such as "The Righteous One" and "Mallrats (La La La)" with the bass thumping at its highest volume, I look forward to seeing where they take their music in the next five years, and years after.
Sarah Brooks

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Me First and the Gimme Gimmes by Katie Hovland

Tokyo Police Club

Coming off of The Orwells' high-octane set, at first Tokyo Police Club's more mellow melodies were a bit underwhelming. Thankfully, they were able to pick up the momentum a bit as they introduced a bit of their more danceable hits. Coming off of the heels of a 2014 release, Forcefield, they played a variety of music spanning their career, including favorites "Tessellate" and "Hot Tonight." Once the energy picked up from a lackluster beginning, they began a sing-along during "Wait Up (Boots of Danger)" which created a beautiful moment during their sunny afternoon set.
Sarah Brooks

City and Colour

When I read the initial lineup, I was quite confused as to why City and Colour was on the lineup. Riot Fest is known for harboring a schedule of rebellious rock outfits, and though I enjoy the music of City and Colour, they are better known for soft indie rock music, bordering on folk. Perhaps it was Dallas Green's former outpost in group Alexisonfire. Despite these wonderings, City and Colour's pristine sound traveled beautifully throughout the outdoor arena as they gathered many fans for their set. Playing emotional tunes such as "The Lonely Life" off of their most recent release, The Hurry and The Harm, they mellowed out the audience for a welcome change of pace before they jumped back in to head-banging and moshing yet again.
Sarah Brooks

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Mighty Mighty Bosstones by Katie Hovland

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Ska-punk legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones took the stage for an epic performance. Outfitted in matching red suits, they gathered a massive crowd who desired to indulge in the music spurred by their cult following. Dicky Barrett's gritty, distinct vocals sounded exactly the same as when featured on their early '90s releases, transporting us back in time, to our delight. Not allowing the energy to falter one bit, the Bosstones and their extensive brass section bopped around the stage, kept the energy coming as the sun began to set. Opening with frenetic "Dr. D.", they created an energy level off the bat that could not be amped up any further even if they had tried. They ended the set with crowd-pleaser "The Impression I Get," and wound down with "Devil's Night Out," a ballad infused with punk rock and heavy metal elements at its core, combined with ska essentials. The group was able to delight the audience and match their hopeful expectations for this long-anticipated and fun set.
Sarah Brooks

Paul Weller

Paul Weller's influence on modern rock music does not go unnoticed. Performing as The Jam frontman, his influence on British rock music to come was unparalleled. As a solo artist, he crafts emotional rock tunes that include twinges of punk, folk, and even blues complemented with wise lyrics and a commanding stage presence. Moving through his vast discography, Weller provided deliberate rock music that garnered the admiration of the crowd standing wide-eyed before him.
Sarah Brooks

Wu-Tang Clan by Katie Hovland

Wu-Tang Clan

I saw Wu-Tang Clan last year at North Coast when they were the headliners and mainly did selections from their seminal album 36 Chambers, as well as random hits from throughout their career. It was kinda phoned in, as they were very much in getting paid autopilot mode, but seeing all of the surviving members of the Wu temporarily stop their perpetual infighting to reunite and perform things like "CREAM" and "Bring the Ruckus" was still great.

That was a little over a year ago. In the year since I last saw them, things have changed. They released a new album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The twist is that only one physical copy will ever be produced and the plan is to tour it between prestigious museums and academic libraries around the world where people can gather for listening sessions. Once the tour is finished, the plan is to sell that one copy of the new Wu-Tang albums for "millions of dollars." This is a real plan. This is a real plan in 2014. Meanwhile, Apple just gives everyone the new U2 album and doesn't give a shit if you don't want it, didn't ask for it, or have concerns that this may be a breach of your privacy. I leave it up to you to determine for yourselves if RZA's plan is brilliance or foolishness, but the point is, things are different for Wu-Tang now.

I went to their set hoping to maybe hear some new things, but it was mainly the hits again, which was what the crowd wanted. I watched masses of punks celebrate iconic songs such as "Protect Ya Neck" and "Triumph" and realized "CREAM" still sounds just as good as ever.
Justin Freeman

Get Up Kids

I left Wu-Tang and traveled across the park to catch a bit of The Get Up Kids. As they played through their breakthrough hit album, Something to Write Home About, I watched a couple of mohawked young punks in love ride a dragon mini roller coaster seemingly in slow motion. Everyone was in good spirits and it was a very happy place to be. The Get Up Kids took an extended break, and it seemed to help both the band and fans, since everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives, no hard feelings or lackluster band performances. It didn't hurt that they were playing a set of songs that, for much of the crowd, promised a pretty nostalgic trip back to their youth. "Things are gonna get weird," frontman Matt Pryor said at one point during his set. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a wrestler get bodyslammed in the nearby pro wrestling ring as the band ripped through "I'm a Loner Dottie, A Rebel." The songs might be over a decade old, but in the present it was a fun place to be.
Justin Freeman

Metric by Katie Hovland

Taking Back Sunday & The Used

I saw both of these bands a few months ago at a show at the Concord that Riot Fest produced. As they were then, both bands were engaging and entertaining. Taking Back Sunday didn't shy away from their past and played many of the things that have made them vital to the genre. Truth be told, "You're So Last Summer" still sounds magnificent, while newer material like "Stood a Chance" is starting to grow on me.

The Used came out with ghoulish screams as Bert McCracken frantically pranced around the stage singing new songs like "Cry" and standards such "Taste of Ink" with exuberance. Both bands did more or less the exact same set I saw them do a few months ago, which is what the crowd wanted; a series of songs they identify with.
Justin Freeman

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Flaming Lips by Katie Hovland

The Flaming Lips

I was lucky to snag a close spot for The Flaming Lips set as the crowd packed in tight, leaving infrequent open spots in the vast field we stood in. The influential experimental psychedelic rockers were poised to put on an incredible show, as I watched massive amounts of stage lighting, monitors and special effects being set up for their hour-long show. As they stepped on stage, Wayne Coyne's hair as crazy and free as ever, an array of colored lights shone down on Coyne, his backing band, and the mascots of a rainbow and mushrooms. They swayed on stage as they sang "The Abandoned Hospital Ship" off of one of their earliest releases.

And I'm sort of relieved / And I'm getting over it now. The lone electric guitar line began slowly, chilling and beautiful, as the drums rolled in and confetti shot out of the stage, linked with the climax of the song. However, right when this first climactic beat occurred, their sound blew a fuse. As in, the whole stage went out, including the monitors, and the song's momentum was taken full throttle then to zero all at once. Those around me stood befuddled as Riot Fest's sound team worked quickly to restore the power. I had never seen anyone do this before, and when the lights returned, all Coyne could say was, "Well, fuck," as the audience cheered for their return.

He decided to start the song over, and it was even more beautiful the second time around, as the sound continued past its previous breaking point and confetti rained down upon us. It was only their first song, but it felt like the encore of a lifetime, exquisitely gorgeous and fleeting all at once. Their second song was a languid and wistful version of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1," which Coyne made us re-start with him as we did not sing Yoshimi's karate chop loud enough in the first verse. We happily obliged and the song pressed forth. Mascots in giant sun costumes once again flanked the stage -- nonsensical, but no one cared. Their identity is focused on whimsy and expression of their most authentic selves, and it was absolutely beautiful to see in person how much a musician can be unapologetically themselves and creative in the highest form.

As they performed the illustrious ballad "Vein of Stars," Coyne appeared standing inside of a bubble on stage. Yes, you heard me right. As the song built up momentum, he stepped (well, rolled) out into the crowd, suspended over the audience as he moved nearer to the middle, poised in a luminous bubble above the vast darkness. With the celestial sounds in the background, it was an incredible moment of music as Coyne connected with his audience, and seemingly, with the universe.

A fantastic light show complimented the set, which unfortunately was only an hour and two minutes, despite the delay, as The National was running a bit late. A stunning, glittering performance of "Do You Realize?" was enough to make all of us contemplate the beauty of life a little further. Ending with an encore of their version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" off of their forthcoming cover album, confetti pulsed from the stage with flashes of bass, thrilling and daring. As they closed out their phantasmagoria of a set, I only wished that they would have been the festival's headliner, as we yearned for more.
Sarah Brooks

The National by Katie Hovland

The National

Matt Berninger and crew got on stage a few minutes late for their set, as they were arriving here from Canada and a bit delayed. They emerged swiftly and powered through an electric hour-long set, to which Matt Berninger let us know that they owe us 10 minutes of music next time they're in town.

The National has been able to craft up heartstring-tugging indie rock music that somehow touches upon our deepest emotional struggles. They brought the music to life with a light show and background videos that crafted a beautiful sentiment along with their sounds. Weaving through a set featuring their newest gorgeous tunes such as "I Need My Girl" and old favorites including "Fake Empire," Berninger connected with the audience as his alto voice rumbled through, hauntingly lovely. Concluding with two powerhouse songs, Berninger stepped offstage and into the crowd for a frenzied, impassioned rendition of "Mr. November" and then "Terrible Love," allowing him to be just five feet from me and other devoted fans.

It takes an ocean not to break, stated the mantra he delivered and repeated, as the song built up and to a close. Berninger has a soul wiser than a lifetime could create, as he pours this heart into the music he creates and puts this emotional show on display for his audience each time.
Sarah Brooks

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no / September 15, 2014 12:33 PM

Coyne has been walking around in that bubble for more than a decade now, and the majority of people who will read that far in the review already know that. It's not novel or surprising, and the reviewer seems like she is unaware that this is an almost tired trope from Flaming Lips shows.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

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By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

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