RiotFest: The Live Report
The Adicts, Gwar, Hot Water Music, Andrew W.K., The Descendents, NOFX, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello and more

By: Logan Mounts
Chicago's annual RiotFest took a big change this year, bringing down its usual five-night, multi-venue extravaganza to a three-day, double-venue punk carnival. This year brought some of the biggest names in punk, and I got to spend all three days partying with as many bands as I could.

Friday night was held at the Congress Theater, and headlining that night was the iconic '90s punk rock quintet The Offspring. This counted as the Chicago stop for their tour in support of their brand new LP, Days Go By. The majority of the first half of their set consisted of a lot of material from that album, as well as their previous LP, Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace. However, they did manage to slip in some classics, like 'Come Out And Play (Keep 'Em Separated)' and 'Gotta Get Away' from their seminal album Smash, as well as 'All I Want' and 'Gone Away' from Ixnay On The Hombre. After they got through that section of the set, it was all classics from there on out, pleasing the crowd with 'Why Don't You Get A Job?' and 'Pretty Fly For A White Guy' from Americana, among other old greats. While they did not put on all that of a spectacular show, they played their songs with a lot of energy and looked like they were having a great time doing so.

Saturday and Sunday were held outside at Humboldt Park, where four different stages were set up to house many different types of bands. The first band that I got to see that day was the cult classic English punk band The Adicts. Even though they performed early in the day, their set still had a lot of fun energy to it, ending their set with throwing giant Adicts-stamped beach balls across the crowd.

Following The Adicts was the alien earth-destroyers known as GWAR. As many people may know, the main shtick of a GWAR show is that they constantly, in many different ways, spray fake blood out onto the audience - a whole lot of it, too, and I was right up front to catch it all. Their show has very heavy, very bloody, and had a lot great theatrics to it that made it all the more fun to watch.

After GWAR I was able to catch a few songs from Hot Water Music, but then rushed over to a different stage to see the full set of definitive party rocker Andrew W.K.. At the start of his set, his whole band - which consisted of himself, his wife, a drummer, a bassist, and four guitarists - took the stage and kicked right into 'It's Time To Party,' the opening track from his critically acclaimed debut album, I Get Wet. The crowd went absolutely ballistic from that first note, all the way until the end of his set; a new song entitled 'Headbang.' It was definitely one of the most fun and energetic shows of the weekend.

I had a couple free hours to spare after Andrew W.K. finished up, so I wandered around the festival for a little while, listening to bits and pieces of The Gaslight Anthem, Slapstick, as well as Coheed And Cambria. However, this was all just to kill time before I saw my final band of the night, '80s hardcore and '90s punk rock legends Descendents. Milo and company definitely brought their A-game throughout the entire night, performing a few obscure tracks as well as fan-favorites like 'Everything Sucks,' 'I'm The One,' 'Nothing With You,' and the classic hardcore staple 'Suburban Home' from their rightfully widely praised debut LP, Milo Goes To College. They ripped through a whole bunch of other songs in their one-hour time slot, each song getting the crowd more energetic than the next. They performed every track with great precision and fire, and after closing their set with their eponymous song from I Don't Want To Grow Up, the crowd then dispersed - some to go see Rise Against, and some, myself included, to head home after an excellent first day at Humboldt.

Sunday brought in a lot more people, and for good reason. The bands that were on tap for that day were certainly some of the biggest and most significant of the entire festival. I started off the day by seeing '90s emo outfit The Promise Ring, who put on a very good performance in the early afternoon. After their set, I was geared up to see one of the first punk bands I truly fell in love with, NOFX. In their hour set, it seemed they played about twenty or more songs, including a six-song block that may have only lasted less than ten minutes. Even with vocalist/bassist Fat Mike singing with a cold, the entire band put on a great show, with excellent stage banter in between songs. They played 'I Believe In Goddess' from their latest LP, Self Entitled, as well as classics like 'Murder The Government' from So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes and 'Franco Un-American' from The War On Errorism.

After getting wild with NOFX, I rushed over to the next stage to see the great noisy post-punk power of The Jesus And Mary Chain, who played an extremely good set. Each member of the band sounded excellent, and it was great to be able to see them live after a long hiatus. I was able to see their whole set, but once they ended, I had to go as fast as I could to the next stage to see Elvis Costello & The Impostors.

Elvis and the boys put on a great, non-stop set of music, making seamless transitions from one song to the next. They opened up with 'Lipstick Vogue' from the incredibly significant This Year's Model, and everything after was a great mix of hits and hidden gems, each song having a unique sensibility to it that was different from their original versions - jams were added, songs were extended, and there was no doubt that Costello was having an absolute blast playing all of them. He closed out his set with very powerful versions of his two most well-known songs, 'Pump It Up' and '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding).' Definitely one of the most fun and uplifting live performances I've seen in recent years.

I had a little less time to wander after Costello's set finished up, for I wanted to see at least a little bit of self-proclaimed "gypsy punks" Gogol Bordello. However, I had to give up seeing their set so I could be as close as I could for my third viewing of Iggy And The Stooges. As the clock struck 8:25, guitarist James Williamson, bassist Mike Watt, drummer Scott Asheton, and saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Mackay ran onto the stage and began thrusting into the title track from Raw Power. After a few bars, the wild god Iggy Pop ran and leapt to center stage, causing the crowd to go absolutely insane. The band played all the classic tunes from their three albums, like 'Search And Destroy,' '1970,' 'Shake Appeal,' as well as some classic non-album tracks like 'I Got A Right' and 'Open Up And Bleed.' The entire time Iggy was running all over the stage, and almost, in a way, seducing the audience with his sheer presence and legendary status. They put on what I would consider to be the most exhilarating set of the entire weekend, and certainly the best of the now three times I've seen them - and that's largely due to the fact that the encore began with the classic crowd pleaser 'No Fun,' and then went into 'The Passenger' from Iggy's second solo album, Lust For Life, which was an absolute treat to see considering Iggy hasn't played a solo show since reuniting with The Stooges in 2002. They closed out and blasted off with 'Cock In My Pocket,' wrapping up the entire weekend in a damn near perfect way.

After three days of moshing, sweating, screaming and singing, I can safely say that the weekend I spent at this year's RiotFest will forever stand as one of the greatest of my life.