Sunday, September 16th
The Henry Clay People – Roots Stage – 12:00 p.m.
Who are these People? Joey and Andy Siara are brothers from California who craft addicting punk rock in the vein of Minneapolis titans The Replacements or even the eccentric math rock of D.C.’s Dismemberment Plan. Now in their seventh year, the Glendale quartet is out supporting its strongest album to date, Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives, which they issued earlier this summer.
Keeping it DIY: The guys took the Roots stage only 30 minutes after the gates opened. Ouch. They didn’t look too stoked about it, but kept their heads up high, wasting little time to knock out new favorites like “25 for the Rest of Our Lives”. What started out as four old passersby quickly evolved into something amicable with several intrigued bodies. The foot traffic from the nearby autograph tent helped bring in a couple hundred souls, too.
Celebrity sighting: Bruno Mars, guarding the photo pit, behind a sleek pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers.
Kudos to baby bro: “The Backseat of a Cab” proves that Andy can hold a track on his own, which takes some weight off Joey, who more or less coughs up blood every time he takes the mic. It’s also a solid track that gets better and better with each listen, especially that bridge at the end.
Best sale of the weekend: “Anybody gets married today — we’ll play your wedding for free,” salesman Joey Siara announced.
The Siara brothers most dedicated fan: That teenager wearing Little Pete’s flannel shirt, a Rage Against the Machine tee, and one Eric Estrada ‘do. He refused to quit pogo’ing during “The Fakers”.
A track for tomorrow: “Working Part Time”, which Joey said is “about getting fucked up and calling into work sick the next day.” Amen, brotha.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Four fists of bacon, eggs, and PBRs. The most raucous brunch ever.
Less Than Jake – Riot Stage – 1:40 p.m.
Number of songs played off their last studio full-length: Zero. Although Less Than Jake‘s set was packed with almost nothing but fan favorites, the solid, back-to-basics GNV FLA was sorely underrepresented.
Number of songs played off In With The Out Crowd: Zero. Thank god.
Number of horn players missing: One. Saxophonist J.R. Wasilewski was nowhere to be seen, and the band opted for a second trombonist in his place. Sounded good, too.
Number of times my friend Casey almost got her eye impaled by some guy’s mousse-lathered mohawk spike: Three.
Biggest undercut of a song’s intent: When trombonist Buddy Schaub mock-fellated a balloon penis during “Look What Happened”, arguably the ska punkers’ saddest tune.
Breakfast of future hospital patients: Yogurt and Jameson, consumed by Schaub shortly before going onstage.
Song with biggest number of crowd surfers: Surprisingly, the laid back, almost reggae groove of “The Science Of Selling Yourself Short”.
Creepiest thing worn by a crowd member: A horse mask. What was initially slightly unsettling became enormously endearing when vocalist/guitarist Chris Demakes invited the equine helmeted gentleman onstage to give Schaub a ride. Things got kind of creepy once more whenever the fan faced the audience directly, allowing them to see his oh so human eyes through the mask’s mouth hole.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Five and a fistful of horse mane. Less Than Jake may be celebrating their 20 year anniversary as a band, but their shows remain wild as ever.
The Promise Ring – Roots Stage – 2:20 p.m.
What’s the deal here? The Promise Ring has always unfairly been labeled as emo, often credited with bringing one of the most polarizing sub genres to a wider audience. In reality, their songs veer more on the side of earnest, carefully crafted indie pop. While their inclusion in Riot Fest was a welcome one (especially given their reunion last year), the crowd was one of the stiffest of the day, consisting mainly of older folks who were probably never much into dancing or moshing to begin with.
Best quip toward the static nature of the crowd: “We are waaay less than Jake,” courtesy of frontman Davey von Bohlen.
Missed opportunity for a danceathon: Most of the band’s music is more sprightly than they get credit for, and it’s a wonder that even the jangle of minor hit “Why Did Ever We Meet” didn’t get the crowd moving.
Song title that best summed up the band/audience relationship: “Is This Thing On?” Oddly enough, also the title of an unplayed Less Than Jake tune.
Number of horse mask sightings: One. Seems our friend from the LTJ set is also a Promise Ring fan. But instead of getting up on stage, he merely stood by the fence staring. And staring. And staring…
Most contradictory image of the day: A smiley face balloon slowly floating into the stratosphere during the lyrics “Nothing feels good…”.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Two.
Built to Spill – Riot Stage – 3:00 p.m.
Hey man, that roadie looks a lot like…. Doug Martsch? Yeah, because that’s him. One of the best things about Built To Spill (apart from the band’s other worldly guitar rock) is how well they deconstruct the mythology behind playing live. Rather than let fans stew excitedly in their juices for ten, 15 or 20 minutes before coming out onstage to rapturous applause, the band spent a good 20 minutes or so tinkering around onstage tuning before jumping right into their set. No pretense here.
Best way to deal with a broken string: Keep playing. As mentioned before, there isn’t much of a road crew to save your ass when you’re in Built to Spill, who run a pretty self-efficient, DIY operation. So when guitarist Jim Roth popped a string not once, but twice during the band’s 40 minute set, the band paid no mind, moving right along without interruption while Roth fixed the glitch. When he was ready, he jumped right back in without missing a step. The band’s tendency for jamming and improvising went a long way toward masking the mishap, but man, talk about a well-oiled musical machine.
A side of onstage banter: “It’s such a beautiful day today. I’m just going to tune my guitar here.” Seriously, quit blabbing away Doug, will you?
Headbanger’s Cut: With nothing new to promote, the band’s set was a taster’s choice of Built to Spill set mainstays. But even among that elite group “You Were Right” and “Strange” take top billing.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Three and a half fists for the music, but bump it up to four fists for their work ethic.
White Mystery – Rebel Stage – 4:10 p.m.
Mirroring resemblance to Marissa Ribisi in Dazed and Confused: Alex White, whose afternoon wardrobe consisted of just about everything involved in the original 1968 Broadway performance of Hair.
No, that’s definitely Workaholics’ Blake Anderson: Nope, just Francis Scott Key White, literally rocking a Toni Kuko? jersey.
So, The White Stripes? It’d be easy to think that, especially with the duo’s trademark Detroit ’70s sludge punk influences, but there’s too much ’60s regalia here to tie it down to Jack White. On a tin can shaker like “Take a Walk”, Alex sounds less like anything post-2000 and more along the lines of a reanimated Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane). Oh, Slick’s still around? Didn’t know that.
Area of emphasis: Who could forget the prospective fan sporting a full-on DayGlo costume, complete with bunny ears, ski goggles, and a shirt that parodied Devo reading: “R U Men or R U Bunnies?”
Eat your heart out, Auerbach: “Birthday” exemplifies exactly what The Black Keys have been selling to millions of listeners worldwide for almost a decade now. It’s just less fluid and more bare. Alex keeps the riffs young and punctual, while Francis Scott Key throws in his two cents vocally throughout. It’s good stuff.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Three and a half fists of lots and lots and lots of product.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Riot Stage – 4:40 p.m.
Nostalgic or current? Purely nostalgic, but what’s to argue? One of the finest exports out of Glasgow, and within the post-punk genre, JAMC has six studio albums and six EPs to swim in. Their downtempo progressions and William Reid’s bratty guitar work was a welcome vacay from the beer-battered punk rock of the past 24 hours.
That one time Dan Caffrey saw the future, or had the foresight of one minute: “That’d be awesome if they played ‘Snakedriver’,” he suggested literally a minute before they opened their set with it.
I never knew…: That Buzz Osborne’s long-lost brother is William Reid. The hair says it all.
Scribbled notes that sort of make sense but I’m not going to make anything of ’em: “So similar to Velvet Underground — even in style and appearance. If only Lou Reed had eschewed the commercialism of the ’80s and stuck to his guns. On-stage, so much of JAMC…Chuck Berry.”
Coolest anti-solo all weekend: Reid’s phaser/wah solo that tailors “Snakedriver” pierces even louder on-stage.
The likeliest reason most fans will be getting their ears checked by their doctors this week: “Teenage Lust” was quite an assault to the senses.
Number of fans that looked identical to Robert Pollard: I lost count at 24.
Most unfortunate non-ironic tee: Some guy’s back advertised, hands down, the most nightmarish bill of all time: Seether, Puddle of Mudd, Buckcherry, and I stopped there.
Best Directing for: Panning to the cute blonde in the red heart-framed glasses during “Some Candy Talking”. Nice touch.
The Jim Reid Quote: “This mic stand weighs, like, a ton. It’s the best exercise I’ve had in the last ten years.”
Craziest WTF moment that didn’t involve Marc Maron: When Jim Reid started to introduce “Just Like Honey”, only to get news that their set was cut a song, to which they skipped it. I had to stand on something to avoid all the tears flooding the area.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Five fists with painted sports jackets on them.
Elvis Costello and The Imposters – Roots Stage – 5:25 p.m.
Um, really? Yeah dude, really. Riot Fest committed itself about 90 percent of the way to being a punk and metal festival reminiscent of Warped Tour’s early days. But while the addition of a finely tuned pop songsmith amongst the rest of the punk, metal and indie rock lot might seem curious to some, let’s all remember that Costello‘s earliest and best work is shrouded in new wave fury and surly, punk rock attitude.
So how were those bluegrass songs? Funny, a-hole. To be fair though, it was hard to predict what exactly fans were in for given Costello’s hefty and sprawling body of work. Within the context of the Riot Fest set up, it was easy to hope and pray for at least a few Attractions-era rockers, and the rock icon delivered mightily. Decked out in a purple pinstripe suit and porkpie hat, Costello took the temperature of the crowd perfectly, loading his hour-long set with tracks from My Aim is True, This Year’s Model, and Armed Forces.
Lesson learned: Never rule out a legend.
Unsung hero: Drummer Pete Thomas. The Imposters are an amazing, incredibly tight band, but watching Costello bang out a set full of classics with his early Attractions-cohort behind the kit was enough to give seasoned fans a chill in itself. Watching Thomas effortlessly move and thrash around the kit helped keep the old catalog young and fresh.
Headbanger’s Cut: Can I cop out and just say everything? “Pump it Up”, “Less Than Zero”, “Radio, Radio”, “(What’s Sp Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”, and “Watching The Detectives”.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Five big ones, all falling mightily on Fat Mike for talking shit about Costello during NOFX’s (also awesome) set. Love ya Mike, but you can’t do that.
Alkaline Trio – Riot Stage – 6:25 p.m.
Second most contradictory image of the day: Another smiley face balloon. This one stuck around longer, drifting above the crowd during several of Alkaline Trio‘s morbid pop punk ditties, which are pure examples of juxtaposition in themselves.
Song that proved two radios are better than one: “Radio”. Even though the band’s closer had the most energy in what was a fairly phoned-in set, it didn’t hold a candle to the Elvis Costello song of (nearly) the same name.
Hey, it’s high school again: Can’t fault the legs for dancing to “Armageddon”. Skiba will always nail that chorus.
Number of times Matt Skiba took off his sunglasses: Taking another note from Elvis Costello, zero.
Number of horse mask sightings: One, making me fear he’d be in my bed when I got home. Or at least my nightmares.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Three, two of which have tiny skulls tattooed on the knuckles.
Iggy and the Stooges – Riot Stage – 8:25 p.m.
A lot of pretty faces going to hell. It’s hilarious how much people think they know about rock ‘n’ roll until they see the Stooges. But it’s ten times more amazing to watch unsuspecting fans get completely swept up in the mass of humanity once Iggy and friends storm the stage. From the second Iggy, rail thin, leather skin and all, took the stage to “Raw Power”, fans surged to the front like a punk rock Running of the Bulls. It was hard to watch too closely amidst fighting for air and trying not to get trampled under foot, but they sounded wildly succinct, and the reaction from the crowd was surefire testimony that only one band could have possibly closed out Riot Fest.
Number of terror-induced panic attacks: 2, 344 (at last count)
LIVE IN THE NOW: The ten or 12 girls that were given access to storm the stage and dance next to Iggy spent a good chunk of it snapping photos on their phones or cameras. C’mon!
Most defiant act of sexual depravity not committed by Iggy himself: The legendary Mike Watt, champion of the thud staff, humping his bass suggestively against his monitor at the end of “Shake Appeal”. Odd, yeah, but who are we to question the Minuteman?
Headbanger’s Cut: It’s hard to reduce a Stooges set to just one great song or moment, but “Search and Destroy”, “No Fun”, and “I Just Wanna Be Your Dog” cannot, and will not, be beat. Ever.
Riotous Scale [1-5 fists]: Obliterated. You can’t quantify madness.