Sunday, July 22, 2018

Who is Riot Fest's Secret Performer?

I am a big fan of Riot Fest. I’ve been impressed by their lineups enough to fly out to Chicago with friends twice in the past (one instance even resulted in a Toy Story related tattoo for someone, but that's for another time), and I wish I could have gone in the years I couldn’t make it. Riot Fest stands out because they keep their festival lineup to the punk/rock/alternative genre with some hip hop mixed in, so there are more similar bands out there for the rock diehards still sticking around in 2018 (bless you all!). Back in simpler times, you would have to choose which lineup between Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly, etc you liked best. These days, it seems that all festivals have the same exact lineup, with just a few minor changes in the bands that hit are playing around lunchtime. Riot Fest does not fall into that awful trend, but instead thrives on having a jaw-droppingly good lineup each and every year. One added caveat (SAT word right there!) is that they have amazed people by getting bands to reunite when it seemed impossible.

Posting this just to make myself laugh
My first year at Riot Fest, 2013, I saw the Replacements play their first show since 1991. Since then, they got the Misfits to reunite with their original lineup for the first time in 33 years, and then, they pulled off the impossible last year by reuniting your favorite bands’ favorite band: Jawbreaker. To sum it up quick without fangirling too hard, Jawbreaker basically made it as close as possible without hitting it big, and eventually broke up amidst turmoil and the members hating each other, only for a cult like following to grow since their demise back in ‘96. I swear when the lineup was released last year, I thought it was a joke poster when Jawbreaker’s name was up there with Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age for headliners. I hadn’t bought a plane ticket so fast in my life, and it was worth every penny and lower back pain from standing in a giant park for three days.

In addition to reunions, they get legends like Iggy Pop, Pixies, Taking Back Sunday, The Cure, System of a Down, Motorhead, No Doubt, New Order and even Snoop Dogg to perform. Basically, they’ve never had a bad lineup, despite Riot Fest constantly saying themselves that ‘Riot Fest Sucks’. So here we are in 2018, with an almost full lineup announced, with some actual question marks listed for surprise acts. The lineup already includes Blink-182, Elvis Costello, Interpol, Blondie, Sum 41, Twin Peaks, The Jesus Lizard, and of course, Andrew W.K. So who the hell is going to be the surprise this year? I have a feeling, albeit a pure gut feeling, but a feeling none the less that it can only be one band worthy of a shockingly good surprise headliner: but I’m going paint you a picture with words so you can envision it, or something like that.

If I’m Riot Fest, I’m keeping those ????’s up on the lineup and just wait for everyone to show up at the end of Sunday night to see who is going to close. Everyone will be waiting in suspense without having any idea who the hell it’s going to be. Maybe they can leave early, maybe they’ll want to stay for a third encore, who knows? They sure don’t. The crowds show up, with nothing but a black curtain with a white ‘?’ on it. The tension in the air is thick enough to hack with a machete. Punks, skinheads, dweebs, wastoids, riot grrrls, dad’s accompanying their 14-year-old obsessed with All Time Low, everyone is on edge waiting to see who this mystery headliner is.

Picture yourself there, there is a goth girl wearing a Cure shirt to your right with a stick n poke spider tattoo. On your left? A guy with a long beard, an Operation Ivy tee and a look that he only drinks craft beers and nothing else. People are ready to boo, complain or faint from happiness. Even the mysteriously banned CM Punk, who has snuck in under the name of Phil something or other, is ready to see who it is. 

The clock strikes 9:30 and a single spotlight hits the question mark on the curtain. It’s mostly silence, with a couple drunken woo’s that inevitably would happen anywhere. ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE CURTAIN DROPS. A bald guy with a guitar stands alone on the stage in front of a curtain with a banner hanging on it. It’s fucking Daughtry. Daughtry is the surprise headliner. You are at a Daughtry show. A chorus of jeers erupts in the crowd. You’re dumbstruck. You hear people cry out “BOOO!” “HISS!” and of course, “NOT A FAN OF YOU!”. The poser with the Joy Division shirt he bought at Urban Outfitters a couple feet in front of you is going wild, so pumped for Daughtry. Finally, an act that he not only knows, but likes! Somewhere out there, maybe by a merch stand, maybe watching backstage, maybe a thousand miles outside of Chicago, the Riot Fest Twitter Guy laughs to him/herself. It’s the greatest troll job he/she has ever done. It has almost made up for every single time someone on Twitter asks when the lineup is coming out, despite it coming out at the same time each year. He/she can take a minute to enjoy this, because they have earned it for the dumbness of people on social media.
This guy!

As Riot Fest is about to turn into an actual riot because of Daughtry, the banner comes down, revealing the word “SIKE!” on the curtain. It goes pitch black once again, and everyone is holding their breath. People who were walking for the exits stop in their tracks, the mob getting ready to tip over the porta potties freeze, and the bored girl with a shitload of eye liner and the septum piercing that kept sighing in front of you look up, with hope. All of a sudden, a single piano note plays. Hey, you know that note from somewhere, don’t you? Where do you know that song? The crowd starts erupting as the second and third piano notes hit, and everything starts picking up steam. The crowd starts singing along in the what is the most unified thing this country has seen since 2016 when they all scream out ‘WHEN I WAS. A YOUNG BOY. MY FATHER. TOOK ME INTO THE CITY.’

You’re damn skippy, you’re being welcomed (back) to the black parade. My Chemical Romance is back and you’re ready to get your goddamn emo on.

honestly, simpler times.
I mean, this is just pure guesswork here, but let me give me thoughts why: the band is on friendly terms despite the hiatus, which is extremely rare. They’ve been spotted hanging out in the past at Frank Iero shows, so it doesn’t appear to be a huge feud or anything. They’ve had time to do their own solo stuff and take breaks and whatever. I mean they’ve been out of action since 2013, so they are due for a comeback. MCR fits the bill for Riot Fest, obviously. Who wouldn’t be happy with that reunion? The Riot Fest audience is filled with the beaten and the damned, who want to say so long and goodnight and promising that they’re not okay. This is a slam dunk of a headliner, will add to the lore of Riot Fest booking amazing surprises, and add the perfect band to go with Blink 182, Beck, Interpol, Sum 41, Twin Peaks, The Wonder Years and such.

I may be way completely wrong here, but hey, I’m trying.