THE RIOT FEST CHRONICLES:  Notes, Scribblings, Late Nights, And Moments of Delirious Bliss

RIOT FEST DAY 1: The Last Glorious Days of Summer 2014 Cont.

CHICAGO, IL – I’m walking around and it suddenly hits me – there’s no place to freaking sit down.  The grass is trampled on by dirty feet and I’m not too jazzed about sitting on the wet ground. But later I would find that to be an awesome option as the entire park was turned into one thick clay like goopy mud pit. So I walk aimlessly around the food venue areas looking for a seat and found some old park benches. Some people were sprawled out on them and they were getting pretty crowded.

The rain was getting a little more intense. As I walked toward the smaller stages I noticed people were just sitting on the ground regardless if it was dirty, wet or whatever. I saw some people sitting on these rainbow colored hammocks on the first day. There must have been like six of them but they were filled with people. I couldn’t tell if they were provided by Riot Fest or if people had somehow brought their own in. Either way it was a good idea.

I hit one of the smaller stages and check out this metal band from Dublin. This was their first tour and they were new. I didn’t catch the name but I will keep digging around. They had a sped up sound with lots of screaming. That sort of thing went down well with the people in the audience. We had a few colorful characters who were dancing around and rolling on the ground doing summersaults even though they were getting muddy. This was a party of great proportions. It sort of reminded me of the scene in, “Titanic” when the poor people in the lower deck were having their own hootenanny. This wasn’t some angry heavy metal throw down but more of a happy celebration filled with lots of yelling and screaming.

I also checked out Failure, Stiff Little Fingers and ALL.

RIOT FEST DAY 2: Classic Modern Sounds and Non-stop Action


I show up early so I can check out the first band on the set list – The Pizza Underground. This is child actor MacCaulay Culkin’s tribute to the Velvet Underground. Everyone I told this to thought it was a joke. I mean this is a tribute to the greatest alternative bands of all time. We’re going all the way back to 1967 with Lou  Reed and the Velvet Underground. The thing about it is the kids in the band decided to make this around a pizza theme so all the songs revolved around food. This is an odd decision made impromptu, I believe, in Culkin’s kitchen. Maybe it was decided upon after one too many bottles of wine or inspired by a dinner party that went way over its time limit. Either way it’s ridiculous but at the same time it’s a fun time. This is strictly for the type of alternative fan who doesn’t take the context too seriously.


THE PIZZA UNDERGROUND - Macaulay Culkin - The Velvet Underground  RIOT FEST, Chicago, IL

I first heard about these guys on either Buzzwire or the Village Voice. The story I got was that they were booed off stage somewhere in Brooklyn. Maybe the audience was too serious about their rock music. Maybe they were offended with the content. Lou Reed was from Brooklyn, New York and is regarded as a kind of pop culture relic. Originally the idea of a Velvet Underground cover band by MacCaulay Culkin made me outraged. Then I find out that the cover band is based on a series of pizza songs and then I was livid. Now my inner self starts talking and it tells me to relax and to just go with it. I listened to the songs on Youtube and you know what happened next? I ended up liking it.

When I found out that this band tours somewhat rarely it is clear that this whole act is a novelty. If I caught them at Riot Fest I would be one of the few in the entire country that actually saw them. I would be right up there with the rock journalists and other media people. Now I never saw the original Velvet Underground but I could certainly make this performance. I would have serious bragging rights among the Alternative universe. As crazy as it all sound I began to get excited about this experience.

So there I was early Saturday morning standing in line waiting to get in for day two. I was going to grab a brew on the way up to the Riot Stage and park right along side the other fans in the mud. They played for exactly 30 minutes. We got to hear Mac and the other kids sing, “Papa John Says”, “Pizza” (a take off of Sweet Jane), “I’m Beginning to Eat The Slice”, and “Take A Bite of the Wild Slice”. They had a Nico character who was doing a German accent and she was banging on an empty pizza box with a wooden spoon, (like a tambourine).

I laughed at the lines in, “Pizza” – (Sweet Jane) when Mac goes, “Me I’m in a Pizza Band….”. They would all do that high pitched yodel / yell  on the chorus, “….pizzaaaaaaaa.. “ and the audience lapped it up. There wasn’t one disgruntled face in the audience from my point of view. Everyone was getting the joke. These weren’t complete songs. The Velvet Underground song parodies were strung along in a medly.

I liked the tour shirts. There was one in particular with a giant yellow anchovy fish on it, (instead of the banana) that I absolutely adored. It picks up on the Warhol accents in the original album cover, “The Velvet Undergound with Nico”. Now towards the end of the set Mac hinted on some new parodies based on Billy Joel which was met with acceptance and laughter. This was a fun set – remember? It’s light  hearted entertainment and these guys were good at it.

I read this review of Macaulay Culkin and it was in reference to his stalled career and drug problems and how sad his life was. The guy I saw that morning was up on stage rocking out and having the time of this life. Later he was seen leading a group of fans through the Zombie haunted house and they were having a blast. I take great comfort in that. Mac still has the limelight and he still has fans and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to lighten up

… and have a slice.


This is when the mud started to get out of control. People continued to walk through the muddy fields. In some ways they stomped the moisture out of the ground and for most of the morning I thought it would hold up. But by the time The Buzzcocks came out on stage the mud was unbearable as more people came out in droves adding more footprints and mixing up the sod and soil into a clay like goopy paste. It was strong enough to suck your shoes off. Plus now people were dropping beer all over. The sun came out and the fields became a medieval setting for guts and glory. The planets were all in alignment and it was time for the classic UK punk rock band – the BUZZCOCKS.

The show must go on. The time now was – 2:20PM and I could hear them rip into, “I Don’t Mind”. Guitarist Steve Diggle came out in his famous white jump suit and was doing his jumps and splits while revving up the crowd. I could hear Pete Shelleys signature whines and howls and harmonies. Muddy conditions, lost shoes and spilled beer aside these guys were cranking out an unbelievable set. I didn’t get front row this time because I didn’t want to lose my shoes. This is a word to all future Riot Festers make sure you that you wear some 9 hole footwear. You need some kind of boots, Docs, engineer foot gear or hiking boots --- hell even snow shoes – just to combat all of that freaking mud.

“What Do I Get?” Pete Shelley sang – and you could see that the weather was cooperating. It was a glorious day. I noticed that my phone kept popping in and out of reception. Connecting with my friends was somewhat of a challenge. The other problem I had out there was that there were not phone charging stations anywhere. The people who ran the fair didn’t seemed to concerned about it. I was though…..

Here’s the setlist

1.       I Don’t Mind

2.       Autonomy

3.       Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore

4.       Sick City Sometimes

5.       Promises

6.       Love You More

7.       What Do I Get?

8.       Harmony In My Head

9.       Ever Fallen In Love?

10.   Orgasm Addict

  When I heard, “Autonomy” I was well into the drink my son. I knew by the driving beat of this crowd pleaser that the Buzzcocks weren’t going to take a break on any of us. This was going to be a hard rocking set filled with passion, classic hooks, rallying cries, and an all out assault. From my position you had two basic choices. Try to hold your ground and step aside. The people in the front rows were not budging and I knew that this was about as close as I was going to get.




Chicago | The Pizza Underground, Buzzcocks, Ted Cantu| Humboldt Park| Hot Metro Finds | Riot Fest 2014 | Chicago, IL

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