Riot Fest drew 30,000 people, both young and old. Kicking off the festival was Dead Sara, a band I most likely wouldn't have heard about if they hadn't been on this bill. And boy, am I happy they were. Their set had even more energy than I anticipated, especially their hit song "Weatherman." The crowd was in awe of Emily Armstrong’s vocal ability. I was hearing comments left and right about how well she girl could really sing. As she climbed the amps to serenade the crowd during “Weatherman,” they quieted down to hear her belt the lines : "I sing for the melody I sing for a reason." Hands down this is a band I would see any time they are coming through my city, hopefully with a headlining slot because it just wasn't enough.
The night continued with Chicago pop punk band Pegboys and curiously, Neon Trees, who captivated the audience with an elaborate light show and high energy. Neon Trees singer Tyler Glenn certainly can put on a great show, sprinting across the stage and screaming until he is red in the face. But their placement on the bill was a bit confusing, since their style is poppier than the harder, edgier sound of the other bands, but Glenn tried to get the crowd into their performance by calling them to focus on them. No matter what band fans had come to check out, for the next 30 minutes they were to focus on Neon Trees. Luckily for the singer, unless the members of the crowd had been hiding under a rock, they all sang and danced to the infectious hit “Animal” and for that song everyone was focused solely on them. After Neon Trees, The Offspring took the stage to the waiting fans delight but without fail Dead Sara stole the night for me.
Then, prior to the shower of blood that rained down on me, I had the pleasure of checking out Frank Turner. Since he's from the UK, that could be the reason his style of folk punk has escaped me for so long. Taking the stage with an acoustic guitar and his backing band, The Sleeping Souls, Turner wowed me within the first few minutes of his set. He commanded the stage. With a sound similar to Dave Hause or Cory Branan, Turner fit the bill perfectly, a little folk, a little, punk and a whole lot of passion.
The main act I couldn’t wait to see was The Gaslight Anthem. Being very familiar with their live sets and music, I knew I was in for a great set. Much of the crowd had stayed at the stage after Hot Water Music’s set to get a great spot for The Gaslight Anthem. During the set lead singer, Brian Fallon encouraged those not familiar with Hot Water Music to listen to them, because without that band Gaslight would not exist. I couldn’t agree more.
With only 45 minutes to work with (which is their magic number as of late), these boys know how to give their fans what they want. They played several of the newer songs off their recent album 45, mixed with old well favorites such as “Boombox and Dictionaries”, “The ‘59 Sound,” and “Great Expectations”, and “Senor and the Queen” off their original 4 song EP, for the fans who have been there since the start. A person in the crowd commented to me, “There’s just no other band that sounds exactly like them” and that is a feeling I think many people shared. If you haven’t seen this band live go do it and have a great time listening to rock music with a bit of punk and a whole lot of soul.
The night finished out with heavy hitters such as Coheed and Cambria, The Dropkick Murphys, who excited the crowd (to the point where us photographers got kicked out of the photo pit before the first song ended because it wasn’t safe for us to be there with the amount of crowd surfing taking place), The Descendants and Rise Against. So many great names, the fans were truly pleased as they filed out the fest grounds. Now on to the second and final full day of Riot Fest. Check back for reviews on the rest of our Top 5 bands of the fest.
All Photos (c) Daniela Montelogo