Chicago – Yesterday marked the first day of Chicago’s last summer festival of 2016. Fans from around the city and the world filled into Douglas Park on the city’s South Side, where the green grass was a plenty and mud was nowhere to be found… perhaps this will be the first year we experience a Riot Fest without ruining our shoes? Fingers crossed! What is certain though, is the fact the lineup is stellar – one of the best in the history of Riot Fest – and day one had some great new bands we’re just dying to tell you about!
Okay, I should probably make it known that I love Diarrhea Planet, so yeah, I am a bit biased. But for good reason. Once you see this Nashville six-piece live, it’s hard not to fall head over heels for guitarists Jordan Smith, Brent Toler, Emmett Miller, and Evan Bird, bassist Mike Boyle, and drummer Ian Bush. Clearly plenty of others feel the same because despite having an early set time, DP packed the Rock Stage. Fans excitedly sang along to “Lite Dream” and shook their heads, hair flying in every direction, just like the men of DP. The guys played a mix of old stuff from albums like I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams and new material from the recent release Turn to Gold (Infinity Cat Recordings) - making sure to announce to the crowd, “This here’s a new song!” Cheers followed every song but especially boomed when Bird jumped off the stage and ran up and down the pit, wailing on guitar. I say Diarrhea Planet should become a Riot Fest staple, like GWAR. Ball’s in your court, Riot Fest!
One of the great things about music festivals is accidentally stumbling upon a band you had never heard of, who absolutely blows your f**king mind. This is precisely what happened to me when I walked over to the south side of the park, to see Eskmeaux and caught the end of Jule Vera‘s set. The energy this Alabama four-piece, comprised of Ansley Newman, Jake Roland, William Stacey, and Hogarth Horvath, was emitting from the the StoryHeart Stage immediately caught my attention! Those drums, whoa! And wait, is he playing the guitar with his teeth? Why, yes, he is! Last year Jule Vera put out its debut EP Friendly Enemies (Pure Noise Records), which features the single ”Light The Night,” so it’s safe to say this pop-punk band will soon be releasing a full-length and making your radar, if it hasn’t already!
Since everyone and their mom seemed to be telling me to check out indie-pop outfit Eskimeaux, I did. And I’m glad I did. Eskimeaux began as the solo project of Gabrielle Smith (Frankie Cosmos‘ keyboardist) but has grown into a four-piece, with Oliver Kalb, Told Slant’s Felix Walworth, and Jack Greenleaf. As the four took to the stage, Smith commented, “Here we are on the Rebel Stage, being rebels.” Laughter spread, but Smith is a rebel of sorts. She sticks it to society’s ridiculous beauty standards, with her unshaven legs and body hair. She doesn’t play the role of smiling female intent on making happy songs, as she she bears her heart and soul in songs like “Broken Necks” and “Drunk,” that play as diary entries we’ve been privy to. Though, I should mention the music of Eskimeaux isn’t strictly for women. Plenty of men love this New Yorker and her band, and in fact, much of the audience was comprised of men. It is nice to see men embracing Eskimeaux, especially when women often struggle to have their voices heard in the festival scene.
I gotta say, one of the (many) joys of this job is watching bands grow and make the transition from “up-and-coming” to making it in the music industry. I’m glad to say I’ve watched Highly Suspect do just that. I remember seeing the Brooklyn trio perform an early set at the BMI Stage at Lollapalooza, back in 2014. After the band’s intense set, I chatted with twins Rich and Ryan Meyer and their best friend Johnny Stevens, who formed Highly Suspect in 2009, when they were all still living in Massachusetts, before they eventually moved to New York and signed with 300 Entertainment. In that Best New Bands interview, the guys said they were ready to “spearhead” a rock and roll resurgence. Given Highly Suspect has been selling out shows, has toured with bands like The Struts, and its debut LP Mister Asylum was nominated for a Grammy, I’m gonna go ahead and say, they’ve succeeded. And if you were at the StoryHeart Stage Friday night, for the trio’s headlining set, then I know you agree. Fans packed into the dark, grassy knoll, where heads thrashed and bodies surfed. Fans also got a taste of what’s to come on Highly Suspect’s sophomore album The Boy Who Died Wolf, with the guys performing songs like “My Name Is Human.” If you ask me, I say Highly Suspect is gearing up to take a Grammy home with The Boy Who Died Wolf.
There’s still two more days of Riot Fest Chicago. Stay tuned for our coverage. Follow Best New Bands on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Photography by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.