Chicago – As per tradition, it rained on the first day of Riot Fest. We’re talking pour down, smack you dead in the face, rain, which of course left Douglas Park nice and muddy – day two will be no exception. As I write this, cats and dogs are falling – but the mud just seems to add to the dirt and grit that is Riot Fest. The edginess and coarseness is what makes this music festival so amazing and one of a kind. With that comes bands who are just as unique. Best New Bands caught five noteworthy bands on Friday. Here they are, in order of appearance:
Two year old Venice, California based Faulkner took to the Revolt Stage like seasoned rock stars. Frontman Lucas Asher tramped around the stage, jumped on and off the monitors, and climbed the drum stand, to leap high into the air, with his bright red leather jacket like a flare in the sky signally the warning: Faulkner is about to take over Riot Fest. Aside from Asher, Faulkner is comprised of guitarist and keyboardist Eric Scullin, bassist Dimitri Farougias, and drummer Christian Hogan. Despite having yet to release an album Faulkner has begun generating buzz. Their soon to be released debut Street Axioms was made with help from Mark Needham (The Killers,), JP Bowersock (The Strokes), and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. The foursome performed plenty of material off their debut, including “I’m Stoned” – the song that gave them their big break – and their latest single “Revolutionary.” Expect to hear more from Faulkner in the coming year!
The unexpected surprise of the day came from Philly hip hop trio Ground Up, made up of producer Bij Lincs and rappers Azar and Malakai. These three were outstanding! What started out as a little crowd turned into a massive one as people wandering around heard the sounds coming from the Radicals Stage and rushed over to check it out. This included visits from Riot Fest employees and security, who drove over on golf carts onto the shaded grass, getting as close as they could. Cell phones filled the crowd, capturing the flowing rhymes and alluring beats. The song that was perhaps most captivating was “Breakfast,” their collaboration with G-Eazy. Ground Up got the crowd extra riled up with a mashup of Kriss Kross’ “Jump Jump” and Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do.” They also threw in some Kanye since they were in the Windy City. They praised Chicago, but Alex Azar sadly noted that Chi-town got his Jordans all muddy. Malakai quipped, “Every time we come here, it’s like fifteen degrees.” It was pretty chilly, but thankfully Ground Up made it hard to stay still, keeping the blood flowing.
It’s a good thing six-piece London folk punk band Skinny Lister was performing outdoors because they would’ve brought the house down! The U.K. punks jumped all over the Revolt Stage, on the speakers, and into the crowd. Bassist Michael Camino even surfed the crowd, while playing his upright bass! It was jaw-dropping! People filed in as the set went on, clearly in awe of what they saw. Even the sun came out. Singer Lorna Thomas jokingly told the warm visitor, “You can stay!” The band had people dancing and clapping along to “John Kanaka” and “Trouble On Oxford Street,” the latter of which the band told us was inspired by melodeon player Max Thomas getting his “arse” kicked on Oxford Street. (Find out exactly why he got bloodied and bruised in our upcoming interview!) It seemed Skinny Lister was just the afternoon jolt many festival goers needed after the wet, gloomy morning.
Massachusetts indie rockers Speedy Ortiz closed the night out over at the Revolt Stage. Sadie Dupuis and her gang were shocked by the number of fans who turned out to see them, admitting that they would’ve opted for Faith No More. Fans chuckled. Some hollered cheers of love. After seeing Speedy Ortiz rock out, it’s hard not to love them. In fact, they rocked so hard drummer Mike Falcone’s bass drum fell over. He kept going, like a true professional, but once the song finished, he pushed the rest of the kit over. Very rock star of him! While the crew put the kit back together, Dupuis took advantage of the time to discuss fan safety and consent, urging fans to be respectful of each other, but especially of the women in the crowd. She spoke about the anti-harassment and safety hotline the band set up for this tour. Speaking of consent, the band played “Puffer,” off of their latest release Foil Deer. They also played the oldie “Silver Spring” from their Sports EP, to the excitement of fans. It was a marvelous end to the first day of Riot Fest!
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.