Riot Fest returned to Chicago’s Douglas Park last night for Day 1 of what will likely be a mind-blowing weekend comprised of local eats, artist-inspired drinks, circus sideshows, carnival rides and an endless supply of top-tier live music. Friday brought fans an array of sounds, everything from hip hop to reggae, rap to metal, spoken word to electronica and, oh yes, a smorgasbord of punk rock. The festival kicked off its 2017 rendition with dozens of worthy performances including first-rate sets by Chicago’s own Ministry, Manchester natives New Order and Cleveland industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails among others.
Local pop punks Sleep On It opened the Radicals Stage with an early afternoon set while Liars frontman Angus Andrew donned a wedding dress (mirroring his band’s new TFCF album cover) for his group’s energy-packed set on the Riot Stage. Earlier in the day, INVSN brought their post punk sounds all the way from Sweden to the Riot Fest grounds with a brief but impactful set, led by vocalist Dennis Lyxzen who, at one point during the performance, kindly reminded folks of the importance of music as an instrument of change.
X, celebrating 40 years, entertained the masses with punchy punk riffs and rockabilly rhythms, paving the way for Buzzcocks’ blistering performance, which included fan favorites “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” “What Do I Get?” and “Orgasm Addict.” Death From Above, humbled by the opportunity to follow the aforementioned British punks, drew massive numbers and likewise prompted more than a few rowdy pits.
Those looking for more mellow sounds had a handful of select performances to choose from throughout the day. Among them were Dirty Heads and Action Bronson, the latter who delivered an ultra chill rendition of his 2015 hit, “Actin Crazy,” prior to confirming the recently-announced Season 3 pickup of his travel food show F*ck, That’s Delicious.
Ministry put on a career-spanning show featuring band classics along with new songs from their forthcoming album AmeriKKKant. “It’s good to be home.”declared lead singer Al Jourgensen a few songs into the set, just prior to making a randomized general accusation to the crowd. “You know… some of you have probably ripped me off on cab fare.” The group powered through a dozen or so tracks over the course of the set including “N.W.O,” “Psalm 69” and “Thieves.” Highlights included a bulldozing rendition of “Punch In The Face” and an intense performance of the group’s new politically-charged song “Antifa,” which was accompanied by fiery video footage and figures dressed head-to-toe in all black, waving red & black flags.
New Order brought forth one of the more introspective sets of the night with a synthpop set packed with timeless hits and hypnotic jams. “Your Silent Face,” featuring Bernard Sumner on melodica, brought some gentle sounds to the fest while the band’s spot-on rendition of “Temptation” delivered festival-goers a dose of new wave bliss. A darker version of “Bizarre Love Triangle” had the crowd singing along word for word, as did the group’s performance of “Blue Monday,” which prompted unanimous approval upon the song’s instantly-recognizable opening kick drum intro.
Hordes of festival-goers as far as the eye could see gathered for Nine Inch Nails’ Day 1 headlining set and, needless to say, they got everything they came for and more. Trent Reznor was in top form, hunkered down in his trademark pose — two hands gripping the mic — for a number of tracks. There was bright light. There was smoke. At times it looked almost as though the Riot Stage was nothing more than a smoldering pile of cinders. As for the music; “March Of The Pigs” was absolutely ferocious as were the fierce late-set back-to-back renditions of “The Hand That Feeds” into “Head Like a Hole.” The group paid tribute to the late David Bowie with a wholly unique interpretation of “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” though the tune fell sadly victim to soundbleed). “Closer,” which included a brief interlude of “The Only Time,” saw the stage become bathed in a blood red aura while “Something I Can Never Have,” one of the set’s many highlights, gave Reznor a chance to indulge his softer more vulnerable side.
All in all, last night’s lineup made for a strong opening to Riot Fest 2017 and certainly laid the tracks for a what should be a monstrous Saturday of music.
(Photos by Laurie Fanelli)