An absolutely gorgeous Friday afternoon (September 16) greeted the masses for the first day of Riot Fest, as Douglas Park was once again transformed into a vibrant rock and roll playground full of carnival rides, people eclectic and of course many bands. which ran the gamut from new-school rap metal to old-school punk to a (arguably excessive) amount of emo bands. Indeed, if you happened to be a fan of that particular genre, then the world was very much your oyster on Day 1, but even if emo wasn’t your thing (which this reviewer was ), there were still many more quality bands to discover on the 5 distinct stages of Riot Fest.
And perhaps there was no better place to “rebel” against all the shameless emo-ness that beamed through Douglas Park on Friday than the aptly titled “Rebel Stage.” Tucked/hidden in the southwest corner of the festival, true to its name, the Rebel Stage often hosts generally more subversive acts, usually of the under-the-radar/up-and-coming variety, so, generally, a good place to check out new bands before everyone.
One of these groups was London’s Wargasm (not to be confused with the ’80s thrash band of the same name), who took the stage around 2:20 a.m. and delivered a pretty catchy 30-minute set under the toasty afternoon sun. They were definitely flexing their Nu-Metal revivalist muscles, looking like the new-school love child of Spineshank and Atari Teenage Riot (if you recognize those two band names, you get an A+ for your Nu-Metal insight). Old school metal!), with maybe a touch of Die Antwood for good measure. Suffice it to say, they were partying like it was 1999, for better or for worse. Overall, while this sound/style has been done (arguably better) before, this type of music can’t help but fire up a crowd, so it would have to be said that Wargasm delivered the goods on that front.
The following was probably one of the most unique groups at Riot Fest Friday: Alger. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, they sported a drastically different sound/flavor than Wargasm. While Wargasm was unbalanced/decadent, Alger was much more restrained/disciplined/nuanced in its approach. They effectively conveyed a unique, brooding tension in their music, which sported a decidedly loud/jammy Southern gothic vibe. It was quite dense, but also very organic/real. Throw in some industrial undertones and a few sporadic punky tempo moments, and overall you had a pretty convincing performance for a mid-afternoon set. Nice group.
Did you know that yoga and heavy metal go surprisingly well together? Well, if you were lucky enough to catch the start of Bob Vylan’s set on Friday, you know it now! For what’s not private, Bob Vylan has a pretty unique way of warming up before his performances, inviting the audience to join in his self-proclaimed “meditation” exercises, which basically consist of him giving bows to the sun / stretching / etc. while a ridiculously dirty and distorted metal guitar riff creaks in the background. With its drummer laying down a wicked mid/low beat, it all adds up to probably the coolest/funniest exercise routine this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of witnessing live (provided it’s the only metal warm-up exercise routine that I witnessed live, but nonetheless).
But of course, Bob Vylan is so much more than his metal-yoga warm-up (awesome as that is). Hailing from the UK, he’s a cat who breathes new life/credibility into the often maligned rap-metal genre thanks in large part to his clever/topical/confrontational lyrics that attack everything from racism (“We Live Here “), politics (“Heard You Want Your Country Back” (which opened its set)), societal ills (“Take That”) and pop culture “Turn Off The Radio” in impressive fashion. And it delivers it all with an impeccably punchy, effortless rhythmic flow that nicely complements the pervasive aggressiveness of the music, which is mostly metal in nature, but often with a propulsive punky/noisy dynamic that brings an added element of brutality to The mixture. It all adds up to a pretty potent/invigorating concoction, especially in a live setting. It certainly didn’t hurt that Bob Vylan was willing to hop into the crowd on more than one occasion, surf a few songs in his set, then hop into the moshpit and sing along with fans to “Wicked.” & Bad”, which was a pretty awesome way to end his set. Oh, and did I mention the guy is hilarious? His onstage banter was on point, making taboo jokes about the Queen, the Kardashians, tearing up Elvis, the American education system, and more. a very talented musician and a great live performer. He stole the show on Friday.
Punk Legends of So-Cal The descendants were the recipients of some unwanted press recently, when one of the guys from Capital Stormer apparently rocked a Milo t-shirt on January 6e audiences (much to the band’s chagrin/embarrassment). No doubt it all sucked for the Descendents upon hearing this news, so maybe it was fitting that they opened up their early night set on the Roots stage (which is one of the big headliners) with, well, “Everything Sux” of course! They then launched straight into “Hope” from their debut album. Milo goes to college, and from there, they served up an assortment of classics from their historic discography. The cuts from their aforementioned classic debut were arguably the most fun for this reviewer, but overall it looked like the Descendants couldn’t do any wrong during their hour-long set on Friday. A nice way to end the first day of Riot Fest for yours truly before heading to Thalia Hall for an epic nightcap with the Hoseas.
Tips from day 1:
Best Spotted Horror Movie T-Shirt: Creepshow
Best Random T-Shirt Sighting: Fishbone (#riotfest2021memories)
Bad Brains t-shirt compliments received: 2
Number of large Gremlin plushies spotted: 1
Number of emos present: 16,835