WPGU at Riot Fest 2014 (Day 1)


Written by Justin Peters

Last weekend I went to the 10th annual Riot Fest in Chicago. I was particularly excited about the festival seeing as how the lineup consisted of some of the bands I grew up on as well as artists that I’ve been wanting to see for years. The music was great, the atmosphere was welcoming, and the weather was, for the most part, ideal. However, despite the overall positive experience I had, there were a number of instances that had me questioning the event management. Unreasonably long lines, severe overcrowding, and technical difficulties left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. But while these minor details do add up, the most important thing is the music, so let’s get to some of the highlights.

Circa Survive

I arrived to Humboldt Park just in time to see the start of Circa Survive’s set. I’ve been wanting to see Circa for years, so when I was met with a somewhat bored looking group of dudes on stage, I was a little disappointed. It’s important to note that Friday’s weather was pretty crummy-a consistent drizzle coupled with mid 50º temperature. As a result, the audiences throughout the day remained huddled and fairly motionless, and since live performances are a two-way street between performer and listener, the vibes just weren’t right. Despite the seeming apathy on stage, the music was on point. The intricate contrapuntal guitar lines, driving drum grooves, and how-in-the-world-does-he-sing-that-high vocals of Anthony Green blended perfectly. During their hit song “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose”, Green hopped off the stage, grabbed a handful of mud, and smeared it across his face. In between singing his lines, he proceeded to mark the faces of nearly everyone in the front row before retaking the stage and finishing the set.


If you’ve never been to a GWAR show, you have some YouTube videos to watch. The supposed interplanetary barbarians are notorious for their extremely violent performances in which life-like dolls of celebrities are mutilated on stage, and bodily fluids are spewed onto the audience like a twisted Blue Man Group. While I only caught a few songs of their set in passing, what I saw was worth it. After the recent untimely death of their lead singer Dave Brockie (known by his stage name Oderus Urungus), the band decided to continue on with the return of Mike Bishop (Blothar). If you’re not familiar, GWAR’s music revolves entirely around their mythology. The result is a humorous blend of grotesque over-the-top violence along with some serious thrash metal. Amongst the vicious energy and blood spewing udder worn by Blothar, the music was everything it sets out to be-aggressive, disgusting, and hilarious.

From Indian Lakes

I just recently heard of this Yosemite Valley, CA aggressive indie band, and was instantly drawn in by their complex song forms, beautiful vocal harmonies, and stellar musicianship. They seemed like a lighter Circa Survive, and I was really interested to hear how they’d sound live. They played on the second smallest stage in the park, and drew a fairly small crowd, so getting up close was no problem. They started with the first track from their 2012 album Able Bodies, entitled “Anything”. While the playing was spectacular, the vocals were particularly quiet in the mix, regardless of Joey Vannucchi’s apparent effort, while the keyboard was a bit hot. The set was short, but really showcased their talents well.


Mastodon is another band that I just recently started to listen to (even though I should have been doing so for years by now). Brann Dailor’s chaotic drumming alone made me itch to see them perform. While on stage, the band suffered from the same problems that plagued Circa Survive’s set earlier that day: a motionless audience paired with a motionless band. As was the case with Circa, though, the music was excellent. Their set consisted mostly of tracks from their new album Once More ‘Round the Sun, including the album’s first single, “High Road”. The rest of their 45 minute set was killer, and was one of my favorites of the entire weekend.


Growing up, I loved the song “Raining Blood”. It’s fast, and angry, and aggressive, and metal as hell, and that’s pretty much exactly what Slayer’s entire set was. While waiting for their set to begin, fog started billowing out of the mouth of a smoke machine, leaving the stage invisible. When the fog dispersed, four huge bearded men were on stage, playing “God Hates us All”. The following hour made up the best show of the weekend. The only pauses in between songs were to very politely thank the crowd. During the barrage of blast beats and guitar dive bombs, a huge mosh pit raged five feet to my right, and a perfect metal couple traded singing verses behind me. The atmosphere coupled with the music made for a perfect end to Day 1.

About Justin Peters

Justin Peters is the kind of dude you don't want your daughter to meet. He's a mean ol' mug with an almost complete degree in playing drums. He plays in a rock band called Feral States, and likes beer. This guy is trouble and you should stay away unless you're into that kind of thing.

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