Despite early rain, Riot Fest went off without a hitch on day two in Chicago’s Douglass Park.
Saturday featured some of the more unique weekend bookings, boasting rare sets by comedian Hannibal Buress in his guise as rapper Eshu Tune alongside performances by actor/musician Corey Feldman and a rare festival set from horrorcore hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse (plus headlining sets by Queens of the Stone Age, The Postal Service and Mr. Bungle).
“It’s a great day,” said guitarist Steve Sladkowski of Canadian rockers PUP. “It feels like the freak day a little bit. ICP are here. Us. And I think that’s a cool thing that Riot Fest does – jams a bunch of stuff that maybe there’s a little bit of overlap, like 100 Gecs, and just are kind of able to just make that make sense. It’s really a fun thing to be a part of,” he said. “We didn’t realize we were going to get like all of Viagra Boys right now. Which is awesome. We are fans” said the guitarist Saturday backstage, taking in the band’s nearby set as he conducted interviews. “The Postal Service and Death Cab. A couple of us are pretty big Mr. Bungle fans. It’s fun.”
PUP overcame early sound issues Saturday over the course of 45 minutes on the Rise stage, delivering an engaging set nevertheless.
“What the f–k is up, Chicago?” asked singer Stefan Babcock at the top of the set. “I’m gonna do less talking so we can do more rocking in the next 42 and a half minutes,” he joked, following up “Totally Fine” with “My Life is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier” during the group’s return to Riot Fest for the first time since 2014.
“It’s been nine years. We played when it was at the old location. And, basically, that feels like essentially the beginning of the band,” recalled Sladkowski. “And I feel like that, at that time, it was probably the biggest crowd we’d ever performed to. So, it stands out. Actually, someone just showed us some photos from that day. I looked… less weathered,” said the guitarist with a smile.
“I don’t remember too much about the show. But I remember that it was great,” added Babcock. “I just remember feeling, at the time, when we were just starting out, that that was the first festival we played where it felt like something good is happening here,” said the singer. “It’s definitely kind of stuck in my mind as like a turning point for us.”
English folk punk Frank Turner rivaled Pennywise as one of Saturday’s most energetic sets, plowing through 40 minutes in reckless abandon on the Rise stage.
Alongside four piece backing band The Sleeping Souls, Turner got started Saturday with “Punches.”
“This is an anti-fascist song,” he asserted on the Riot Fest stage, setting up “1933.” “Are you ready, Riot Fest?”
Running left and right, Turner posed from atop his amps, live harmonica driving the socially conscious anthem, scissor kicking as he jumped back to the stage.
Turner spins relatable tales with an emphasis on storytelling, the Riot Fest crowd shouting his lyrics right back at him throughout Saturday’s set.
“I very distinctly remember the first time that anyone had sung along with a song that I’d written – which is now quite a long time ago – and being slightly arrested by it,” said Turner backstage Saturday prior to his set. “And then, thankfully, realizing pretty quickly that what I need to do is not spend very much time analyzing that. Because I would find that paralyzing as a writer I think,” he said. “To some degree, it’s currently working with me not spending too much time thinking about how people are going to receive my songs. But there are very few better feelings than seeing a bunch of people you don’t know sing along with words that you wrote in your bedroom, in some cases, like 15 or 20 years ago. That’s f–ing cool.”
No stranger to Riot Fest, Turner took the opportunity Saturday to mingle, with a list of bands to check out following his set.
“I remember last time we played here, we were on the same bill as Gaslight, Dropkicks, Hot Water – we were all on the same stage. So, we circled the buses,” he recalled. “The Dropkicks guys had like barbecue and deck chairs and we all just sat around. That’s the thing I like about festivals,” he said. “The problem with being friends with people in touring groups is that sometimes you’re like particles that never meet in a vacuum. But today already, I’ve hung out with the guys from Snapcase, Enter Shikari and Bowling For Soup. And I just got up! So it’s a good vibe. It feels like my people. It’s nice,” said Turner.
“I’ve got an insanely long list of bands I want to see. But the number one one for me – and you’re going to think I’m joking but I’m not – is ICP,” he said, looking ahead to the duo’s headlining set on the Rebel stage. “I want to be friends with ICP. I want to play The Gathering. I want that on the record. I really want to play The Gathering,” said Turner, referencing Insane Clown Posse’s infamous annual destination fest. “Everybody thinks I’m kidding when I say that. I am 100% not kidding. That’s what’s great about festivals, right?”
Ahead of Riot Fest, Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg performed solo acoustic as opening act for Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett during a pair of intimate performances in the Sidebar at FitzGerald’s in nearby Berwyn, Illinois.
On Saturday, the California punks tore through a one hour performance on the Rise stage.
“All right! Chicago, are you f–ing ready?” asked Lindberg rhetorically of the Riot Fest crowd. “Are we gonna see some action out there?” he asked, riling up his fans. “I can’t believe we’re back at the Riot Fest, let’s go!” he shouted following “Can’t Believe It.”
Messing with the photographers assembled in front of the stage, Lindberg borrowed a camera, taking a photo from the stage of the massive festival crowd. Left knee up on the monitor, he leaned into “Straight Ahead,” Pennywise a sonic assault as day two at Riot Fest continued.
Known for his work in iconic films like The Goonies and Stand By Me, actor Corey Feldman was charismatic, witty and engaging in his role as master of ceremonies, putting forth a quick but surprisingly entertaining set over the course of 30 minutes.
“It’s cool! I don’t know how the reaction is going to be,” said Feldman backstage early Saturday prior to the performance. “We’re on during the day so I don’t know how many people will even hear it.”
His concerns were addressed quickly as a massive early crowd assembled at the Rebel stage. “Corey! Corey! Corey!” came the chant while Feldman’s four piece backing band soundchecked.
One fan about ten feet back from the guardrail made the rounds early, informing nearby concertgoers he intended to start a mosh pit. “Corey Feldman Mosh Pit!” read the sign of another.
“What time is it?!” “Corey Time!” came the call and response chant from others, Feldman taking the stage moments later with “Comeback King.”
Feldman’s dance moves were on full display from go, the actor channeling Michael Jackson as he spun, head down while reaching up to grab his fedora.
The Riot Fest faithful proved more than willing to engage the actor, generating an impassioned reaction that seemed sincere, indulging Feldman’s musical whims.
Since 1992, he’s recorded six studio albums, recently releasing Love Left 2.1, a six disc retrospective box set featuring documentaries and a remixed and remastered take on his 1992 debut Love Left as it turns 30.
“Let’s go back to the Angelic era!” said Feldman, referencing his 2016 studio release Angelic 2 The Core as he launched into “Ascension Millennium,” fans in front singing right along.
Crowd surfers soared toward the stage, those in the mosh pit alternating between running in circles and simply sitting down during the bluesy stomp of “Deceptive Deborah.” The pit raged further as Feldman and company ripped into “Diseased,” the group’s hardest rocker, before closing with “Go 4 It” by fan request.
“We want to stick around to see Mr. Bungle tonight. I’ve never seen them live but I’m a big Faith No More fan,” said Feldman, stressing the importance of storytelling while offering his support for the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike. “The box set is awesome,” he said. “And the set itself is really cool. It goes way back. And it’s kind of historical. It’s got some futuristic stuff like a hologram that dances across the top of the heart shaped box – which nobody has ever done before. So I’m the first artist in history to have a hologram of themselves dance across their box set. So it’s pretty cool.”
Six hours after Feldman, Insane Clown Posse took to the same stage, their Faygo-fuelled affair doubling as one of the weekend’s most anticipated sets.
“Corey f–ing Feldman! I just saw him. That’s my boy!” exclaimed Violent J backstage, already in full face paint Saturday five hours prior to ICP’s headlining set. “That’s who we’ve been talking about for the last month!”
Few artists super serve their fans in quite the way Insane Clown Posse has since forming in Detroit in 1989. Arriving in Chicago for a rare festival appearance allowed the group an opportunity to showcase their unique style to those outside the Juggalo fold.
“This is an unbelievable, dope thing for us. Because we don’t play festivals. We play our own thing like we always have to our own fanbase – Juggalo world,” explained Violent J. “So, to come out here and play for anybody that’s not our fan, that wouldn’t normally be at an ICP show, is f–ing dope,” he said. “It feels great. It’s fun. It always feels great to perform, period. But to play for somebody that’s never seen you before when you’ve been around as long as f–ing we have, that s-it is fire. Every time we play a festival, we get geeked.”
While the band ultimately took to the stage 20 minutes late, hardcore Juggalos were not to be deterred, an “ICP!” chant going up as the group finally opened with “The Show Must Go On,” a group of painted up clowns on stage joining the duo, shaking up two liter bottles of Faygo during the soda-soaked show.
“Hokus Pokus” followed with the duo soon offering a rebuke in their wholly inimitable fashion during “Your Rebel Flag.”
Mr. Bungle broke into “Eracist” on the nearby Rise stage as day two at Riot Fest cruised toward finish.
The bond between ICP and its fanbase is strong. The duo’s intimate understanding of that relationship has allowed them to deal directly with fans, running their own label, curating their own festival, even forming their own professional wrestling outfit Juggalo Championship Wrestling, embracing the idea of strong branding as only Insane Clown Posse can.
“Make it the mother f–ing sh-t,” said Violent J of the duo’s approach to authentic, resonant branding. “You know what I’m saying? If it’s garbage, it ain’t gonna last. So, make it f–ing dope. It’s not a hard thing to ask yourself, ‘What would you think is dope? What do you and your homies think is fresh?’” he continued, elaborating upon the pair’s strategy. “Put it down like that – hard.”