Riot Fest Chicago: Fall Out Boy, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Screeching Weasel

Chicago Riot Fest Day One Humboldt Park Friday, September 13, 2013 This year's Riot Fest features a great mix of reunions and some of Chicago's finest punk bands. Heck, The Replacements and Broadways reunions were enough to get me on a plane from Phoenix. Whether the trip was worth it remains to be seen, but the first day of the festival started strong.

Early in the evening, Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel encouraged fans to check out Fall Out Boy "even though people don't like them." Fall Out Boy has its share of haters, and I can understand why. Personally, I really enjoy their older stuff, which basically sounds like Saves the Day. I can't get into the new album at all, but I was in the minority among fans that went absolutely apeshit during Fall Out Boy's set.

Girls screamed with the fervor of a Backstreet Boys show. Fans eagerly pawed their way toward the stage, in some cases, putting others in danger. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump delayed playing a few songs to tell the crowd to help each other out, insisting that the band wouldn't play until the crowd calmed down. A girl was brought out on a stretcher as he said "I think we need a wheelchair." Standing on the left side of the stage, I saw another fan brought out on a stretcher, with a girl crying nearby. I also overheard a couple girls complain about getting trampled near the front.

I must have been a safe distance away, because I was surrounded by fans who enthusiastically sang along and didn't really push others. In fact, it was cool to see a band with a caliber like Fall Out Boy play in its hometown and headline a day of a large festival. Fans at the band's Marquee Theatre show a few months ago were pretty into it, but Chicago Fall Out Boy fans brought it to a whole new level. Not surprisingly, the band's radio hits were the best received--"Sugar We're Going Down," "Dance Dance," "Grand Theft Autumn," etc., though the bulk of the crowd seemed to also enjoy tracks from Save Rock and Roll.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts performed before FOB on the other side of the festival, as Sublime With Rome played a few songs from the self-titled album. While performing songs like "Cherry Bomb," it's hard not to remember Jett as the girl from The Runways, but fortunately, she has not slowed down. The band played most of its hits along with quite a few new songs from an album that's due out October 1.

Masked Intruder was by far the most underrated band I saw yesterday. Most fans were probably preoccupied with GWAR and Atmosphere--and I can't blame them, both acts put on great sets.

Masked Intruder kicked things off with "Stick 'Em Up" and "25 to Life," and charmed the crowd with the sullen parole officer in the background and by encouraging fans to high five each other to prove that they weren't crazy.

I was a little reluctant to watch Screeching Weasel after the Ben Weasel punching a girl incident a couple years ago, but my love for Boogadaboogadaboogada and the fact that I have never seen the band live won over, and I'm glad it did. Weasel seemed gracious that fans came out to watch the band, and also that Riot Fest was the first show he could bring his kids to.

"The punk intelligista says you can't wear your own band's shirt, but it's cold so I went with this ensemble," Weasel said, pointing to his long sleeved shirt, "Also, that you don't do Ramones covers." The band tore into an energetic "Teenage Lobotomy" cover which was almost as fun as some of the band's staples, such as "Hey Suburbia," "Cool Kids," and "What We Hate."

After the festival, I watched The Lawrence Arms perform at a cramped venue called The Cobra Lounge. Once again, it was cool to see such a beloved band perform in its hometown.

The band played for a little over an hour and included a couple new songs. "Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure," "Brick Wall Views," and "100 Resolutions" all received great crowd responses, but nothing could compare to "Are You There Margaret, It's Me God." Fans sang along to Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan separately for a well-executed call and response throughout the entire song.

Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Riot Fest Day One at Humboldt Park. Personal Bias: Screeching Weasel is the only band on this list that I hadn't seen before, and it ended up being a good time. Overheard in the Crowd: "That was like Jurassic Park when the raptors attacked people" - during Fall Out Boy's set. Random Notebook Dump: It's nice to go to an out-of-town festival for once and not be surrounded by hipsters in '90s clothes. Learn From My Mistakes: I got lost about three times. No piece of advice works better than Google Maps, which is completely useless when your phone is dead.

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Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum