Concert Review: Riot Fest at Chicago’s Humboldt Park (9/15/12)

Riot Fest didn’t entirely seem like my kind of thing when I bought the ticket for it a few months ago.  But it was only $35, and a couple of my friends were going, so I thought “Why not?  I’ll just get drunk and enjoy the craziness”.  And that I did, folks.  That I did.

Armed with a big blue Gatorade bottle that I poured 3/5ths out of, and filled the remaining void with vodka; I drank most of the concoction while on the car ride there.  Don’t worry, I wasn’t driving, MOM…  And then I waited at the entrance and chugged the remaining amount before going into the festival.  Had I known there would be NO security check whatsoever, I would have just put the vodka in one of my shorts pockets and sipped it leisurely throughout the afternoon.  But no, I just power chugged it and almost dry heaved before I even stepped into Riot Fest.

Lonely man rides the Moby Dick

Upon entering Humboldt Park, I realized this was not the swankiest music festival I’ve ever been to.  The whole thing felt like it took place on some abandoned baseball fields.  Because it pretty much did.  The stages are pretty close together, and right when I got there a band on the main stage finished playing and the entire crowd ran over to the other stage in one unified motion.  Like cattle, but with more lip piercings.  But anyway, I had bigger things to deal with before I enjoyed the music.  I had to pee, and I needed some beer.

The port-o-potty situation at Riot Fest was pretty great.  Despite the fact that there was a “VIP section” that had probably 40 bathrooms for the 10 people who had VIP tickets, the ‘regular people’ bathrooms were pretty much always available.  I never had to wait more than 30 seconds to get into a bathroom all day.  And they were somehow clean, all the time!  Maybe it’s because there weren’t a million people there, or because the Riot Fest crowd pees in their pants instead of using bathrooms (or a combination of the two), but this was a terrific bathroom situation.  Yes, I feel like commenting on the bathroom system is just as important as the music, so?

VIP area bathrooms. I hope there’s enough!

Next I needed beer.  I couldn’t find my friend Joe right away because the cell phone reception in Humboldt Park is atrocious, and certainly I wasn’t going to wander around this freak show by myself without being at a maximum level of saucy at all times, so I found one of many beer vendors.  This was a music festival AND carnival (luckily it never teetered into juggalo territory), so I had to first purchase tickets before I could actually obtain some beverages.  Which reminded me of a funny joke from one of David Cross’ comedy specials “Excuse me, is this the beer line, or the beer ticket line?”

So I bought a whole bunch of tickets and started drinking Pacifico while wandering over towards a stage.

I hadn’t really checked the schedule before I got there, and I must have drunkenly walked right past the person handing out the little schedules that everyone else had, so I just sort of wandered toward the stage that had the biggest crowd.  Little did I know, I was about to see a GWAR show.

GWAR is an interesting band.  I remember them from old episodes of Beavis and Butthead, and have seen several of their retarded videos and such.  GWAR is a fucking joke.  But they are a pretty hilarious joke.  A bunch of grown men dancing around in Halloween costumes, for sure, but at least they don’t take themselves as serious as like Slipknot or something.  GWAR knows they suck, and they embrace it.  They are like a real life Spinal Tap.

I have to say, as dumb as the show was, and as awful as the music was…  I had a great time.  Monsters just kept parading onto the stage, and the band members kept cutting their arms off.  Blood would shoot into the audience.  It was actually pretty funny seeing random people covered with blood for the rest of the day.  The final song featured the lead singer shooting blood out of a fake dick for a solid four minutes.  As a drunk individual, it was kinda awesome and I was laughing to myself the whole time.  Somehow GWAR managed to be the worst band at Riot Fest while at the same time having the best show.  I guess that’s kind of what GWAR is all about, though…  Right?

Just so I wouldn’t get the pukes, I decided to get some food after GWAR.  Going back to the stupid ticket system, I tried to buy a hot dog with the tickets I purchased, only to get told that those are BEER tickets, not food tickets.  I could actually just buy food with regular money.  THAT’S NOT STUPID AT ALL.  So now I’m getting my wallet out to pay for food with money while I’m all tangled in these dumb beer tickets.  Also worth mentioning, the beer was 7 tickets, so when you purchased 20 tickets for $20, you always came up short one ticket for the 3rd beer…  I hate beer tickets.  Anyway, I went to the place with the shortest line (which is a bad strategy in retrospect), which was Chubby Dog.  It was probably the most standard, unremarkable hot dog I’ve ever eaten.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten worse hot dogs.  But the Chubby dog was just about as average as humanly possible.  So average, in fact, that it transcended average and somehow became bad.  Somehow.

Next I went to go see Andrew W.K., which was pretty much the tipping point to why I bought a ticket to Riot Fest to begin with.  I love his first two albums.  Especially I Get Wet.  So I was really excited to see him live for the first time.  And he didn’t disappoint.  It was a high energy show that I would have loved to go on for another 45 minutes after it was over.

He’s just a fun-loving guy, and he created a great party environment just by being his fun self.  The only low point of the show was the guy in front of me kept yelling “SING THE KIT-KAT SONG!”.  Which got minor chuckles from the people around him the first time.  Then he yelled it again.  And then he yelled it a third time.  This lead me to believe he wasn’t just trying to be funny, he desperately wanted to hear the Kit-Kat song.  Which became slightly sad.

But if there’s anything I can say to convince you that Andrew W.K. was a fun set:  THE GUY HAS A GUITAR SHAPED LIKE A SLICE OF PIZZA.

So I was still there by myself, looking for my friend Joe after AWK.  The reception there was terrible, so he would text me something like “I’m at this stage”.  And I would text back “OK, WHERE by that stage?”  Then like 30 minutes after the band at that stage ended I would get the text “Left side”.  It was kind of ridiculous.  I think it was a combination of delayed reception and horrible pinpointing by my friend Joe.  Here’s a perfect example of how difficult Joe made it for me to find him:

Oh thanks, I’ll go head over there and immediately find you.



Funniest part of it was, I was listening to Gaslight Anthem, who were pretty good (they played my favorite song of theirs pretty early “Queen of Lower Chelsea”), and I started to get drunkenly antsy.  In the distance I saw a bunch of lit of carnival rides, so I was like “Fuck it, if I’m never going to find Joe, I’ll just keep getting drunk and waste a bunch of money riding stuff”.  As I was barreling through the crowd towards the carnival section of the festival, I quite literally ran into Joe.  Out of nowhere, in the middle of a crowd.  Like we physically bumped into each other.  …And then I was hanging out with my friend Joe.  The magic of Gaslight, I suppose?


Next up we saw Slapstick, which is a band I’ve never heard of composed of members of Lawrence Arms and Alkaline Trio, which are bands I’ve never listened to.  It wasn’t really my kind of music, but the lead singer was SUPER wasted and was pretty hilarious.  He couldn’t remember how certain songs started, and had to restart them.  It was all pretty good and fun.


After that we saw the Dropkick Murphys and I basically remember nothing about it.  I honestly thought Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly were the same band before this weekend.

Dropkick Murphys

They have all these carny folk doing circus tricks on little stages all over the place.  They are pretty fun to watch while intoxicated.  There was this fire dancer after Dropkick that was kind of cool.  I got up real close and started taking pictures of him, and once he noticed me, he threw his fire rope like 2 feet away from me, and I felt the heat on my left arm.  Kinda crazy, considering later in the act he tangled up his rope and fucked up a few times.  HAPPY I DIDN’T CATCH ON FIRE.

After that we decided to hit up the carnival section for a little bit.  We dropped down $3 each to go into the Mystery Machine.

Mystery Machine artwork

We were pretty blown away that it had a spinning entrance, so we had to give it a try.

Once we got inside, the mystery was a series of metal pipes, and punching bags, and other various uninteresting playground equipment.  But we just yelled the whole time and made as much noise as possible, and it was pretty fun in the most retarded kind of way.

But the fact that the mystery machine exists and actually costs money is pretty insane.  Not to mention that now that I think about it, the homely woman who took out tickets probably lives inside there most days.

Didn’t smell as bad as you’d think.

After that, my friend Brian tried his hand at a carny game of basketball.  He actually missed every shot he paid for, but then the carny felt bad for grifting him, and she gave him one extra shot, which he made.  So he won a giant blue exercise ball covered in mystic jewels!

He didn’t really want to carry it (he had to take the train home later), so he gave it to me.  After that we went to Rise Against, the headliner.  I have nothing against Rise Against, but I’ve just never listened to them.  So I wasn’t that into it.  I wish Iggy & the Stooges were the Saturday headliners, and not on Sunday (I only had a one day pass).  That would have been a perfect topper to the night.  Whatever.

Rise Against

So midway through Rise Against, I started getting past the point of fun drunk, and into the realm of sick drunk.  So I started maneuvering through the crowd with a giant blue bouncy ball (easier than I thought it would be).  And I started walking down a sidewalk towards “Little Cubs Field”.  There was a big hill next to it with a tree at the top, surrounded by a pond, some nice nature, and some beautiful brownstones.  I climbed to the top to admire all the scenery.  This is where I puked my guts out.

And then I waited on the hill with a giant blue bouncy ball until my girlfriend came and picked me up.

8.5 out of 10

3 thoughts on “Concert Review: Riot Fest at Chicago’s Humboldt Park (9/15/12)

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