Riot Fest Day 3: Patti Smith, Naked Raygun, Social Distortion, Cheap Trick, and Weezer's Blue Album!

Cheap Trick's Robin Zander
As can happen when you immerse yourself into a sweaty mud pit of humanity, as many did on Day 3 of Riot Fest in Humboldt Park, you can find yourself conversing with others about the current state of music festivals.  Let's face it, most folks are of the Lolapalooza variety.  Their taste in music is informed, but fickle and they've come to expect a smooth Disneyand sheen to their concert experience.  They're perfectly willing to pay $20 for parking and $10 for a pee-warm Budweiser as long as the rest of the experience is as streamlined and hassle-free.

Those people would have pitched a real shit fit at Riot Fest.  As if the bracing cold of Day One wasn't enough, Mother Nature sent along a steady deluge of rain that quickly turned Humboldt Park into a gloppy mud bog that was still a funky (as in "What's that smell?") brown mess by Day 3.

Plain and simple, the Day 1 weather at Riot Fest did a good job of separating the tried-and-true Chicago-style rock fans from the selfie-popping poseur crowd, the music of Day 3 did the rest.  Gone were the distractions (Flaming Lips and Wu Tang) that appeared to be little more than an attempt to lure the Lolla crowd, now it was time to let some of rock's still-cool elder statesmen (and women) do the rocking.



First off, anyone who watched Patti Smith's set and was not touched by the majestic power of music, in all forms, to elevate, tell a story, and make you feel a part of something bigger than us all.



The afternoon highlights included the buzzy return of Mineral, a steamroller presentation of Throb Throb from Riot Fest regulars Naked Raygun.  Was anyone else kinda irked by Jeff Pazzati giving the songs the "Willie Nelson" treatment, i.e., so seemingly tired of his own songs that he can barely be bothered to stick to the melody and phrasing

During my years in L.A., I came to regard Social Distortion as the SoCal version of Naked Raygun, hammering their old-school punk ethic to a rabid local fan base  Where the Raygunners were bound and determined to finish their songs in record time, Mike Ness and The D seemed mired in molasses for much of their set.  Plus, Ness's guitar work - the intro to "Ball & Chain", fer instance - left just a tad to be desired.



The "ten bands, ten albums in their entirety" theme of this year's festival seems a bit gimmicky by now, but at least the fest organizers were smart enough to book the band who spearheaded the concept back in 1998.  And so Cheap Trick hit the stage looking like the well-oiled machine that they are, approaching the 36-year-old Heaven Tonight album in its entirety with a workmanlike quality.  While the album itself is not exactly familiar to all, there were enough memorable tunes from it to keep the fair-weather Trick fans interested.

By comparison, when Weezer hit the stage a few hours later to blow the dust off of The Blue Album, people from miles around gathered in giddy anticipation.  Watching the looks of dismay on the faces of those in the crowd as the band began their set with a handful of newer songs NOT found on The Blue Album was almost as entertaining as the songs themselves.  But when a backdrop of the iconic Blue Album appeared, the crowd knew what was coming next.

For the next 41 minutes, the crowd sang along to every word of every song as the band seemed to rock just a little harder, energized by the crowd's enthusiasm for the material.  As the band concluded their performance of The Blue Album, more than one concert goer could be head saying, "Now THAT's an album!"

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