TVD Live: Riot Fest Day 2 at Douglas Park, 9/12

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | After a bit more rain overnight, Riot Fest returned for its second day with even muddier grounds, but with even more excited fans. The crowd came from near and far and could be seen sporting Doc Martin boots, studded jackets, and dyed mohawks. The place was ready to party. While Saturday Riot Fest usually means overwhelming crowds, the openness of the new location allowed for a more free-flowing feel which created a much more relaxed vibe throughout the beautiful day.

Pennywise took the stage in the late afternoon, and delivered a powerful set of classic punk rock. Their speed punk stylings stirred up various spirited circle pits, and lead singer Jim Lindberg’s voice was able to cut through with surprising ease as he sang of political corruption and social justice. The banter between Lindberg and guitarist Fletcher Dragge was constantly comedic and entertaining (including a comment that they had Donald Trump backstage doing blow). It was clear these guys have been in the business for years and knew how to put on a show. Closing out with their anthemic “Bro Hymn,” the crowd and band shared the catchy vocal theme to put an exclamation point on a solid set of music.

Drawing in a massive crowd, Merle Haggard brought his honky-tonk twang to the Riot Stage and created a unique and thoroughly enjoyable musical experience. One might have thought Merle would be out-of-place at the generally high-intensity fest, but the crowd latched onto the show’s energy immediately and Merle’s relaxed and confident stage presence created an infectious comfort throughout the crowd. A definite highlight of the day.

Punk Rock veterans Rancid came out for their second Riot Fest appearance to perform their classic album …And Out Comes the Wolves in its entirety. The crowd was dense and engaged, and the band was clearly excited to be celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the defining album. “Maxwell Murder” allowed bass virtuoso Matt Freeman to kick things off early with a ripping bass solo, and “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” landed as powerfully as ever with their memorable vocal hooks. When legends like Rancid are killing it on the biggest of stages, it really makes you believe punk might not be dead.

Fitting the bill of large touring acts which fit in perfectly with the Riot Fest spirit, rock icon Billy Idol stepped onto the Rock Stage and brought a genuine enthusiasm to his performance. He bounced back and forth across the stage and sang crowd pleasers like “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding” with passion and excitement. Aided by his rock solid backing band, this was a set most everybody was glad to witness.

Iggy Pop came onto the Rebel Stage with his usual attitude and swagger, and within one song his shirt was already ripped off and he was screaming obscenities into the mic. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” created a slower head bobbing vibe, while “Lust for Life” breathed life into the crowd. Iggy repeatedly thanked the crowd for allowing him to do what he loves, and after seeing his performance it was clear that being onstage is his life’s passion.

Drawing in the largest crowd of the day, System of a Down took to the Riot Stage and delivered a ferocious set with their extremely unique blend of rock, metal, and mystical sensibilities. The set started somewhat ominously, as the rowdy crowd and muddy grounds created extremely dangerous conditions in the pit area, causing the band to stop the show multiple times to ensure the safety of their fans. Luckily things settled out a bit and the band was able to continue playing.

With the help of an extensive and frantic light show (which is exceedingly rare at the visually minimalistic fest), System plowed through their catalog as fans ecstatically jumped and screamed their favorite lyrics. Daron Malakian’s machine gun guitar work created a cacophonous fabric of sound while lead singer Serj Tankian’s operatic vocals soared. “Aerials” provided early dreamy melodies, while heavy hitters like “Chop Suey!” and “Toxicity” drove the crowd into a frenzy. The band sounded tight, the transitions between songs were rehearsed and clean, and the energy never let up. Overall it was an impressive show to close out the great day of music.

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