2:42pm: As I’m running to catch the Juliette Lewis and the Licks, I hear Dee Snider covering Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” in the distance. I arrive Riot Fest’s Rock Stage and turn my attention to Juliette Lewis, who is absolutely commanding the stage. She twirls, jumps, dives, screeches.
3:00pm: The party has officially started. Andrew W.K. has arrived, muscles bulging out of his signature white t-shirt and white jeans. He stuffs his microphone into his pants and slams down on his keyboard, jazz notes ringing out. His fans are screaming so hard the noise is almost deafening. Party on.
3:08pm: Juliette Lewis can sing. I wander back over to the Rock Stage to catch her covering—and nailing—Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Before her final song she pauses, “I feel like music is a spiritual thing and I want to thank you for being here.” She ends her set with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”—her version sounding like Tina turner on steroids.
JULIETTE LEWIS AND THE LICKS
3:26pm: It is HOT today. Mid-September in Chicago and it’s hot. We’ll take it. Especially at Riot Fest, where it almost always rains. I’m sitting in the shade trying to cool off and listening to Andrew W.K., his piano notes floating above everything else.
4:15pm: It dawns on me that somewhere here at Riot Fest there are food stands. I have not ventured to that area of the grounds. Frankly I haven’t had time. The physical layout of Riot Fest is better than ever, but still logistically lacking in some ways.
5:14pm: The sun is beating down but the crowd, many in leather, continues to grow in anticipation of The Misfits. You can feel the buzz in the air.
6:25pm: Jake Bugg is apparently old enough to drink a Modelo because he’s taking a sip out of one right now, but he sure doesn’t look like it. He’s definitely talented and I dig his folky, Brit rock vibe.
6:48pm: Shout out to my buddy Bryon for suggesting that I check out Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Consisting of members of NOFX, Foo Fighters, and Lagwagon, it’s no wonder that they’re an absolute blast. Their covers range from John Denver to R. Kelly.
ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES
7:00pm: DEFTONES! What more needs to be said?!
7:05pm: The most popular attraction at Riot Fest this year has not been the ferris wheel, or the food, or the circus shows, or even the bands. The most popular attraction at Riot Fest has been a therapy service pig named Chief Wiggum. The pig is seriously the coolest.
7:35pm: I feel like I’m in a scene from a horror film. This makes sense—I’m photographing Rob Zombie and he’s performing Astro-Creep 2000.
7:55pm: This is just some straight-up, no-nonsense, kick-ass rock n’ roll. You can count on Sleater-Kinney for that. I imagine it’d be hard to not dig this band.
9:15pm: There is currently a row of photographers standing on folding chairs in the press area, their heads poking above the fence to get some photos of history—the original Misfits reuniting. I am one of them, teetering on my chair, simultaneously trying to take the moment in and capture it.
Thanks Riot Fest for the nice end to the festival season. Until next year.