Riot Fest Gexa Energy Pavilion Saturday, September 22
Though the inaugural Dallas edition of Riot Fest was a mild success, here's something the festival's organizers should consider if it returns next year: give the audience some kind of clue when bands are going on. While the Heineken Pavilion stage (curated by Parade of Flesh) had their shit together, posting set times for all of their acts online and near the stage, the other two stages did not. This led to plenty of frustration from people who really wanted to see one band over others.
See also: - The fans of Riot Fest
The first few acts felt like a talent show: Municipal Waste played their sophomoric metal on the large main stage while locals Mouth of the South assaulted the plaza stage with generic screamo, yet Arlington's own Big Fiction wowed with their punishing concoction of Melvins-like bomp. Later, Houston's own The American Heist and Venomous Maximus, along with Off With Their Heads, drew good crowds at the plaza stage.
Andrew W.K. gave the most bizarre set of the day. Billed as a special solo performance, he opened with an a capella rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He threw out prizes, like Ben-Hur and Thundercats on DVD, and did versions of "Party Hard," "Ruby Tuesday" and "I Get Wet" on the piano. He even brought a fan on stage, who drove five hours in hopes of seeing a full-band set, and let him hang out. Again, bizarre, but this is a guy whose live band features a Jazzercise member.
The Sword did not disappoint and The Gaslight Anthem put on the most scenic set of the day. As the sun set, the New Jersey boys ran right through eight songs in 25 minutes. NOFX was their usual bratty and comedic self for a half-hour, leading into probably the highlight of the show: an hour set by the legendary Descendents. The venue was half-full (the largest it was for the whole night) and the band cooked. With 27 songs, including "Silly Girl," "Suburban Home" and "When I Get Old," there wasn't anything the band forgot to play. Performing with such joy and conviction, the hour flew by.
Headliners Rise Against played to a dedicated number of die-hards, but their100-minute set felt interminable at times. The band has their heart in the right place, raging against injustice and greed in the world. Through the filter of generic pop-punk and radio rock, the four-piece's sound doesn't necessarily come across as inspired. Luckily, an incredibly moving tribute to Tony Sly from No Use for a Name and Minor Threat and Black Flag covers were welcome reprieves.
Personal bias: As somebody who has covered the Warped Tour for the past few years, I was really looking forward to Riot Fest. I'd love to see it again next year, giving people my age a chance to see bands that don't pander to the 15-year-old demographic.
Random quote: "It's like an episode of Cheers," said by a punk rock Statler and Waldorf sitting behind me during Andrew W.K'.s set.
By the way: Fireworks literally went off in the middle of the crowd during Power Trip's set in the Heineken Pavilion.