Riot Fest 2023 got off to a sunny start on Friday, which may be the only rays fans will see this weekend if the forecast holds true on Saturday and Sunday.
But on this day, the garden was alive with a dose of warm energy to match the sunshine. In many ways, Chicago’s music festival season saves one of its best for last, with the lively, community-flavored Riot Fest serving as a grand sendoff to the season.
The shows are ramped up and ready to go early in the day with the Riot, Rebel, Roots, Radical and Rise stages gearing up to deliver a full lineup of sounds for day one.
Here’s a look at some of Friday’s highlights:
Tegan and Sarah
The duo opened with “You Doesn’t Like Me,” a song from their 2004 album “So Jealous” that got the crowd dancing. It was followed by “I Can’t Grow Up” from 2022’s “Crybaby.”
After a lively rendition of “Where Does the Good Go,” Tegan endeared the duo to the audience even more by telling the story of how she went on an architectural boat tour and contemplated staying in Chicago for six months each time after the fact. Love with the city.
The duo, known for their banter with fans, should have focused more on their music, but another anecdote between songs a few minutes later seemed to attract a lot of attendees. Once they returned to playing music, the duo continued to deliver their poppy songs without deviating too much from what is on their albums. Despite this, the audience seemed happy with it and knew what they came for. -Bob Chiarito
This year, there are seven albums scheduled at Riot Fest, one of the most anticipated being The Breeders presenting “Last Splash” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 90s defining disc.
“We’re here to play a 1993 album from start to finish, even the slower songs that are too weird to play live,” Kim Deal said to kick things off.
Things certainly “get weird” on the drone instrumental “Roi” on which guitarist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim McPherson switch places. Next, Kim’s twin, Kelly Dale, got her chance to shine, taking the lead on “I Just Wanna Get Along.”
Following the ranking of the songs on the album, the hit song “Cannonball” came in second place in the performance, before which Kim Deal shouted “Viva Mexico” into the microphone on the occasion of Mexico’s Independence Day on Saturday.
The song’s distorted sound effects were a complete throwback moment as older Riot fans whipped out their phones to capture the memory. – Selena Fragassi
Folk rock singer Ani DiFranco, who thanked her fans for sticking by her “over the decades,” has pulled half of her songs from her 1996 album “Dilate” and 1998’s “Little Plastic Castle,” which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
DiFranco, who at one point referred to herself as a “bisexual saint,” thrilled her fans, many of whom come from the LGBTQ+ community, with three songs from “Little Plastic Castle”: “Pixie,” the title track, and “Two Little Girls.” ”
While she also played three songs from her seminal album ‘Dilate’ – including ‘Shameless’, perhaps the most stunning song in her set; “Napoleon” and “Untouchable Face” – she also mixed in “Do or Die” and “Simultaneously” from her latest 2021 release “Revolutionary Love.” By performing those sounds, which have a funk feel to them, DiFranco really shined and showed off an exciting sound It’s almost like jazz. -Bob Chiarito
The band, assembled by singer Amy Interrupter and touring member Billy Cottage on keyboards and trombone, showed off the magic behind their longevity in a high-energy set filled with anthemic songs that had a few in the audience dancing.
The band ripped through oldies and goodies like “Take Back The Power” and tracks from their latest album “In The Wild” released in April. There was also a cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” which worked surprisingly well as a heavy ska track before the set ended with a toast to fans “coming out to events like Riot Fest and supporting the live music.”– Selena Fragassi
Parliament-Funkadelic featuring George Clinton
George Clinton, 82, was likely the driver for the large crowds of festival-goers who attended the midday Rise Stage.
Clinton has been teasing his farewell for some time, and there is no doubt that the man deserves to retire in the same blaze of glory with which he first entered.
Parliament Funkadelic introduced him to House of Pain’s “Jumparound” and reminded the audience, “Focus your attention in this hour on the man who’s been doing it for nearly 70 years. … He’s gone by many names over the years, but to us, he’s Simply our big brother.
P-Funk presented a united front to provide the level of musicianship Clinton demanded, with noisemakers, body shakers, a horn section, and an incredible beat that at times sounded like a second line. It was still a great celebration of an amazing life. – Selena Fragassi
After a heavy dose of Chicana rock from Fea and electro from alternative rockers The Aquadolls kicked off the day, Olivia Jean took over the Riot Stage with her three-piece backing band for a performance that relied on unpolished grit and bootleg precision.
Hailing from Nashville, where she is part of the Third Man Records empire, Jane infused her set with the same analog rock flair that the label is known for, and a bit of a gothic edge to boot, at various times in the 30-minute performance taking in the hallmarks of surf rock, And bluesy guitar licks, garage rock venom, and even some sludgy riffs on tracks from her three solo albums since splitting from the Black Belles. Her latest work, “Raving Ghost,” was released in May.
Riot Fest was Jen’s moment to shine, and she did it beautifully on her own terms, without the need for guest stars. – Selena Fragassi
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