Yesterday marked the first of three days of Chicago's annual Riot Fest. What is immediately obvious upon entering Humboldt Park is that no one will be left wanting. This is your microcosm of all things summer: carnival rides, games, junk food, jugglers, and super loud music. With 21 bands crammed into seven hours, no one person can see them all. For what I was able to see here are the highlights.
Most energy: Andrew W.K. and band were utterly relentless in their partying. Wife Cherie Lily provided a heaping helping of aerobics along with background vocals.
Best sing-a-long: The crowd was mostly pretty quiet during Bad Religion's set until they played "Sorrow" from the album Process of Belief. The band didn't give the crowd many opportunities to belt along with singer Greg Graffin. "Sorrow", such an odd word for thousands to sing during such a solid set.
Most needy carnie: Brad French billed himself as "that juggling guy" but he didn't make with the theatrics until everyone surrounding him gave him a roaring ovation. Also, he was dressed like the ghost from Christmas past. One of many spectacles of the day.
Best moment of sacrilege: Bet you thought it would have been the outspoken atheists of Bad Religion. Nothing they could have done could have compared to what GWAR did when they wheeled out a mock-up of Jesus on his cross and started hacking at him with swords, resulting in one of many blood-spurting hoses staining the first few rows. As if this weren't enough, the son of God would return in giant zombie form. The Lord "himself" would ultimately reveal that he does not, in fact, exist in a ridiculously funny anti-climax.
Best stage banter: If you had any idea what Oderus Urungus was talking about during GWAR's set, there's something wrong with you. Personally, I felt guilty for laughing when he failed in pronouncing the name of late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman ("Hammennammenen") during his tribute to the passed GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot (the character Flattus Maximus now retired). There was also a funny bit when Bonesnapper showed up after "being left behind" back in Kansas City.
Biggest sacrifice: After GWAR finished on the "Rise" stage, securing a spot for Danzig at that locale became priority #1. In order to do that, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts had to be missed. This is the one downside of a multistage summer festival. You're always going to miss something you wanted to see.
This leads to biggest moment of crowd mayhem: During Danzig's set of Misfits songs with guitarist Doyle, the crowd whipped into a frenzy resulting with body tossing and two broken plastic picnic tables during "Bullet". It's always a thrill
Best overall performance goes to Andrew W.K. In only ten songs (and how can anyone keep up that level of intensity for any longer), he set the bar for the weekend. His show is a weird mix of metal, Meat Loaf-esque piano, and jazzercize.
There was plenty of fun and games and legendary performances, and this was only the first day. Friday the 13th was the shortest day of Riot Fest with plenty of awesome weirdness with more wonder to come.