With the first official day of fall in full-swing, the Chicago-born Riot Fest, a punk rock “all-star tour” of sorts, headlined by the likes of Chicago natives, Rise Against and punk veterans Descendents and NoFX, made it’s way down to the Gexa Energy Pavillion in Dallas for the final stop of the festival’s newly expanded line-up of US show dates.
Thrash/Punk band, Municipal Waste was the first band to take the stage in the Gexa Energy Pavillion’s amphitheatre at right around 3pm. Lead singer Tony Foresta jokingly referred to the band’s early set-time, stating, ” We thought it was gonna be weird, performing in a pavillion at like 3 in the afternoon….. But this is REALLY F**KING WEIRD!” The band’s performance was, as to be expected of a Municipal Waste set, full of high-energy thrash riffs and comedic vulgarity.
Andrew WK was the second performer to take the stage, taking an interesting approach to solo-performance, as he was without his backing band, a request brought upon by Riot Fest organizers, after his band incited quite a ruckus at previous RF dates. Greeting the audience with an enthusiastic, “HELLO!”, Andrew proceeded to lead the crowd in a performance of The National Anthem (all the while, mixing up the words comically) before showcasing exceptional piano skills, performing variations of songs like, crowd favorite, “Party Hard” and a few others. Aside from his skillful piano playing, Andrew also showcased his unique ability to work a crowd, tossing out “prizes” to the crowd, including DVD copies of The Prophecy(1995), a modernized Thundercats movie, and Event Horizon(1997). When a displeased fan remarked of how he had driven 5 hours to see Andrew and his band perform, Andrew proceeded to bring the gentlemen onstage and had a bearded member of his road crew, referred to as “Blakey-Boy”, give the man an impromptu shoulder rub.
Ska-punk heavyweights, Less Than Jake, the festival’s third amphitheatre performance, took the stage in the late hours of the afternoon. Lead singer/Guitarist, Chris Demakes, greeted the crowd by shouting, “Let’s hear it for how f**king good-lookin’ we all are!” The band then dove head-first into a charismatic setlist consisting of songs like “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” and the alcohol-fueled anthem, “Plastic Cup Politics”.
With the sunlight beginning to fade, the stage saw a dramatic shift in musical genre as Austin’s very own The Sword took the stage. The four-piece doom metal-esque band, fronted by lead vocalist/guitarist.J.D. Cronise and lead guitarist, Kyle Shutt, played through a medly of their intricately structured songs, such as the 2005 release, “Freya”. Cronise displayed a distinct, unwavering sense of calm throughout the entire show, flawlessly executing complex guitar patterns. During a break in between songs, he quitely mentioned the band’s upcoming new album “Apocryphon”, scheduled for release on October 22.
As the last hour of daylight came to a close, New Jersey rock band The Gaslight Anthem graced the stage, with action figures and a championship title belt in-tow. The band, led by lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon, brought on yet another dramatic change in genre, as they played through several of their more tamed, punk rock-infused ballads for the crowd, including the popular song, “The 59 Sound”.
With three bands left on the bill, the crowd were on their toes, anxiously waiting for Los Angeles punk quartet NoFX to take the stage. In classic punk-rock fashion, the band took the stage almost 15 minutes late, with guitarist El Hefe asking the crowd, “How’s everybody doin’,” prompting Fat Mike, frontman/bassist, to respond, “I don’t care how you’re all doing,” and urging the crowd to “get ready for a huge disappointment”. But disappoint, they did not. Playing through an arrangement of blistering punk classics such as “Stickin’ In My Eye”, “Franco Un-American”, and “Linoleum”, the band’s energy easily fueled the crowd, as a wild mosh pit formed almost instantly after the band began playing and did not cease until the band’s performance had ended.
The energy in the amphitheatre was was positively radiating as fans anticipated the appearance of one of the most influential punk rock bands in the history of the genre: Descendents. After a lengthy set-up by the band’s road crew, Milo, Karl, Stephen, and Bill took the stage, much to the approval of the huge crowd that had gathered in the amphitheatre to witness the punk rock powerhouse’s spectacular performance. Blazing through a classic setlist, comprised of songs like “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”, “Silly Girl”, and “Everything Sucks”, the band proved exactly why they are one of the most highly respected forces in punk rock today. Midway through the set, the band members’ children were brought out onstage to help read a comical set of commandments, featuring guidelines such as “thou shalt not commit laundry” and “thou shalt not surppress flatulence”. The band’s high level of energy made for a performance that show-goers old and young couldn’t help but enjoy.
And finally, after a day filled with exceptional performances, it was time for the main event. Rise Against was geared to take the stage. Part musical performance, part enviromental/political awareness seminar, the humanitarian-led punk rock band immediately sent a wave of positive energy through the crowd as they began their 90-minute set. Vocalist/Guitarist Tim McIllrath was like a ball of energy as he sprinted across the stage, shouting the lyrics to songs like “Ready To Fall”, “The Good Left Undone”, and “Give It All”. Midway through the set, McIllrath called out to NoFX vocalist/bassist, Fat Mike, who joined the band onstage for a Minor Threat cover. Immediately after, Fat Mike and McIllrath were joined onstage by Milo Aukerman and Bill Stevenson of the Descendents for a Black Flag cover, much to the pleasure of crowd-goers throughout the venue. Later on, McIllrath performed a solo acoustic rendition of the ballad “Swing Life Away”, as well as a tribute to the late Tony Sly, vocalist of No Use For A Name, in the form of an emotional acoustic rendition of No Use For A Name’s 2005 single, “For Fiona”. Closing out the show with an hyped performance of the song “Savior”, McIllrath graciously thanked the crowd, urging them all to “take care of each other”.
After almost ten hours of amazing musicians doing what they do best, Riot Fest 2012 had come to a close. The grounds of the Gexa Energy Pavillion slowly began to empty and hundreds of fans began making their way home. The festival, having previously been held exclusively in Chicago, has seen some expansion in the number of cities where the event takes place over the last two years and after four pheonomenal shows in 2012, it’s still unclear whether the event will see even further expansion in the coming years. But after the tremendous success the festival saw this year, one thing is for certain: they’d be foolish not to consider it.
by: John Michael Leija