The beer was $9. The crowd was greeted on inaugural day with a horrendous flute cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, complete with straining and crackling high notes. This year’s Riot Fest was a gorgeous, grotesque display of gathering bodies of drunk and fucked-up folks bathed in sweat thanks to an unforgiving sun radiating degrees in the upper 80’s throughout the three-day event.
Our coverage of Day One kicked off with Direct Hit, who played an energetic set, the type where the bassist Steve Murray hops sound so you hope he doesn’t land wrong and break his ankle. The band admitted most of their songs are about drugs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Oh, and between songs, the singer Nick Woods something about “The Big Bitch.” Towards the end of the set, drummer Danny Walkowiak actually ran from his drum set to the edge of the stage banging his drumsticks along with the clapping crowd before running back to his kit the second the band started back. It’s cliche as hell, but people loved the shit out of it.
Pussy Riot’s set was…interesting. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan. While I do appreciate their political message and my heart goes out to member Pyotr Verzilov, who is recovering after being poisoned(!), the music didn’t quite move me that much. However, I would say their stage performance, consisting of everybody wearing florescent green ski-masks and button-up shirts was a sight to behold. But whatever momentum they was stopped when the group exited the stage and a played an audio recording of someone – who sounded like a robotic female voice – reciting twenty-five points about the one-percent and wealth redistribution. I don’t know how long the recording was, but it felt like forever, trust me. Probably sensing the crowd is restless, the group burst from the backstage, flaying their arms and torsos while the loudspeakers blasted the most Earth-shattering bass ever. That was enough to snap the crowd out of it before ending their set.
Next up for us were The Bombpops. Holy shit, The Bombpops. The name is fitting since this female-fronted LA band were popping bombs of raw, sonic goodness for the hefty sized crowd that afternoon. To give you an idea of their lyrical prowess, they played a song about shitting their pants called “Dear Beer,” a song about traffic called “Brake Lights” and, at one point, they talked about the heat giving them the “pussy sweats”and “sweaty assholes”.
Shifting gears, we got old-school hip-hop trio Digable Planets. Backed up by a live band, the group played the classic debut album “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).” Of course they played their hits “Rebirth of Slick (Cool like Dat)” and “Nickle Bag of Funk.” After twenty some-odd years, the trio still had the chemistry that made them popular in the first place. The band were no slouches either , with the bassist just going off on the slap bass solo that make Flea nod his head approvingly.
Atmosphere’s set seemed to complement Digable’s perfectly, with Slug’s dropping bars from a more introspective place. The seminal “God Loves Ugly”and “Fuck You Lucy”were definitely bangers for the large crowd as the sun ended its shift for the day. Slug’s charisma held the crowd’s attention throughout the set, with his words being more sermon and less hype, with gems such as “I wanna have as much fun as you’re having.” He did deviate from the serious by telling the crowd to raise their hands if they ever masturbated and touch take said hand and touch their neighbor with it.
Head below to check out more of our photos from Day One, including shots from Blood People, Lagwagon, Face To Face, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly!
(All photography by Meredith Goldberg. Words by Frederic Hall.)