I'm not 100% sure how I feel about Riot Fest Toronto.
Maybe it's just the residual afterglow of the staggering experience that was This is Hardcore 2012. But after a great many hours spent standing around the Garrison Commons, I have to say I found the experience lacking. None of the blame for that should be laid at the feet of the performers. The sets that I caught we're uniformly awesome, each in their own way.
My gripes are really with everything surrounding the music. From the ubiquitous pimping of Jäger to the set up of the grounds to the available food options. When I wasn't watching some of my favorite bands, I found myself noticing all the places that shit could have (and should have) been better.
That being said, it always easy to find fault. And as far music festivals goes, this wasn't as bad as it could have been. Just, please, rent some goddamn lights next time. That's all the bitching I'm gonna do, I swear.
On to the good shit: Bands!
I, regrettably, missed the first three bands. I would love to have a good excuse for that because I generally go out of my way to support openers. But, as it turns out, I was just hung over... So, yeah. Kinda sucked. At the very least, I had wanted to catch Junior Battles since I really enjoyed their album from last year.
Because I showed up late, the first thing I managed to catch at Riot Fest was Andrew WK. I'm not really a fan. I think "Party Hard" was a fine, if ridiculous, radio song. But, the appeal of the rest of the guy's work escapes me. WK's set was billed as "a special solo performance" and I was super curious to see how THAT was gonna work. Turns out, they play the CD and Andrew WK sings, play keyboard and banters over top. It actually worked way better than it sounds. Honestly, it's pretty hard to fault the guy for what he does. He has certainly parlayed his persona into FAR more of a career than anyone had any reason to expect. At the end of the day, dude makes it his job to get people pumped and succeeds admirably at doing so. Not my cup of tea, but still glad I saw it. Homeboy is REALLY into parties.
Next up was The Lawrence Arms... From Chicago... Coolest band on the Fest... Their t-shirts were the cheapest. This was one of my most anticipated sets of the day since I've never seen the band before. It wasn't a let down, but I did have a gang of songs I wanted to hear that didn't make the set list. That's a personal problem though and the rest of the growing mob seemed satisfied. I'll have to be on the lookout for a show that these guys are headlining so they'll have time to play me all the songs I want. May need fly to Chicago for that one, though.
Less Than Jake was next up. If you don't like LTJ, you're fucking lying. That band has been awesome for 2 decades. Fact. I don't care if ska punk was supposed to die in the 90's, there are precious few genres I enjoy live more than this. They played a set that seemed focused on the past, and they even repeated a sentiment from the stage I've heard from them before: Never let a band tell you their new shit is better than their old. It isn't. And so we were graced with mostly the classics. "Look What Happened," "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads," "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts." Bottom line? Fuck yeah! The end.
I think maybe Hot Water Music needs be enjoyed in a smaller setting. I get that they're way past playing at, like, The Horseshoe, or whatever. But throughout the whole set, I just found myself wishing there we less people and natural light around. Something about that band has always screamed dark, smoke filled bar to me. Good set though, and they played "Trusty Chords" so I was happy. It also seemed like an oddly appropriate segue between Less Than Jake and Fucked Up. Don't ask me to explain how, because I can't. I just thought it worked.
Which leads me to the almighty Fucked Up. They are Fucked Up, everything they do is awesome as far as I'm concerned. This was the first time I'd seen them in months, which for me is a long time. And goddamn it, they rocked shit as usual. Damian left the stage early, never to return from the pit. Meanwhile, back on the stage, the rest of the band cranked out the usual wall of guitar driven sound that they are known for. The set relied heavily on David Comes To Life, with a few throwbacks mixed through for good measure. They didn't play "Son The Father," that's always a bummer. My only other complaint was that Damian promised that NOFX were gonna play "Drugs Are Good" and then they didn't. I know he's not in charge of that band, but it still hurt.
NOFX came up next and played a sloppy, disorganized set that had about as much banter as it did songs. They admitted that they hadn't played OR practiced in quite some time. There also seemed to be some disagreement about what songs were gonna be played. Overall, the whole thing smacked of a profound lack of professionalism. So... A NOFX show. But I've loved that band for more than half my life and there is really nothing they can do that will change that now. I'm just too goddamn invested at this point. Besides, complaining about about how sloppy and juvenile a NOFX set gets is a lot like complaining that South Park is tasteless. The problem REALLY isn't the show. It's 2012, and you should have known what you were getting into.
Finally, Descendents played to about half as many people as NOFX. That shit is lame. More people should have stayed. Seriously, show some fucking respect. If Fat Mike and them gave us a sloppy and unpolished spectacle, Milo and company delivered a tight and blistering display of proficiency. This band doesn't NEED to be this good at this point. Frankly, none of us has any right to EXPECT them to be this good. And yet, they still take the stage, at damn near 50 years old, and show the kids how shit is done. It's nothing short of fucking inspiring. I still need to see them do "'Merican" live, maybe someday.
So yeah... The music delivered in spades. Not a bad set to be had. There were issues with the logistics and amenities. I managed to pay $5 for, mathematically, the WORST hot dog in recorded sausage history. That was shitty.
But, a week from now, I'll remember the music... Not the lack of seating and 25$ T-shirts.
Seriously, fuck that hot dog though. That was bullshit.